Vick Hope

The sexist reason female radio DJs don’t control their own microphones

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  • DJ Vick Hope on why radio is still an old boys club

    Award-winning journalist and broadcaster Vick Hope, 28, co-hosts the breakfast show on Capital FM. She has also worked for MTV, 4Music and ITV. As part of our #NotMyJob campaign, Vick is speaking out about the sexist culture of radio. 

    Here’s a little-known fact about my industry: radio studios are usually set up with two main microphones for the presenters, known in the business as ‘mic 1’ and ‘mic 2’. Mic 1 has the control buttons for both so, in effect, whoever sits at mic 1 has the power to silence the other.

    Now consider this: in the long history of male-female duos, the man almost exclusively sits at mic 1; the woman at mic 2. Incredible, right? So, without question, the man is in control, meaning that until he decides to switch her on, the woman across the desk from him essentially has no voice.

    For me it’s what this mechanical fact represents that stings. I was told this six years ago when, fresh out of university and full of ambition, I attended a talk for budding broadcasters at the BBC led by Woman’s Hour anchor Jane Garvey. At 21, excitedly embarking upon my broadcasting journey, it hit me hard. Why, I thought, are producers and programmers not questioning an ingrained power structure that subconsciously silences women. Regardless of their talent or drive, the message is clear: ‘Know your place… because that’s just how it is.’

    Six years into the industry, challenging this antiquated assertion has become a daily battle for me. Yes, I work with fantastic TV and radio teams, my job is a dream, I love my colleagues and, to be clear, I’m not pointing fingers here at any companies in particular. But there remains an inherent systemic problem that’s lamentably become the norm.

    It shouldn’t be normal to be told, even by your closest workmate, that ‘radio’s an old boys’ club, you’ll learn to get used to it’, or that your chances of nailing a telly gig are seriously enhanced by, frankly, gross flirtation with certain bosses. It shouldn’t be normal to seldom see a single female face in a managerial position or on the boards of the biggest media companies, or to feel out of place sitting in a meeting room full of middle-class, middle-aged white men explaining to you how to tell your own story.

    Why does an overwhelmingly male office of production staff raise so few eyebrows? Why is it still acceptable that the only female producer is still relegated to tea runs and answering the phones, or that an almost entirely male presenter line-up goes unchallenged for just looking plain weird. Because, come on, in 2018, it does. Really weird.

    I never expected to encounter sexual discrimination when I started out, and these daily aggressions came as a shock. But more shocking was how quickly I became numb to it all; how quickly I began to work out ways I could push my way through the industry in spite of it, rather than tackling this shit head-on. It’s the normalisation of male-centric cultures that lock out female talent at work. But #MeToo and #TimesUp have created a watershed moment. Women are speaking out and it’s brilliant, it’s exciting, and it’s only the beginning. Thanks to these movements, I know my male colleagues are starting to understand, support and accept that this conversation needs to be had.

    Together, we can put pressure on our employers to do better, to represent the rich diversity of the audience they serve, to stop painting women as sidekicks, as appendages or accessories to men. Otherwise, we risk other young women sitting in talks like I did six years ago thinking, ‘I know my place, and it’s not here.’

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