Statements & Speeches

Claire Duignan, MD Radio at 'Bring on the Women' Training Day

22nd May 2013: Opening Speech by Claire Duignan, MD, RTÉ Radio for 'Bring on the Women' Training Day.

How long have you got before someone makes up their mind about you? In face-to-face conversation, it's four minutes; on TV, you've got just 10 seconds. For anyone in public, academic or business life in Ireland, it has never been so important to be able to get out there, get a profile, and get your message across clearly, concisely and persuasively.

And yet if you took a look at who is on air across TV and radio, you would think that Ireland’s population was disproportionately comprised of men, with maybe a small smattering of women, who don’t know much about economics, technology, engineering, history or political life.

Diversity of voice and perspective and fair representation are important issues for Irish media as a whole. RTÉ as a public service media organisation has particular responsibilities in this regard and we recognise that fact. For a number of reasons, women are less represented on Irish airwaves than they should be. Bring on the Women is indicative of RTÉ’s commitment to contributing to addressing this important issue

So where are the women? Well there are lots of us actually, and we know a lot about lots of things, but many of us are not known to the people who put our programmes together.

Many more of us, who do know a lot about lots of things, are perhaps suffering from so-called ‘imposter syndrome’ and question whether we are "expert enough" to warrant a place at the broadcasting table.

So what are we going to do about this? It seems to me that there are two matters that need addressing if we are going to get more women on air. Firstly, making programme makers aware of the talent and knowledge possessed by so many able women experts across Irish life. And secondly, giving women more confidence, and less fear, about going on air.

Today, we want to share what it feels like to be on the other side of the camera and behind the mic, and share with you the top tips and trade secrets of successful broadcasters and skilled interviewees at this special event. Bring On the Women is a free media skills training day proudly hosted by RTÉ in association with Women on Air, (the lobby group which looks to improve the number of women who participate in radio and TV programmes in Ireland).

Bring On the Women is the culmination of several years of discussion in RTÉ and across the wider media, about how to address the gender imbalance in on-screen and on-air programming. The training day is a result of frustration within the RTÉ that its programme-makers have been slow to respond to a long-running problem, in part because of the pressures of deadlines. Finding credible new contributors can be time-consuming and women tend to decline invitations more than men.
While broadcasters, including RTÉ, have acknowledged the disparity, until now they have failed to take any real practical steps towards addressing it.

Today about 30 industry professionals spanning radio and television producers and broadcasters, senior editorial decision-makers, and key figures from Irish public life are taking part in master-classes, practical training and networking.

Today’s initiative is recognition that joint action is needed to speed up the process of achieving gender parity, which, if left to natural forces, would take decades.

We structured today’s event to address head on the two key problems identified by broadcasters;

• Firstly, the difficulty of finding expert women in traditionally male-dominated fields. We see today as providing a short cut in the laborious, expensive, and often "hit and miss" process of finding female talent in areas such as science, engineering, economics, finance, technology and business. The fact that more than half of the women here today come from those areas proves that, with the right effort, they can be found.
• The second problem is that even when they do identify expert women, broadcasters across the board say women are far more likely to turn them down, often due to lack of confidence and training.

One of our big aims today is to convince you expert and knowledgeable women of your skills. We hope that after you hear from our contributors, our programme-makers and your colleagues, that you will leave here tonight feeling much more confident about your ability to contribute to public debate, and with much less fear about what that involves.

It is really important that more of us go on air and make our voices heard across the full range of issues that the country is talking about. We often bring a different perspective to the debate, and even if we don’t, it is important that female voices are heard alongside all the men. In areas like science, technology, and engineering, we need more role models in public life to encourage our younger women to consider these areas as careers. And for society in general, our media needs to reflect the diversity of society itself, if it is to be genuine, true and credible.