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Fighting back against sexism in journalism

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Words by Women, sexism in Press AwardsIt’s time awards ceremonies celebrated a diverse range of talent, regardless of gender, race, or sexuality. 

An awards ceremony has been launched to celebrate the achievements of women in journalism, in response to the lack of female nominees for the UK’s prestigious Press Awards.

Words by Women was founded by five women in the industry, including London Loves Business journalist Robyn Vinter and Molly Goodfellow, editorial assistant at Sky News, angered by the disproportionately small number of female journalists shortlisted for a Press Award this year – a mere 20 out of a total of 114 nominees.

Six categories featured just one woman, and a further six categories had no female nominees at all.

Research undertaken by The Guardian revealed that over the last six years, there have been 552 Press Award nominations for men compared to 163 for women.

This is not because there aren’t enough women in journalism – there are plenty doing fantastic work on a daily basis – but they are consistently overshadowed by their male colleagues.

And even if the industry was lacking in female journalists, it wouldn’t be because there weren’t enough women capable or willing to do the job.

As one of the co-founders of the awards, Marie Le Conte, pointed out, “the lack of women in the Press Awards shortlist…is symptomatic of a wider industry problem, where women may get into journalism, but will struggle to get into senior positions at the same rate of men, and often won’t get recognition for their – often brilliant – work.”

Fed up at this situtation when women are just as talented, hard-working and successful as their male counterparts, the five journalists decided it was time to take a stand against the sexism within journalism.

And they have been pretty successful in doing so.

The awards were only launched in mid-February but have quickly gained momentum, receiving significant support and publicity across the industry.

The 25-strong judging panel consists of a wide variety of high-profile female journalists and writers, including The Independent on Sunday editor Lisa Markwell, Sky News’s Kay Burley and the editor-in-chief of VICE UK, Rebecca Nicholson.

There are fourteen categories in total, including News Reporter of the Year, Non-Traditional Journalist and Sports Writer of the Year.

The shortlist also features prominent women in the industry, such as BBC broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire, Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of The Spectator, and former Women’s Views on the News co-editor Brogan Driscoll, now a Senior Lifestyle Editor at The Huffington Post.

Co-founder of the awards Emily Reynolds made an important point about the negative and limiting effects that a lack of diversity in the industry has on content and readership.

In an article for The Independent explaining why she and her fellow female journalists created Words by Women, Reynolds wrote: “News outlets need to reflect their readers, and very rarely are those readers uniformly white men.

“If the media doesn’t represent the society it is part of, how can it report and comment on it properly? Journalists of varied backgrounds are able to write more interesting and challenging articles, and we all benefit when a range of talent is celebrated.

“If we can promote the work of many different kinds of people, the media industry benefits, readers benefit, and so does society”.

Reynolds’ comments, and the launch of the awards themselves, echo recent criticisms and protests at the lack of diversity in awards for other industries, particularly film and music.

Both the Oscars and the Brit Awards were criticised this year for their lack of black nominees. All of the nominees for the Best Actor and Actress categories at the Oscars were white, and no black recording artists were nominated in any of the Brits’ major UK categories.

Some have questioned why there are still separate categories for men and women in awards ceremonies, but as the shortlist for the Press Awards show, if everyone was considered together, women simply wouldn’t get nominated or recognised.

And as another co-founder of the awards, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, pointed out, “Women are continually marginalised in the media industry and the fact that WBWA have attracted so much attention shows how necessary they are”.

Before the ceremony has even taken place, the Words by Women awards have already had an impact.

Last week, the Society of Editors, organisers of the Press Awards, announced that they were setting up an advisory group to look at diversity in the media as a result of the backlash.

The group will be chaired by board member Sue Ryan, former managing editor of the Daily Telegraph, who has been given the responsibility of coming up with proposals to ensure that next year’s Press Awards are more inclusive of women.

The Words by Women awards are a fine example of positive, proactive ways of combatting sexism in the workplace and ensuring women’s voices are heard. They offer hope to women not only in journalism, but in all industries, who are fighting to be recognised in a man’s world.

The Words by Women awards ceremony will be held at the Groucho Club in London on 21 March. For tickets – whcih will be available soon – click here.

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