Mumbrella360 hosts Kate Ritchie, Fifi Box, Amanda Keller in discussion covering more than #metoo
The five women on-stage at Mumbrella360’s In Conversation – Women in Media panel are not there to speak about the experience of having ovaries and working in media.
The negative experiences and challenges facing females in any industry is a conversation muddied by political correctness and exhausted by repetition and rehashed ideas, and it’s barely touched on today.
While it’s still an important discussion to have, it’s one that today didn’t overshadow all of the other insights and experiences they bring to the table.
Instead, they’re here to talk about dealing with the modern day pressures facing presenters in the spotlight, namely the ‘many mouths’ of social media.
Up front and centre is Kate Ritchie, co-host of the Kate, Tim & Marty drive show on Nova; Amanda Keller, co-host of the Jonesy & Amanda breakfast show on WSFM 101.7; Fifi Box, co-host of Fifi, Dave, Fev & Byron on Fox FM; and Dee Dee Dunleavy, co-host, The Weekend Break on 3AW; with Angela Bishop, entertainment editor of Network 10 on moderator duties.
The discussion drew on their experiences which, more often than not, examined the nuances of their roles without the lens of their gender.
Sexism and discrimination in the workplace was, refreshingly, not a topic of discussion.
Keller shares that avoiding slipping into a gendered ‘Mum’ or disciplinary role on-air with her male co-hosts is something she’s mindful of.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing the kind of radio where you haven’t had to tell the boys to ‘Be quiet’… We’re not just there as the person who says ‘Stop being naughty’.”
Keller conceded: “Sometimes I’ll do the homework and read the notes, and Jonesy will come in and insanely rides around on a unicycle and goes ‘whooo hooo’ – the audience might find that funny but it drives me crazy.
“And there is that balance of how much do I allow that irritation to be real, or theatrical, and I’m on that tightrope every day.”
Box laughed, adding “I do a lot of that! And I go home and I absolutely hate myself for it.
“I’ve had to be super aware of it and realise that’s just me falling into a bad habit of my own… easily slipping into a role that we’re so used to hearing – I’ve probably heard that on the radio when I was growing up too.”
Dunleavy was vocal on the lack of female representation in talk-back especially, wryly saying that she has often heard that “listeners don’t like to listen to a female voice on radio, or women with opinions.”
“When I started in 1986 there weren’t a lot of women in radio… there weren’t that many on-air roles… and I feel like I’m still trying to break ground in the talk-back area.
“We’re lagging behind in talk-back, there’s no one to look to.”
Given the length of their careers, the role of social media in their jobs has been a steep learning curve as fans become more directly engaged with presenters whose lives are already intimately shared over the airwaves.
It creates stress, impacts on family time, and there’s very little by way of guidance as to how much is too much.
Box acknowledges that as a radio presenter, “you’re part of their life”, suggesting that her focus is radio, regardless of social media being the “new frontier”, preferring to leave social media strategy to the dedicated team.
She shares her experiences of becoming the focus of magazine attention: “Anything I said was blown up into ‘Fifi’s in love again’ or ‘Fifi’s broken up again’, and I might have just said I was a bit tired this morning.
“I’ve been pregnant 43 times – it’s not a joke, we actually counted!” she illustrated.
“I felt myself withdrawing and pulling back, and I hated that… I started to pull back because social media was too many mouths to feed.”
Dunleavy says that she uses social media as a tool preparing for work: “I look at it constantly, seeing what people are doing in order to read the mood… see what people are thinking and feeling.”
They all agree that direct contact with fans is incredibly difficult, “how do you have time to get back to that person?” and that prioritising their energy is key to balancing work and home life without the cross-over into family time which social media threatens.
“I think that’s a bigger reflection of where we all are in the media. You wake up one day, your kids are grown up and you’ve missed life because you were on your phone,” said Ritchie.
The ‘women’ question was asked, and they handled it gracefully.
“I think I’m very lucky. I find it’s a great time for women in media,” expressed Box. “I work on a show with a couple of guys who have nothing but respect for me.”
Dunleavy, who hopes to lead positive change for women in radio, mused on the male-dominance and behaviour of the past, saying, “We can’t look at what happened back then through the lens of today… they didn’t know, no one told them.”
Keller joked: “When I first started working at triple M it was very blokey… I remember once there was a dead fox in the fridge!”
In answer to a question from the audience about the relevancy of a female ‘issues’ panel, Dunleavy conceded “It is a shame that we are still regarded as unusual.”
But while these phenomenal women may have struggled to find female role models in radio in their early days, looking at this panel, the next generation of presenters won’t have to look far.