OPINION: “It’s an exciting time to be a chick on the radio” by Ash London
I am not the girl who grew up planning to ever work in radio. Not because I had anything against it- but simply because it always sounded like a bit of a boys club to me.
For better or worse, this was my experience, and as a result, I never dreamed that at 30-years-old I would be working full-time hosting a national show, talking about the thing I am most passionate about in life – music.
I’ve been on-air on both TV and radio here in Australia for most of my 20’s, and it’s fair to say that there are certain times it felt like pushing a grand piano up a steep incline. From the extreme focus on how I looked on television to the sheer lack of female representation in radio. Let’s be honest; on-air teams generally consist of a male, two males, or any number of males and one woman.
I am immensely proud to be a woman (and a human being, for that matter) working in radio in 2017, and here in Oz, I share the airwaves with an incredible pool of female talent. Whether you dig what any of us are doing or not is beside the point. We cannot be painted with the same brush stroke – in the same way that nobody’s judging Hamish Blake by listening to Alan Jones simply because they’re both dudes.
But before I get into the positives – and there are many – can I encourage you to take a brief moment of reflection? To look at the radio industry, we love so dearly and honestly ask yourselves whether it really is an equal playing field?
In 2016, SCA gave two outspoken, weird, ethnic girls their own national radio shows. Shock. Although Em Rusciano and I do very different types of shows and are indeed very different people, I count it an honour to be on air alongside someone who is so fiercely and unapologetically true to herself, in a world that is still telling women what we’re supposed to be, and how we’re supposed to sound.
Switch the station when you’re listening to my show, and you’ll hear Thinkergirls – Stacey and Kristie – who built a show off the back of a podcast they created themselves when they decided that yes, two women COULD host a show on their own.
Women like Amanda Keller and Fifi Box continue to dominate year after year. Behind the scenes – Sam Thompson and Gemma Fordham who, over the years, have both given me important steps up.
And of course, men like Craig Bruce who employed me in my first proper radio gig, constantly reminding me that I was enough and that I had something important to say. That I needn’t build my career riding on the coat tails of any man, woman, child or potato.
It’s an encouraging time for young girls to be turning on their radios, and in between Bieber songs hearing the message that as a woman you most certainly can build yourself a successful career in radio. As long as you have something to say, and you have the courage of your own conviction, there’s no need for female hopefuls to be scurrying about trying to find the perfect male counterpart to complete their offering before they can make their break.
So what can we do? First of all – we can all stop seeing gender parity as a woman’s issue, and start seeing it as a human issue that we all need to own collectively. It’s time to hold up a mirror to ourselves and ask what needs to change, how we can help and what affirmative action we can take to change the status quo and create a radio landscape that more accurately reflects the real world.
It’s an exciting time to be a chick on the radio. We’re not there yet, but we’re sure as hell doing a better job than we were 20 years ago when I made my first appearance on the radio as a ten-year-old requesting the Macarena on 101.1 TTFM.
I am just getting started and feel encouraged to see the incredible women that have blazed a trail in front of me – and although it’s not yet a well-worn path – I can certainly make out their fresh footprints for guidance. Some have even done it in heels.
So what will I do? I’m going to start by dedicating time in my week to catch up with some of the incredible young female talent we have around the country and give the kind of encouragement we all wished we got when we began.
I will continue to call bias where I see it – and not quieten down in fear of being labelled a feminist with some crazy agenda.
I will continue to work hard and be as authentic as possible so that if I ever have a daughter, she’ll know that she needn’t ever be anyone’s sidekick, or the token female thrown into a male duo to make them ‘more relatable’.
I will be the loudest, proudest, most honest version of Ash – which funnily enough is a perfectly acceptable name for a boy too.