Today, March 8th 2017, is International Women’s Day 2017. This year, the campaign theme is Be Bold For Change, aiming to forge a better, more inclusive and gender equal working world.
Naturally, this post will be focusing on the working world of women in radio and how these women have helped shape radio.
The first woman to have her own radio show was Kate Smith in 1931. She began with her twice-a-week NBC series, called Kate Smith Sings, and later expanded to six shows a week. From 1937 to 1945 she led The Kate Smith Hour, the most popular radio variety. Her final radio show aired in 1958.
Pegeen Fitzgerald is said to have “pioneered the at-home radio format” (The New York Times). Known as the First Lady of Radio Chatter, Fitzgerald first began broadcasting a radio show with her husband from their New York City apartment. They were the highest paid radio duo and earned roughly $160,000 a year. Their shows covered topics ranging from book reviews and current events. They would also broadcast themselves bickering with each other.
The first women to anchor a national nightly news programme was Susan Stamberg, who hosted NPR’s All Things Considered from 1972 to 1986.
The first African-American woman to own her own radio station was Dorothy Brunson. She bought Baltimore’s WEBB in 1979 before adding on stations in Atlanta and North Carolina. Dorothy Burson then sold off her radio stations in 1990, eleven years later, to establish WGTW-TV.
Ellen K and Laura Schlessinger
Currently, there are many notable female radio hosts. Ellen K has been hosting The Ellen K Morning Radio Show on KOST since 2015. She begun her radio career in 1975.
Another notable radio personality is Dr. Laura Schlessinger whose radio programme gives personal advice to callers. She begun her radio career in 1995 on a show called KABC.
It is obvious that excellence is not limited by gender. However, although many more women today are being heard on radio and occupy leadership positions, they still have a long way to go. According to Sound Women, only 1 in 5 solo voices on the radio is female. This figure is 1 in 8 during peak-time breakfast and drive hours. Furthermore, in co-hosted show, you are nearly 10 times as likely to hear 2+ male presenters as you are to hear 2+ female presenters.
You can check out the International Women’s Day website here.
How are radio stations celebrating International Women’s Day?
This year, many radio stations across the world are doing their bit to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Community radio station, Wycombe Sound, are encouraging their listeners to participate in a project to find 100 Suffragist Pioneers from across the UK. They are encouraging their listeners to go to the website and nominate their local Suffrage Pioneer. Other stations can also take part by encouraging their listeners to nominate their local Suffrage Pioneer. You can find out more here.
Radio Verulam‘s women presenters are taking over the station all days today; all presenters, guests and vocalists on air will be female. Radio Verulam presenter Rosie Macleod said “I’ve loved overseeing the content for the day. Tune in and let us show you just how well women can perform in an industry in which we are so often over looked.” You can tune in via the website here.
Australian radio stations, ABC, Triple J, Double J and Triple J Unearthed, are also putting women in the limelight all day long. They are having women presenters play music by female artists and discuss the achievements of Australian women in the industry. The radio stations are also encouraging their listeners to share their thoughts on the female artists that inspire them by using the hashtag #GirlstotheFront.
Indian radio station, Big FM, has introduced a segment titled ‘Ladies First’ which they will intersperse across all shows. The segment will applaud women who manage multiple roles at home and work and still manage to strike a balance in life.