The Sound Women Podcast: Mentoring

Where are you planning to go in 2016? How do you plan to get there? What do you want to achieve?

No matter what your goals, having a mentor could be one way of helping you get to the next stage. The right mentor could challenge, educate, inspire, open up different ways of thinking and reveal new opportunities.

But – before you go contacting anybody as a possible mentor, make sure you are very clear about why you want a mentor and what you hope to achieve from the relationship. Setting clear goals from the start will help ensure a valuable and productive experience for both mentor and mentee.

If you’re thinking of finding a mentor, start right here with this month’s Sound Women Podcast on Mentoring.

Hosted by Kate Thornton, it’s packed full of useful advice and tips covering everything from getting the most out of a being a mentee and finding  a suitable mentor through to top tips on C.V writing.

Joining Kate for this valuable discussion on mentoring are:

  • Caroline Raphael (ex Radio 4 Commissioner, Editorial Director of Audio Penguin Random House)
  • Fran Plowright (Creative Learning Consultant)
  • Helen Boaden (Director of BBC Radio)
  • Sue Ahern (Director of Training, Sound Women and Creative People)

Enjoy the podcast? Join the conversation @soundwomen #SWPodcast

The Sound Women Mentoring Scheme: A Mentee’s Perspective

by Faye Dickerfaye_with_microphone

Being given a mentor with Sound Women came at a pivotal point in my life. For various reasons, I hadn’t returned to my presenting job, after having my baby in 2012. Although I kept busy through voiceover work, I was beginning to wonder if there was still a place for me in on the airwaves. Having sadly identified with the recent research about the fall out of women over the ages of 36 in radio, I felt a bit lost.

I also realized I was now in a different world, where I was juggling motherhood & freelancing and was missing the day-to-day interaction that a ‘work place’ gave me. So decided there was nothing else for it, but to try & create my own own-line community, for fellow freelancing mums.

In my usual ‘gung-ho’ fashion, I took to the streets with a pushchair in one arm and a microphone in the other – interviewing fellow mums in business. It was time to showcase their work, share their stories & tell the world!

In many ways, podcasting has been the most creative thing I’ve done in years. While working in local radio gave me focus, it had almost become a production line. Grass roots reporting, in the heart of the community – be it broadcasting through my website, had a buzz about it. For once I felt I was onto something.

The stories came thick & fast and in many ways, the site grew more quickly than I could ever imagine. Yet it needed more focus. Great though it was to be the editor, producer & presenter all in one, I needed a steer. Was I going off in a bonkers direction, or was any of this any good? Amongst many things, what I wanted was professional development.


That was when I heard about the Sound Women mentoring scheme. It had my name written all over it. I was excited just at the opportunity to apply for something, let alone – dare I think, even being given a place. I was so excited to be able to tell likeminded women what I was up to, if nothing else, it was great to just fill out the form, cross my fingers & wait.

The day I found out I was given a mentor was definitely a ‘red letter day’. It was like a double thumbs up that some one else believed in me. Bouncing off the walls, isn’t the half of it. By then, I was pregnant with our second baby & felt I had ‘confess’ this to my mentor – explaining it didn’t mean I was half-hearted, far from it. I was completely committed to my new labor of love, podcasting & interviewing as Freelance Bristol Mum.

I needn’t have worried. The moment we struck up conversation, she instantly understood – explaining that although her children were now young adults, she still worked part time & it had never stopped her love of radio. I knew we were on the same wave length.

‘Nervously excited’ is the best way to describe how I felt before our first meeting. I instantly liked her style & direct way of talking. That first session alone was the most feedback I’d been given in years. Yes, I was onto something & yes, my stories were good – but my ‘top & tail’ approach to editing, needed to be worked on! She was a straight a talker and even told me the precise timing she had stopped listening. I could do better! I was given homework to listen to & couldn’t wait to get started.

Suddenly some one believed in me again. Some one was actually listening. It was like having your mum in the audience on your school play – it made me want to try harder, knowing she was paying attention.

I instantly upped my game. Spending in many cases, a disproportionate amount of time editing, often with only an ‘average’ result, but I was learning.  I’d avidly meet my mentor, waiting for her feedback. She’s given me more steer than I could hope for, as well as practical advise.

She helped me to compartmentalize the different types of interview I was doing & focus on my core ones – where my strengths lie. As well teaching me the best way to break down hours of audio into manageable chunks. We last met immediately off the back of an interview I’d recorded, which was essentially quite dry – but I knew had a nub of an idea. As I was sitting at the table, with a set of business cards in front of me, of the people I’d interviewed, she made sense of it all.

Having a mentor with Sound Women, is one of the best things that has happened to me. It’s given me self belief & confidence in what I’m doing. I’m learning all the time & I want to impress her. Gone are the days of ‘top & tailing’ an interview, it’s about developing a clear style and getting the best out of subject.

More recently lots of people have complimented the podcasts, so something must be working. I’m reaching out to people in a new way & developing my professional skills. So thank you Sound Women for giving me this opportunity at such a key point, having a mentor has been a milestone moment in my journey.


Sound Women On Air – a programme director’s perspective

Editors note – In the first study of its kind, Sound Women working with Creative Skillset, has undertaken a snapshot study of female presenters on-air. Full details of the report are available here.

In this blog post Matt Jamison, the Programme Director of Amazing Radio, gives his perspective on the report’s findings.

So I met with Maria Williams a couple of weeks ago. As an organisation Amazing Radio have known about Sound Women and watched from afar for a while now. So when we met it was great to hear more about what Sound Women do and more importantly what they are trying to achieve.

Spending most of my early career in commercial radio I have been exposed to quite a bit of what the programmers of the time would call ‘zoo’ format at breakfast time. In reality these shows were more than likely to be be double headed presentations. Presenter A has an opinion. Presenter B has a different opinion. Open the phone lines and play out the pre-recorded calls made after yesterday’s show to get the ball rolling…..record. Usually Simply Red.

What fascinates me about the report released today is that whilst the radio industry as a whole embraces change around it, social media (in the early days you had to fax the show… ask your engineer) SMS, Email etc have all enhanced the accessibility and more importantly the listening pleasure of radio, it seems the talent that broadcasts it you could say in some cases has stagnated. I don’t think Marconi particularly concerned himself with who would present on radio.
One in 5
However, this is 2013! It’s staggering that out of every 5 voices on radio only 1 is female. That figure goes as low as 1 in 8 during the 2 biggest week day audience dayparts of breakfast and drive. Now, you might say ‘there just aren’t as many good female presenters as male’ good luck to you if you do.

But that just isn’t good enough.

I think that to change these figures, and who wouldn’t want to, we need more balance at grass root level. There are too few making it through the various inroads be it BBC, Commercial Radio, Community Radio or even Hospital Radio. They all have their extremely important part to play in keeping the content we broadcast day in day out the very best it can be. Surely if we get the first bit right – finding the talent in the first place. More presenters will make it through and we can redress the balance. Which right now is clearly tipped. Did you know that in co-hosts you are nearly 10 times as likely to hear 2 male presenters than you are 2 female presenters? Also that solo women are more likely to be on the air at weekends than during the week.

As a programmer myself I do the best I can to ensure I listen to everything that I am sent. Right now I am looking for presenters in Dublin. Also shortly will be looking for a hip-hop presenter. I’d love for either of those to be female. By the way you have to have a passion for new music.

Have a look at the research and see what you think.

Meanwhile I’m off to listen to my station – Amazing Radio Ruth Barnes is on right now. As I’m on line though I might listen to Bethan Elfyn again from Sunday. I could hear Gill Mills tonight or wait for tomorrow to hear Shell Zenner………..Must mingle.