When Sound Women formed in 2011, it was simply a group of women in radio who had started to question:
Why are so many more awards given out to men than women?
Why are there so few lead female presenters and almost no female double-headers?
Why do there continue to be so few women on radio boards and hardly any female content directors?
This group of women, which started as a small collective of 14, has grown to a network of hundreds of talented and capable women. And as a community we stand strong and proud in our legacy, having changed the vibrant radio and audio industry forever. But the time has come for Sound Women, the organisation, to close, and for the responsibility to be passed to each and every one of you to ensure the legacy lives on.
Sound Women members will continue to enjoy all their membership benefits, including an exciting events and training programme, until December 31st 2016.
You can find details of upcoming events – including free technical training in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and London, an ‘Ambition’ event in Manchester, and a special Sound Women Christmas disco in London – here:
Sound Women are also thrilled to announce we’ll be running a 2017 mentoring scheme, with applications open to full members, details of which will be published on the website soon. We hope that many of the regional networking groups will continue to operate on an informal basis, and are we are discussing what our digital legacy could look like.
If, at the end of this period, some of your membership fee remains outstanding, you can request a refund. Once we’ve paid the final expenses, any funds remaining in the Sound Women account will be donated to charity.
There are two key reasons why this is happening.
Firstly, although we could occasionally pay people to run specific projects or help with ongoing administration, Sound Women is run almost entirely by volunteers; this includes the trustees, the board, the managing forum, the podcast team, the website team, the events team, the social team and the regional groups. We are all real women with real jobs, real lives, real partners and real families – women who are giving up our time to help this organisation exist, and in doing so support and represent women in audio.
Secondly, until last year, our membership subscriptions were supplemented by grants from organisations like Creative Skillset. This helped pay for the Sound Women mentoring scheme and our programme of events and Festival. But the charitable and social enterprise sector has borne its share of austerity cuts and for the last year we have existed almost solely on subscriptions from members. This just isn’t sustainable.
All of these factors mean that the Sound Women organisation could not continue forever. So we need you to continue what we kick-started – real long-term change.
So what have we achieved? Well, a lot!
Sound Women has changed the radio industry because it has changed how people think, including with its influential ‘Women on Air’ research, which encouraged the industry to think about equality of opportunity and the representation of women.
It was met with a ton of support by the media with The Guardian, Broadcast and Campaign all reporting on it. This was followed by a pledge from the BBC to have a female lead or co-presenter in half of its local breakfast shows. In the commercial sector Absolute Radio hired a raft of female lead presenters and there are now more women on-air in more prominent roles than ever before (this makes us very happy!).
Because we know that women often need different support to men to fulfil their career potential, we did something about it – both in the UK’s big cities and across the regions.
We placed over a hundred women in mentoring schemes and enabled them to be supported by some of the leading and brightest professional women in radio. Mentees have told us how vital that support has been to developing their careers and it’s unlocked countless opportunities for them including producing a network radio documentary, making the leap from producer to editor, and hosting a breakfast show.
We ran two Sound Women festivals; a celebration of brilliant women in audio from across the globe and an opportunity for women to learn and network, or see the women in action they aspired to be.
We also inspired other groups: the BBC set up their ‘Global Women in News’ network (GWiN), and ‘Women in Somethin’ Else’ (WiSE) was created.
Perhaps most importantly, we’ve changed the dynamic of our industry so people are a lot more conscious in their decision-making. It’s no longer acceptable to have all-male panels at conferences, all-male line-ups on air or all-male boards running radio companies.
We have inspired and empowered the current and future generations of women in audio; we’ve made sure men understand the value and importance of making sure women are involved at all levels and in all aspects of our industry.
No longer is gender diversity just women’s business; it is now everyone’s business. And bravo to all the men out there who recognised this. This is about the industry getting the best out of all of the talent available to it; both on-air and behind the scenes.
In April of this year, the BBC pledged that women will make up half the people who appear on its TV and radio stations and in leading on-screen roles by 2020. Real social change is happening – has there ever been a more exciting time to be in audio and radio? Our legacy is that we have changed the way people think, behave and act. It’s now over to you and our brilliant industry to continue with this change.
And to all our members – you are the true inspiration here and we’re learned so much from you, thank you.
Maria Williams, Founder, and the Sound Women Board: Chris Burns, Jo Coombs, Sue Ahern, Carina Tillson, Cat Martin, Lisa Kerr, Caroline Mitchell, Nicky Birch, Jo Murphy, and AnnaMaria Williams.
Sound Women would not have been possible without our Sound Leaders: Sue Bowerman, Dina Jahina, Maire Devine, Liz Jaynes, Nan Davies, Emma Bradshaw, Emma Corsham, Miranda Rae, Jade Grazette, and many more.
We would also like to say thanks to our Sound Advisors: Liz Barclay, Lorna Clarke, Helen Zaltzman and Fari Bradley, and to our Patrons Annie Nightingale MBE, Jane Garvey and Angie Greaves, and our Ambassador Fi Glover.
Finally, there are so many other supporters and organisations who have supported us along the way. For fear of missing someone out, you know who you are, we love you and we’re enormously grateful!
Here are answers to some of the questions you might have.
Why is Sound Women closing?
There are two key reasons: people and funding.
First, people: Sound Women is run almost entirely by volunteers; this includes the trustees, the board, the managing forum, the podcast team, the website team, the events team, the social team and the regional groups. We are all real women with real jobs, real lives, real partners and real families – women who are giving up our time to help this organisation exist, and in doing so support and represent women in audio.
Funding: Until last year Sound Women was funded by a mixture of membership subscriptions and grants from diversity organisations like Creative Skillset. As I’m sure you’re aware, the charitable and social enterprise sectors have been hit hard by the wave of austerity and we have not been spared. The funding we received meant we could occasionally pay people who worked on Sound Women for more of their working week than the team of volunteers was able to in between their other demanding roles, both professional and personal. It also paid for the Sound Women mentoring scheme and our programme of events and Festival. However for the last year, we have existed almost solely on subscriptions from members. This model is no longer sustainable and for Sound Women to really have the legacy we set out for it to achieve we need you all to continue what we kick-started – that’s real long-term sustainable change.
Has Sound Women really made a difference?
Yes! Sound Women set out some key aims when we started, and over the last five years we have created a strong legacy. We have effected enormous change within the radio and audio industry, including a pledge from the BBC to have a female presenter in half of its local radio breakfast shows and a 50% female workforce, more female lead or co-presenters than ever before in commercial radio and fewer male-dominated industry conference panels.
As an organization we have contributed to this positive change, and as a member – you have helped make these changes.
What will happen to Sound Women between now and closing?
Sound Women members will continue to enjoy all their membership benefits including an exciting events and training programme until December 31st 2016. In addition, Sound Women will also run a 2017 mentoring scheme. Details of how to apply will be announced soon. You can find details of these events here www.soundwomen.co.uk/events. At the end of this year you’ll be able to request a refund of the remaining part of your annual membership fee. Any funds remaining in our account minus any outstanding expenses will be donated to charity.
What happens after Sound Women closes?
From January 1st 2017 Sound Women will cease to exist an organisation, but the legacy lives on. The training and social events listed on the website will happen but there will be no further official Sound Women events afterwards. We really hope that the networks of women that cross company and industry area lines will continue to meet, and share stories and skills. It’s possible that some elements of Sound Women will continue – perhaps the Facebook page and some Regional groups – but this is dependent on you, the members, deciding to make it happen and running it independently.
What has the Membership money and funding Sound Women has received been spent on?
The funding we received has paid for the Sound Women mentoring scheme and our programme of events and Festival. It has occasionally been used to pay people who worked on Sound Women projects and administration. Our accounts have always had professional financial oversight.
I’m a Sound Women member, am I due a refund?
Members who pay annually and whose membership was due to run in to 2017 may request a pro-rated refund of their membership fee. For example, if your annual membership renewed in May this year, you’ll receive five months of your membership fee back (£25 for full members, £10 for student members). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. No further membership payments will be taken beyond the end of 2016.
If you pay a monthly subscription to Sound Women your payments will stop automatically at the end of 2016.
In order to have access to the Sound Women training, events and apply for the mentoring scheme, you must remain a member until the end of 2016.
If we got a group of people together could we take it over and run Sound Women ourselves?
Sound Women is set up as a not-for-profit organisation and has registered ‘company directors’. For this reason, it’s not possible for us to simply hand over the reins to other individuals.
Do you think you will bring it back?
No. Sound Women was set up as an organisation to create change and leave a legacy, we feel we have achieved this with the changes we have seen in the industry over the last five years. Of course, this awareness of the representation of women within the radio and audio industry needs to continue – there is still much to do – and we are passing this responsibility on to each and every one of you and the industry.
What else in our industry needs to change?
The industry needs to continually be its own critical friend and strive to better represent women in both on-air and off-air roles.
One of the biggest dates in the radio calendar is fast approaching: the Radio Festival 2016 is at the British Library on September 26th for what looks like the biggest line up yet and we can’t wait.
With sessions from Ricky Wilson and Jo Whiley discussing radio’s role within the music industry to CEO of RadioCentre Siobhan Kenny talking about creative economy in radio, there will be something for everyone.
Other highlights include vlogger Hannah Witton and Geoff Lloyd on creativity and rules, are they there to be broken?
As well as Miranda Sawyer tackling the subject of curated content and podcasting. She will be joined by Richard Herring and Roman Mars who is live from California.
Inspirational speaker and best-selling author on diversity and inclusion Verna Myers joins us for a session with BBC Manchester’s Stephanie Hirst.
As if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, we haven’t even mentioned Scott Mills, Katie Hopkins, Phil Critchlow, Stephen Nuttall, Edith Bowman, Phil Fearnley and Sam Jones will also be there!
Sound Women members are entitled to free membership at the Radio Academy.
To become a member, click here.
Tickets for the Radio Festival 2016 cost £230 + VAT for non-members and £180 + VAT for members.
To buy tickets click here.
We hope to see you there!