After a good nights sleep and a large mug of tea I have a few moments to contemplate everything I heard at the Women in Media conference this weekend.
The conference started off with a brilliant Symposium with some of the most influential women in broadcasting today. RTE’s political correspondent Katie Hannon asked the question, if it is harder for women to succeed in the media and if gender made a difference to the panelists careers.
Legal editor at the Irish Independent Dearbhail McDonald spoke with passion about the fact that the problems that women face in the media industry is just a facet of what women face in life in general. And she pointed out that media is a difficult game for both genders and that hard work, flexibility and availability are key elements for any success.
President & M.D of Discovery Networks Western Europe Dee Forbes agreed with Dearbhail on the importance of a strong work ethic but emphasized that women should be helping women more. Dee explained that she felt that women were often not confident enough, even when they had a higher level of competence compared to their male counterparts, and how that needs to change.
RTE’s Prime Time Miriam O’Callaghan talked about her personal experiences and how important it is to remember what the media can do to change lives, so picking stories and subjects that are important is vital. Miriam was very clear on not dwelling on past mishaps or failures but to remember to keep going, pick yourself up and keep at it.
RTE Chairperson Moya Doherty (Co-Founder of Riverdance) was adamant about how women treat language and the importance of not using words like ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’, not to belittle ourselves. She spoke with passion about finding what suits you and to not fall into the trap of behaving like men, but to be strong, competent and confident women, echoing Dee Forbes words.
After this explosive symposium a lot more was in store. Natasha Fennel and Irish Times Journalist Roisin Ingle introduced their recently published book The Daugherhood, a book about the unique relationships that women have with their mothers, be they good or bad.
With just enough time for a cup of tea there was no real stopping the Women in Media conference. The next point on the program was an interesting political forum asking the question: Working in the Media and Politics – are women treated differently? Chaired by the head of journalism from the University in Limerick, Mary Dundan introduced the impressive panel: former Tanaiste Mary Harney, Journalist and Broadcaster Olivia O’Leary, former Tainiste Dick Spring and journalist Dr. Tom Clonan.
They all agreed that women are seen differently, the comments on how they look, what they wear and who they date often seems to overshadow their work. And the statistics that Dr Tom Clonan present from his research were staggering and surprised everyone. It seems that young female journalists suffer a high level of abuse (both verbal and physical) from both their employers and the people they report about, in politics in particular.
With so much food for thought it was only fitting that the last point of the day was a five course Gala Dinner filled with lots of engaging conversation. The delicious meal was followed by the presentation of the Mary Cummins Award for Women of Outstanding Achievement in the Media to Olivia O’Leary. Last years winner, former Irish Times Editor, Geraldine Kennedy presented the award and both incredible women spoke about their personal experiences and how their careers often overlapped.
But the weekend still wasn’t over! After a great night in the pub, a hearty breakfast and some time on the beach the conference was rounded off by an Online Media Symposium. The panelists, Breaking news Editor of the Irish Times, David Labanyi, Reported.ly journalist Malachy Browne, Managing Director of Dury/Porter Novelli Anne Marie Curran, Image and Licensing Officer of the National Fgallery of Ireland Marie Mc Feely and Cyber Psychologist Patrick Kennedy all spoke about how the future is mobile.
It was clear that they all believed that while the traditions of journalist still stay the same (verifying sources and stories, writing good content, informing and education readers) the way this is done is changing faster than many think. It was obvious by the statistics that most readers chose to access their news in a manifold way, but that the main area of growth is in mobiles. This also influences how, when and what the reader chooses to read, changing the way we should approach news production.
Over all it was a wonderful weekend, one that will stay with me for a while and invade my thoughts, ideas and hopefully change how I see and do things. And to remind me of this weekend I took home a surprise gift basket left for me in my room, an edible, healthy memory trigger! At least until next year, and I can’t wait to see how Joan O’Connor plans to surpass this time around.
surprise gift basket
filled with sea salt and edible seaweed, an invite to the seaweed festival later this year