In celebration of International Women’s Day, Lisa Jarman, Chief of Staff at Datapane shares more about the challenges of achieving gender parity in the broadcasting tech sector – and why #EachForEqual isn’t simply a women’s issue.

L-R: Carrie Wootten, Sally Freeman, Bethan Wilkin, Natasha Sayce-Zelem & Tanya Rai demonstrating the #EachForEqual sign

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day centres around the idea of #EachForEqual and that “an equal world is an enabled world.” It highlights that although everyone is responsible separately for personal thoughts and actions, by actively choosing to challenge and celebrate, collectively we can help achieve gender equality.

The concept of an international women’s day has existed since 1911, with circumstances in various countries during the early twentieth century creating the drive to draw women (and men) together to promote women’s rights around work and training, voting, holding public office and discrimination more broadly. The movement spread to other countries globally, becoming recognised by the UN in 1975, before adopting the concept of specific themes in 1996.

Although the challenges that sparked the movement had not been overcome, it had faded from prominence by the turn of the millennium, so in 2001 a digital hub was launched to promote, coordinate, and reinvigorate International Women’s Day. It has since become a focal point for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, sharing the positives, and supporting the drive towards gender parity. The day itself (8 March) is celebrated globally through events of all kinds, and serves as a reminder that whilst huge progress has been made towards equality, there is much that can still be done to continue this momentum.

It’s easy to make blanket statements about progress (or lack of) towards gender equality, especially when looking at a specific industry like broadcast technology: there aren’t enough women in senior leadership roles, there should be a better gender balance in technical teams, work culture should be more inclusive. These may all be true, but the breadth and variety of organisations and roles within broadcast technology means that approaches to evaluating and tackling challenges in this area need to be nuanced, thoughtful and context specific.

There are high-profile reminders of the room that remains for improvement, particularly around pay parity in broadcast and diversity on screen. There are similarly visual reminders that relatively few women hold senior technical roles in broadcast: the 2019 DPP Tech Leaders’ Briefing showcasing brilliant industry insights, trends and priorities across the media industry’s suppliers and content providers, but also highlighting the lack of senior female voices to create a balanced programme. However, there has been a shift in recent years – the Rise mentoring scheme for women in broadcast technology, and organisations like the DPP championing Rise and supporting female speakers and attendees at events like the Tech Leaders’ Briefing no doubt amplify and support women to achieve roles that make them more visible in the industry, and are examples of the opportunities that now exist. Similarly, schemes throughout broadcast technology have encouraged more women into the industry (particularly into technical roles), and contribute to the networks and increased support that have made the presence of women in tech more common and opened further opportunities.

The challenges that remain in achieving gender parity are as broad as broadcast technology itself. In some areas, awareness is key: whether it’s the software architect who hadn’t realised there were no female architects in or around his team until an aspiring female architect asked him why; or understanding the impact of behaviours that make women feel excluded from conversations or workplaces. The #EachForEqual theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is a great way to demonstrate that gender parity is no one’s responsibility individually, but that everyone can contribute to positive change. It could be through taking the same risk on an inexperienced female job candidate that you would with a male applicant; not making assumptions around age and stage; mentoring, supporting, and spotting potential; or working to create a more inclusive culture in the workplace to attract and retain the best talent.

It’s also important to note that whilst men have benefitted from the circumstances of the past, there are subtle and nuanced challenges arising from changes in the world of work – assumptions around masculinity, flexible working, the role of men as parents and the shifting sands around the responsibility to provide for a family which contribute to another aspect of gender diversity that requires attention. Here, programmes such as Rise Up, the industry-led schools outreach programme are key in promoting diversity and supporting the talent pipeline in broadcast engineering. The inclusion of both boys and girls in Rise Up gives girls the opportunity to have hands-on experience they may not otherwise be encouraged to get, and gives boys the chance to see their female colleagues working alongside them in a technical context, normalising a mixed environment and equal contribution. It also showcases the range of roles that are available, and how interesting, exciting and accessible they can be.

#EachForEqual is also a reminder that equality isn’t just a gender issue – there are many other facets to diversity, and factors such as economic background, disability, race and sexuality all influence peoples’ experience of the industry. All organisations benefit from diverse viewpoints and experiences, so this International Women’s Day, and going forward, be vigilant to the challenges of those around you, be open to discussion, and make a concerted effort individually and together to promote diversity: #EachForEqual.

Lisa Jarman is Chief of Staff at Datapane