ASTRA breakfast points finger at FTA TV for lack of women

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 4 September 2014

There's not enough women in TV. In front of the camera, behind the scenes or in leadership roles. Free-to air-networks are particularly bad, according to a panel of experts speaking at the ASTRA Women in TV breakfast. 

The question about why there aren't more women filling executive level positions in Australia is not a new one, nor is it unique to TV, but it's an issue that needs to be addressed so that the industry maintains diversity and high quality.

Sara James, an American Emmy award-winning foreign correspondent who moved to Australia in 2008, said that both America and Australia need to do better when it comes featuring men and women evenly in the media.

“It's good to see women not just in front of the camera and behind the camera but it's good to see them in leadership positions as well, I think that's really, really important,” she said.

“We do see the world differently, we open up and have a lens for looking more broadly, and by bringing diversity into the work place you see diversity on your television set, we have to do that."

While it is getting better, said TV host Deborah Hutton, who hosts The Foxtel Movie Show on subscription channel Arena, she pointed the fingure at free-to-air networks, suggesting that there needs to be a changing of the guard.

“It's really changing in this environment [subscription television] rather than free-to-air, you'd have to agree with that, because the powers that be haven't really changed in that area for decades. Just saying.”

Nicole Sheffield, chief executive officer of NewsLifeMedia, said it all comes back to making childcare affordable and accessible so that women can more easily stay in their careers when they have children. It doesn't look to be happening any time soon. Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme was quietly shelved last month.

“The biggest challenge we have as a country is we lose females from the work force between the ages of 30 and 40 and why is that? Because of the cost of childcare,” she said.  

“Corporate life moves very quickly, especially executive life, relationships change and you need to keep networking to stay in the game. I was very fortunate that I stayed in my role, but after each one of my maternity leaves I went back after three months, and I was able to go back part-time, until we face that big issue we lose too many talented people.”

Sheffield who previously worked in television before joining News, coming from Foxtel’s LifeStyle Channels group, said that 50% of News Corp executives are female and often they are the best people for the job.

“In the News Corp executive now half of our executive are females, they're driving businesses choices, I've seen a massive change just during the past two-and-half-years I've been there. The best people get the job and often the best people are women,” she said.

The panel was moderated by sports broadcaster and journalist Kelli Underwood.

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