Power List celebrates women and shows how far they need to go

Helen Boaden Helen Boaden is a senior woman at the BBC, but she's in the minority

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Woman's Hour has highlighted that there are plenty of inspirational women on its Power List - but the odds are still stacked incredibly high against the female sex in the boardroom.

It's why there are an increasing number of depressing ratios and quotas populating the press.

For instance, David Cameron promised that, by 2015, a third of his ministers would be women. As of today, only four out of 23 Cabinet members are female.

At Davos - the World Economic Forum's annual gathering of big business names - only 17% of the delegates were women.

The WEF introduced a quota in 2011 which insisted that the biggest companies send at least one woman for every four men - but many companies circumvented this by sending exactly four men. The quota has been stuck at 17% for two years now.

This year the BBC introduced a 30% quota to increase the number of women working in Future Media and Technology by 2017.

So far, women make up only 25% of of those departments; it was 30% back in 2008.

This is partly due to the steady fall in the number of women in technology and engineering roles, according to figures from the BBC Diversity Centre's equality information report (2012).

Women at the BBC

  • 37.5% are senior managers
  • 48.7% of BBC workforce is female
  • 28% were senior managers in 1996
  • 25% of women work in technology and engineering, less than in 2008
  • 50% of BBC Trustees are women
  • 43% of the Executive Board is female

In 1991, Women in Technology estimated that women made up 36% of technology and engineering roles in the UK; but this had declined to 25% by 2008.

To drive up the numbers, the Diversity Centre has helped support a number of events that address the need for women in technical roles at the BBC.

Female CEOs

In the commercial business sector, things for women look even worse.

Take a look at the FTSE 100 and you'll see that there are only two current female chief executives. One of them runs Burberry and the other is the head of Imperial Tobacco.

Both appeared in the Woman's Hour Power List, with Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts making the top 10.

The BBC fares better than the commercial sector - women account for 37.5% of senior managers at the BBC today. This is much better than in the 1980s when a report titled 'Women in BBC Management' revealed that there were only six women compared with 159 men at the top.

Start Quote

[The Power List] also helps to showcase women or minorities which programme makers may not have heard of but to whom they will now turn for comment or contributions”

End Quote Amanda Rice Head of Diversity Centre

By 1996 this had improved: the proportion of women in top management posts was 21% and in senior management it was 28%.

BBC News director Helen Boaden - who will move to become the director of Radio shortly - was the only full-time BBC employee to make the Power List announced on Tuesday.

But are people such as Boaden the exception rather than the rule?

According to an article in The Daily Telegraph from last April, nearly twice as many men as women held senior roles at the BBC and they earn an average of £17,000 more.

To break this down even further, the figures showed that there were 82 men in the top grade with an average salary of £165,000, compared to 42 women on £148,000.

The Diversity Centre's report highlights a different set of figures that have a positive ring.

One passage reads: 'This year we have continued to help improve the representation of women in all areas of our workforce and business activities. Women continue to be well represented at the BBC Trust, making up 50% of BBC Trustees, and 43% of the BBC Executive Board is female.'


The Power List celebrates women and their achievements. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but is it necessary?

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman commented at the Woman's Hour broadcast on Tuesday that she was 'appalled by how few women in the top 20 I'm aware of.'

It's a comment echoed by Amanda Rice, the head of the Diversity Centre. 'The Women's Power List mirrors other similar vehicles like the Black Power List, the Pink List and the Asian Power List,' she told Ariel.

'They are useful in that they often highlight people and achievements that aren't always reflected in other spaces or lists of powerful people.

'Quite apart from their role model value, they also help to showcase women or minorities which programme makers may not have heard of but to whom they will now turn for comment or contributions.'

But on the flip side, it also serves as a reminder of how far women still need to go. It's significant that lists such as these need to be drawn up in 2013.

It's hard to imagine a list like this would be drawn up exclusively for men without a bit of jeering and an outcry of chauvinism.

A movement

Radio 4's high-profile debate on women in 21st-century Britain seems to be part of a larger movement.

In November, English Regions hosted the first of two events for aspiring women radio presenters.

With women under-represented in local radio, the aim of the event was to demystify the potential routes, provide career development tips and spot potential presenting talent.

It's similar to an event mounted by the BBC Academy last month. The first 'expert women's day' was piloted in January to find more female presenters and experts who could appear on both radio and television. The BBC announced that the scheme will be expanded to train 130 women to be more media-savvy, in the hope that they will be more visible to broadcasters.

This follows research that shows a bias skewed heavily in favour of men in the media, including the revelation in The Guardian that fewer than one in five people appearing on the Today programme are women.

Broadcast magazine conducted its own research in conjunction with City University starting in 2010. It found that male 'experts' - those called on to give their opinion on air - outnumbered females 4:1 on average.

In one instance on the BBC News at Ten, the ratio was as low as 9:1.

Businesswoman and networking guru Julia Hobsbawm told the Woman's Hour audience that young women needed to have 'fire' in their bellies and a person to champion them at an early stage in their career.

It seemed to suggest that anything less is perhaps not good enough.

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