Working in radio, you'll often hear this phrase: "Women don't like listening to other women on air".
For years I've thought it was bull. For many women, it will come as a surprise. They might be avid listeners to the ABC, where gender equality is a given, and female on-air presenters as normal as hot days in summer.
But take the ABC out of it. Ratings, while certainly very important, are not everything for the national broadcaster. It is not ruled by market forces in the way the commercial stations are. Their guidelines will ensure a mixed bag of presenters no matter how bad the ratings get. Blessed be the public service.
In commercial, the attitude of women towards other women weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of program directors, station managers and other bigwigs. I've never seen any cold, hard proof that "women don't like listening to other women" - but the anecdotal evidence seems to be overwhelming. Women actively dislike hearing other women on the radio. The problem is even worse with older women, a key demographic of the station I work for. They just turn off.
What are the reasons? I can't give you definite answers. I would like to think women don't like listening to women because the way they're generally portrayed on-air is as a "token" chick on an otherwise male-dominated program, who talks about shopping for shoes, babies, and celebrity gossip. Certainly that's the kind of on-air female presence I personally find distasteful.
But what about sensible, articulate, educated, entertaining women who are capable of conducting strong interviews and interacting well with callers? Why is when they're trialled, there's a ratings drop-off, and the female on-air presenter is pinpointed as the reason?
Turns out, from my best investigative work, it's the disapproving green-eyed monster. Women, it seems, don't like other women in a position of authority. Talking to them. Telling them what to think. Expressing their own opinion. Women (I can only guess due to hundreds of years of social conditioning) will listen to a man talk about an issue, and give him the time of day... but will turn up their noses when a woman does the same. "What does she know?" they seem to be saying. "Why should she tell me what to do, say or think?" they cry. And most of all "Who does she think she is?!?!"
Age is an issue. Young women in particular apparently know nothing. "Get some life experience and get back to us". A friend who works in radio even suggests it could be as simple as the sound of female voices. Too high, too feminine - a contrast to the slow, measured, deep, instructive, authoritative tones of the all-mighty male announcers. Men know what they're talking about, and sound like it too. Women hit a different tone, harmful to the eardrums. They know nothing. Why should they be given airtime to talk about nothing?
Radio is a man's domain. And it's women helping it stay that way.
I say this because radio is my chosen career. A career that I don't want to be obstructed by immovable social "facts" that govern the way those in charge of radio stations pick and choose who goes on-air. I don't want it to be case of "I'm a woman - ergo, I'm pre-destined never to succeed". I believe my hard work and intellect should count for something.
Sure, I could quit. But then it just goes on. It continues. And radio will forever and ever be a man's game, a man's domain, with 50 per cent of the population left without representation.
Let me be honest. I have been jealous of other women. Many times, in fact. I understand what it's like, which is why I'm so emphatic about changing it. Why are we being our own worst enemy? Why are we slagging each other off? Why are we critical of a women's success, or joyful at her failure? Why don't we support each other?
I would like to be able to tell my stories to the women who will follow me in years to come, and have them react in horror. "Women did that to each other?" they'll cry. "Women didn't give each other a chance?" And most of all "Women let men do all the talking?!?!"
So women of Australia, I urge you. Please give other women a go. Please DEMAND variety and depth from your local media. Sure, there'll be women you don't like. That's fine. But disagree with them on their opinions, or expression - not just because of their gender. Don't buy into this myth that women aren't entertaining or knowledgeble. Don't let the media owners perpetuate the cycle.
Men - you can do your bit too. Treat women with respect. Insist they look after their minds, rather than just their looks. Give creedance to sensible, smart and funny ideas or opinions when women express them, and take umbridge with dumb or ill-researched ones. Let's start evaluating all humans on their individual record.