Instead of profiling women at the helm in this industry, as we would normally do for Women in The Media Awards, we have asked top women in the different sectors their opinions and we are giving it to you straight. Today, Primedia Broadcasting CEO Terry Volkwyn gives her perspective on radio.
What has changed for women in radio over the last decade?
There are more women in radio at all levels – management, staff and on-air. From a management and staffing perspective women make up about 50% of my workforce. They have proved themselves to do well in this environment due to the fact that there are lots of moving parts in radio and women thrive in this environment. On air, women are still in the minority. It would seem that women are not accepted as easily by listeners as their male counterparts.
What still needs to happen?
Radio is very personality driven. Listeners need to connect with the presenter. There are already very strong women behind the microphone. Many more young female media personalities are rising through the ranks and should be nurtured and mentored, but there has to be the right fit for audience – it can’t be forced. Basically, society needs to change. The female talent is out there.
You are the most senior woman in radio in South Africa. What hurdles did you have to overcome to get there?
I have been fortunate in that I don’t recall any specific hurdles. I’ve been in a position where I was recognised for doing my job well, and delivering the results. I would advise anyone else to strive to do the same.
Are you doing anything to bring more women into radio management?
Gosh, I think my male managers and staff would say “no more please”! Training for everybody is standard and simply the right thing to do for all.
Few corporates are keeping their top women who are mothers. You are managing. How?
I’m not a clock-watcher but I am outcomes-based. Therefore I’m flexible and encourage mothers to spend time sharing special moments with their kids. It keeps them happy and motivated instead of anxious and miserable. But at the end of the day I expect the work to be done on time and well. I don’t care when they do it.
What are you doing to change perceptions of women, sexual abuse and stereotyping on radio?
By using the platforms we have to keep the discussion on these topics on the agenda, together with many other issues which are important – and not only about women. The #StopRape campaign was a classic example.
There has been criticism about the quality of radio ads. What is your take on this?
Radio has long been neglected by the advertising industry since the creatives tend to see TV as the glory medium. Radio is often an afterthought in an advertising campaign, and this needs to change. Marketers can get so much more from their radio campaigns, in terms of response, by using the medium cleverly. It is a highly creative medium – that’s why listeners are entertained and moved by the radio. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be entertained and moved by radio adverts too.
Are we too far down the line to still be thinking in terms of gender?
I’m glad you asked this question. I always find myself groaning when I’m asked about being a woman in my position. It makes me feel that I did something or should have done something to have made a success of my career. I believe that I have made a success due to hard work and not because I was given breaks because I’m a woman. Having said this, I do acknowledge that there are still huge inequalities in all sectors of society, which needs to be addressed.
As a role model to younger women in the media, what would you want them to learn from you?
Be firm on outcomes and gentle on people.
What are your plans to take radio forward into the next 10 years?
Ten years is a long time, but in the short term I am concentrating on seamlessly integrating the digital opportunities with radio. It’s a perfect fit and these are exciting times.
I also intend to continue to use our platforms to move South Africa forward – it’s the principle behind LEAD SA: to do what you can, with what you have, to make a difference. Due to the personal connection that listeners have with radio, it is a powerful medium to mobilise people and we are always mindful of the opportunities we have to use this relationship for good.
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