All Talk, No Action! Time To Step Up

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on March 2, 2022 

Once a year I get to rest my voice and let the statistics speak for themselves. That time of year (FEBRUARY) is when Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio (MIW) release their annual Gender Analysis Study. This year was no different (NET NEWS 2/16). And the results, not much different from previous years. Radio sales and management continue to be growth areas for women in broadcasting, while programming remains a challenging field.

MIW annually compiles and analyzes the number of women in the industry who are rising to the ranks of management. Data gathered for its annual Gender Analysis Study specifically tracks the progress of female professionals holding General Manager, Sales Manager, and Program Director/Brand Manager positions. The study has been consistently released utilizing the same methodology since the organization’s start in 2000. The figures and percentages shown in this years’ study are reflective of 11,087 AM and FM radio stations across the U.S., as accounted for by Precisiontrak as of December 31st, 2021.

So, where’s the problem? It’s in the same area it always is. Women currently program 12% of radio stations across the country, a statistic that has remained not only low, but consistently stagnant since WIM has been conducting this survey. And the topic of discussion, even after all these years, is still the “Big Pink Elephant” in the industry that NO ONE will talk about except for me, and occasionally Fred Jacobs.

In a world where even the President of the United States is making a conscious effort to make his cabinet and Supreme Court Justices a more realistic representation of the population of our country (regardless of your politics), the Broadcast industry continues to be stuck in the previous century and the problem continues to be ignored because no one has the guts to do something about it. Not only that, no matter how many times we actually do give a Woman a shot at Programming radio (you know, the platform in which ratings are driven predominantly by Women), we move three steps forward and ten steps back by letting them go because of consolidation, or because they have out grown the demo (true story) or even worse, the few who are in charge of the hiring process (the usual suspects) don’t give them a shot because they are not “in the club” and they are using women to satisfy their EEO requirements only.

I have heard two stories in the last week from qualified female colleagues applying for open Programming positions having wasted a lot of time and effort, only to watch another “usual suspect,” (not nearly as qualified), get the job instead. And one was blatantly used to satisfy the EEO requirement. The hiring manager strung her along until she officially applied for the position, and then ghosted her the minute she did. She knew it was happening, but he didn’t even try to hide that fact. The other was courted by a Market Manager with legitimate interest in her experience, but she wasn’t a member of the VP of Programming’s “club.”

This industry needs to step into 2022. All other companies’ biggest priorities right now besides the bottom line are insuring a healthy DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) culture and environment. Radio can’t even get to a decent % of gender equality. And while we spend an enormous amount of time creating committees, task forces, surveys, podcasts, and DEI content, we never actually do anything with them. We just put out press releases and then sit in panel sessions at summits and watch the “Suits” talk about everything their companies are doing to better the radio industry. Sadly, it’s all talk. And as much as you will read about “National Women’s History Day/Month,” and as much content as you will see about it during March, by the middle of the Month, the subject will fall on deaf ears.

I read another one of the Jacob’s Blogs a few weeks ago, “Am I A Radio ‘Homer?’” It made me think about all the people who think radio doesn’t work vs. those who do, about all the people I talk to who are done with radio right now vs. all the people who still love it, about the debate “Is radio dead?” I still have mixed emotions, because I was one of few Women who had a great career as a Programmer in the business, but it was due to ONE man, who had no problem with me being a smart experienced Woman. But that was then, and as I watch my colleagues struggle with the reality of what this business has become, I can’t help but feel for them and wish that things were different. Especially my female colleagues who have to work ten times harder to be hired in positions of Programming, not only by the few Male hiring managers, but also by the few Female hiring managers who “need to be the Prom Queen” in a professional setting.

If we aren’t going to address the issue and look for ways to fix the problem because no one wants to talk about it, and we aren’t going to ask direct questions and demand straightforward answers and solutions from those in positions of power in this industry, then we aren’t going to get over this hump that our business is going through. We aren’t going to expand and grow with the rest of the world, and you can buy all the platform companies and stations, and innovative new tech services out there that you want. It sounds good on paper and looks good in a portfolio for a minute, but it won’t matter when your stock is still at the bottom of the barrel and your answering to share holders who watched you make great pitches and moves, but now you have to explain to them why you’re filing for bankruptcy or you have to sell off half of what you bought to save the company. There’s too much of that going on in our industry, and sadly it’s been going on for a long time now. The Pandemic just made it ten times worse, ten times faster.

So, I will ask again, for the millionth time and for the sake of the radio industry, can someone with a “voice” please stand up and address this problem aloud? And do something about it, not just say “We’re going to do something about it.” Or set up a task force to ensure that EEO/DEI requirements are being legitimately met. It’s time for the radio and audio industry to reflect the diversity of the people in our country too. It’s time to step in 2022.