DECEMBER 13, 2021

Making the Media S2E02: Rise Up

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Imposter syndrome, being risk averse, remote working, a lack of opportunities, and the need for mentoring. These are all issues identified in a major new report on the media and broadcast industry which affect women and people from diverse backgrounds.

In the episode, we discuss the Rise Women in Leadership Report, and focus on the risks the industry faces unless it addresses them and embraces a more diverse future.

Listen to Hear:

  • Why 75% of women feel they suffer from imposter syndrome
  • Practical steps the industry should take to address the challenges they face in recruitment and retention
  • The value of mentoring

Our Guests This Episode

Carrie Wooten is the Managing Director of Rise—the global advocacy group for gender diversity within the media technology sector.

Rise's ambition is to open up more opportunities for gender-diverse professionals through delivering its global award-winning annual mentoring program, celebrating the skills and achievements of brilliant women across the industry through its annual Rise Awards, and through inspiring, educating, and informing the next generation of talent through its Rise Up Academy program.

There's an opportunity for us to ensure that we have diverse communities represented in our industry. And I genuinely feel that if we don't take this moment, if we don't seize it, if we don't grasp it, if we don't commit to it fully, then we're going to be in the same situation in another ten years, another fifteen years. And if that happens, that's outrageous.

Carrie Wooten, Managing Director, Rise

Mentioned in This Episode

Making the Media S1E20: Vive La Difference

Discover the work of the Creative Diversity Network
Learn more

Episode Transcript

Craig Wilson: Hi, it's Craig Wilson here, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to the latest episode of the Making the Media Podcast.

“Pale, male, and stale” is a phrase which has been used over the years to describe industries which are dominated by middle-aged white men. It may seem harsh, but it's an accusation leveled at the media and broadcast industry where the representation of women, particularly in technical roles, is very low.

Rise is an award-winning not-for-profit global advocacy organization, which recently produced their first ever Women in Leadership Report. They say it's a groundbreaking piece of research with insights and recommendations to enable women to reach their potential and succeed in leadership roles. My guest on the podcast is the Rise Managing Director, Carrie Wooten, and we discussed the organization, their mentoring scheme, the report, and their commitment to a gender-balanced diverse broadcast industry fit for the future. I began by asking Carrie to describe the reasons why Rise came about.

Carrie Wooten: Well, I think if you attend any of the trade shows like IBC or NAB it was really clearly evident, particularly, you know, ten years ago, that there wasn't any gender diversity or there was a very little. I mean really little gender diversity in the industry, and that there actually was a lot more that could be done to try and change that. And to actually make sure that we do have that gender diversity, and there's, you know, a plethora of research out there that shows if you have diversity within your companies that you are more productive, you're more innovative, your bottom line is improved significantly. So actually, you know, it's in the benefit of all the companies and individuals out there to have that diversity.

So, we thought that we could start to change that and help companies and individuals change their diversity within their organizations, so it really started out as a bit of a passion project, to be honest. You know, we were attending these shows and not seeing that gender diversity, and I was like, “OK, so what can we do? What can we do to try and change this and bring more women specifically into the industry so that we can start to see those numbers and that balance change? And when you walk into one of those big holes at NAB or IBC then actually you know there's more representation there?”

So as I say, it started out as a bit of a passion project, and then as we built momentum, then obviously became a fully-fledged not-for-profit business that now, you know how they say those global chapters and several different streams of work.

Craig Wilson: And are there specific rules that you're attempting to target and focused? Because I think if you look at companies or organizations, they may argue that they’re gender balanced because their overall staffing perhaps is you know 50/50. But if you actually look at engineering is 80% man, marketing is 80% women, and the two things kind of build out. So, are there specific roles that you're trying to target to try and achieve that better diversity of gender?

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, absolutely yeah, and you're totally right. And it's engineering and the technical operations that we're definitely… and the technical roles that we're definitely focusing in on where our efforts go as well as looking at sales. And we do look at marketing actually as well, because, again, if you look at representation in our bit of the industry, it's not as great as it could be. I mean, there's always ways that we can improve that, but yeah, so definitely, technical and engineering roles, sales, and also we look at business as well because there's a really lack of representation at sea level of women in the industry as a whole.

Craig Wilson: And how would you sum up the scale of the kind of challenge. I mean, I know you've done the report and we'll talk about the report and in a little while, but from a percentage standpoint, where are we starting from and where do you hope to get to?

Carrie Wooten: It's a really good question. I mean, where we want to get to is 50/50, right? We'd like to see that balance, and we're definitely not there yet. And I think, you know, as I said, when we started out ten years ago—well, 10 years ago Rise started out, but about 4-5 years ago, but when I first started going to trade shows was about 10 years ago, and there was, you know, I don't know what the percentage was then, but it was really minimal. I mean, let's be clear—the conversation around diversity has changed enormously over the last few years. There's been significant movements and the fact that we're even having more open and concrete discussions around diversity is ensuring that landscape is changing, and I'm talking about all diversity characteristics here.

But then… we're not seeing that balance. We haven't reached that 50/50 yet, so there is still a long way to go. But it's brilliant that we are talking about diversity, it’s brilliant that there are initiatives being developed by companies individually and through organizations like Rise, but as I say, you know, if you if you ask companies their stats around their engineering staff, you know I talked to one woman who was in the Olympics and she was very clear about this bill, you know, there was only one female and the rest were men, out of a team of about 50 or 60. So, you know, there's still a long way to go.

And that's sometimes not for want of trying, as well. I think with companies, it's not that they don't want that diversity, either. I think, you know, companies will say that they advertise jobs, that they only get men in, so there's a lot more work that we need to do to ensure that everybody knows that there's opportunities there, that actually, you know, companies are looking for that diversity that we are in—I mean, I would like to talk about Rise Up Academy and the work we're doing in primary and secondary schools, but we have to ensure that we're inspiring and educating and informing our younger generation to ensure that they understand that there's pathways and opportunities for them into the industry.

We need to look at recruitment processes; how companies visually present themselves online through their website, through their recruitment tools; do they use a gender decoder? You know, there's all sorts of different aspects that we need to work collectively, together, to ensure that we see that that diversity comes through.

Chris Wilson: Is it also the case, though, that when people are looking perhaps at a job advert that they ruled themselves out because they think they're not qualified or they don't have the right skill set, when in reality, they may well be equally as qualified as someone else is applying for it.

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, totally. And if you look at men and women, that's true as well. There's, again, lots of research around this that women will look at a job advert and only go for it if they've got nearly 100% of those skills and can go “Yes, yes, yes, I can do that”, whereas men won't, they would tend to go, “Actually, I can do 50% of that and I can probably back my way through a little bit.” I mean, these are obviously generalizations, but they underpin the situation that we're in, and that research does highlight very clearly that actually there is divide in terms of how we view job adverts. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's why tools like the gender decoder, which are looking at how you're presenting your ads and where you're posting them as well…

I think sometimes, you know, particularly at the moment, the industry is so busy, you know, the speed of innovation is like extraordinary and nothing like we've ever seen at the moment, and COVID is exacerbated all of that completely. So I think sometimes we were so snowed under and doing the day job, that we forget to take the time out to really spend some time going, “Actually, let's go broader than the way that we usually recruit for people. Let's look at different communities, look at different online platforms that we can advertise our jobs on.”

And that's the thing: achieving diversity is not easy. Just to be really clear about that: it takes a huge amount of commitment, and actually, it takes cash, as well, because you need to commit your people to spending time, to going out to different sites and researching all of that information, so it's not a quick and fast route. It's going to be challenging and there’s going to be barriers and it's going to take that investment, and it's a commitment by senior leaders as well as all the staff within a company to make those changes happen.

But unless we do that, we're not going to change the diversity of our industry, whether that's gender diversity or whether that's ethnic diversity or disability. We're just not going to see that, and I think, having been out on the road quite a lot this year and being into schools… young people are interested. If you show them that there's job opportunities and potential career pathways in our industry, then they get really excited, so it's not that there's a lack of willingness or excitement about the industries because we're not communicating that and that fact that there are opportunities for them. But as I say, it takes a lot of work. It's not something that's going to be resolved quickly either. But we have to really commit to it and ensure that we work collectively together across the industry to make those changes happen.

Craig Wilson: One thing I know from speaking to other people within the industry is that as an industry, certainly here in the UK, and it's maybe the same elsewhere, that we have an aging profile of people who are working in the industry. A lot of people perhaps came in the 80s and 90s who are now people of my age and older, and there is an issue about recruitment, that issue about bringing people into the industry as well. So perhaps there is a recognition that something needs to be done, but people aren't clear about actually how they need to do it.

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, and I think that's totally true. We know that we're an aging white male workforce, to be honest, and particularly when you look at those engineering and technical roles, our research with the IBM last summer demonstrated that quite clearly. And also, as I was saying earlier, the sea level positions are mostly occupied by men as well.

But as you say, there is recognition there. I've talked to lots of companies that have clearly said to me “We have this, we've got an aging white male workforce and we need to change and quite quickly as well.” You know, they can see that the majority of their workforce is leaving in like three, four, five years. So that's really imminent and it comes down to education. It really does. And training and support and understanding how we bring people into the industry.

And as I said earlier, it's not because there is a lack of excitement about the industry. Once you tell them—and that's where the dots aren't joined up—we know that we've got an issue, but we also know that we're like crazily busy. You know, the day job is like there's our whole life at the moment because of what's happened over the last couple of years. But if we don't spend the time going in and talking to young people and telling them about the exciting opportunities, and that there's opportunities for them, I think sometimes the industry can feel too far too remote and actually are not suitable for them, not available to them, they don't know where to go, and I think there's a big conversation at the moment around qualifications and education. Like, what do we want these young people to have when they enter the industry?

You mentioned our report earlier; we saw that 77% of female leaders in the industry had a degree. 77%? I mean, that’s really high in terms of education. But we also know that we're struggling for diversity, and we also know that education—higher education, specifically university—doesn't lend itself to other communities and diverse communities that we want to bring it into the industry.

So there's a whole question around whether education at a degree level is still relevant and suitable for what we need. And there's a huge conversation around IT skills, software skills… all of those things are underpinning every aspect of our work at the moment. But do we want those young people to be having a degree? I mean, for me, I think we need a breath, right? We need people coming in 18. We need people coming at 21. We also need those PhD students as well because we need that kind of high-end thinking as well. But, at the moment, we're just… it seems as though we're just going down one route, and that's it. And that's not going to ensure that we bring diversity into our industry.

Craig Wilson: Let talk about the report, Carrie, because we've touched on it a couple of times. As I understand it, it's a first major report that Rise has done, it's broken into a number of different sections, and we’ll maybe talk through what each of the different sections are. One of the ones I wanted to ask about was people's view about risk taking. So we've talked about getting people into the industry, and I think whenever you make a choice or industry effectively, you're taking a risk, you're making a bet that “This is the thing I want to be involved in.” And when you've looked at risk taking within the industry of people who are in the industry, what findings did the report come up with?

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, this was fascinating. So, 66% of our female leaders said that they would class themselves as risk takers, and I found this really fascinating, because I think it's something… the word risk we often associate with negativity. We don't necessarily see that as a positive. And of course, the opposite, on the flip side of the coin for risk taking is failure. But when you think about it logically and actually go “OK what does leadership mean?” Of course, there's always going to be an element of risk. Whatever decision you make as a leader is going to have that element to it.

So once you kind of sit down logically and go. “Yeah, of course there would be some element of risk taking” and then that kind of makes sense. But I think when you first look at actually risk taking, and what does that mean? The report breaks it down into more detail because it can come in different forms. But whether you move country for a different job or whether you go out of your main company that you've been in for 15 years and take another position or whatever it happens to be. But there's always an element of risk that underpins it.

And for me, what's really interesting is how we then ensure that we build-in risk taking attitude and approach to younger women coming through the industry so that they’re then equipped when they become senior leaders to understand how to manage that and what risk taking means and when to take the risk and how to take the risks, and then obviously, the flip side of that is failure. So it's a really interesting really interesting dynamic that came out of the report.

Craig Wilson: One of the ways I know that Rise has tried to tackle some of these issues around the issue of mentoring and trying to ensure that younger women coming in initially have other mentors. So tell me about that kind of process and how people get involved in it and then the benefits that you see them getting from it.

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, I think again, mentoring can seem like really obvious. Because of course mentoring has an impact. But oh goodness, the impact it does have; this transformation, or like… we see it year on year with all of the women that we work with. You know, in six months they really do transform. And again, in the report, we found some concrete correlation between those that had been mentored and those that then had representation on a board level. And that was around 30% of those—which is extraordinary, you know. Actually, really thinking about the fact that if you are mentored then you have more of a likelihood of being on a board, which then just seems really, you know, we should be rolling mentoring out everywhere to ensure that we give everybody the best opportunity to get onto a board.

And I think sometimes mentoring… I don't think you can underestimate the value that it really has. Everybody applies to a mentoring program for different reasons. For some individuals, it will be “I'm in position A and I want to get to position B. How do I do that?” Like, it can be really clear, you know, that that's my trajectory and I need some support with that. But more often than not, it's actually more complex than that, and confidence, again, can seem quite cliched and simple as well, but actually confidence is really complex and underpins a lot of the challenges that women face in the industry. Being heard in a in a meeting room. Being able to speak on a panel. Like, the amount of times I've heard exhibitors and those organizing events say they've tried to reach out to women, but many of them say no because they don't have the confidence to speak on a panel. And that's a challenge, we want to see gender diversity on panels, but equally, we obviously need to encourage women to have the confidence to speak up, but confidence is a huge thing that we see come through time and time again.

Yeah, as I say, there's lots of different reasons for those that apply to our mentoring program, but what they get through the mentoring program then enables them to build on those skills of personal development and confidence, and understand how to build their personal brand, as well. We talk a lot about pass-on branding and how to represent themselves in the industry, and yeah, you know, the feedback we see speaks for itself.

And I think for us as well, the important thing isn't just the mentoring. Obviously you have your mentor and there's that one-to-one experience, but you're also working in a group of 24 other women on the program, as well, so all of a sudden your network, or champions, or the people that got your back are going to be there for you long after the program is finished as well. And that's what we hope for, is that, you know, that that cohort will go on throughout their career and ensure they support and encourage and champion each other as they go on. And then of course you've got the network of mentors, as well, so you know, when you come into our mentoring program, you're not just having that relationship with one individual, you've got a group of, you know, 50 other people that are going to have your back continuously as you move on to the rest of your career.

Craig Wilson: So, Carrie, what about the mentors themselves? 'Cause I guess they actually get a lot out of the mentoring that they're doing.

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, they really do. And I think this is a thing—it's not just a one way process, it's a two way process. It's very much about having a relationship, you know with someone having a professional relationship with someone so that you can both learn and encourage and support each other.

Obviously, the idea is that the attention is on the mentee, but absolutely, without a doubt, the mentors get so much from the program. If it is about confidence then the pairing that we make doesn't necessarily have to fit exactly to the mentee's job role, for example. So you know, the mentor can often learn quite a bit about a different bit of the industry, different company, and actually, yeah, I say that more often than not, there's a strong bond that then continues for both the mentee and the mentor that goes long past the wrap of the program. Yeah, I think it's giving back, isn't it? That's, you know, the bottom line—you're giving back to someone else, to the industry, to ensure that, as I'm saying, we try and reach our goal of gender diversity. But you personally get so much from that individual, as well, because you're learning as well.

I think this is the thing, isn't it? All of us learn every single day. It might be something big, might be something small, and that mentoring relationship is no different. And I think that's why we're really lucky that many of our mentors want to come back here year on year because they get so much from it themselves.

Craig Wilson: So, we talked about confidence, Carrie. Another aspect I know is raised in the report is about impostor syndrome. Yeah, so tell us about that, 'cause what the report contains I found really, really interesting.

Carrie Wooten: Yes, 75% of respondents said that they had impostor syndrome, which is extraordinary. It's really, really high. And I think, you know, let's be clear: I think everybody understands what impostor syndrome is. This isn't just a female thing, you know. Men do experience it as well. Of course they do. But I think that the level that we see in the report 75%—I mean that is huge. It really is. And I think, as you've kind of said, it links directly back to confidence. It links to why they don't go for the jobs that we were talking about. It links back to speaking on panels… it underpins everything, and it's something that we're going to be looking at in more detail next year in terms of how we can support women through that process in not having impostor syndrome because, of course, there are 25% of women that said that they didn't, and I think everybody is like “Oh my goodness, we need to learn from you because obviously you've got it nailed in terms of understanding that actually you don't need to have impostor syndrome. And actually you're really comfortable in the arena that you're in, in the role that you're in and, you know, the level that you're at.”

So there's definitely lots that we can learn from that 25%. But yeah, the 75% is really, really high. And it's really sad because of course women shouldn't be feeling like that. Of course, they've got a place in the room, or whatever the situation happens to be. Of course they do. Of course their opinion and their voice matters. But we need to enable them to feel more confident about that.

And I think what's really great about this report is, it gives some clear indications and recommendations for companies to take onboard themselves. That actually, how do we support younger women coming through our company and we want to ensure that they reach a senior leadership position? But clearly, we know that risk taking is important. We also note that impostor syndrome is it, you know, likely to be really high within the women within our company.

So, actually, we need to take that on board seriously and look at how we can support them through that. So, I think that's what's exciting for me, is that there's really some clear guidance here for companies, so actually they can take that on board and implement that through their training, through their HR processes, and onwards.

But yeah, impostor syndrome, it's… Sadly it doesn't come as a surprise to me, that statistic. But it's such a shame because obviously, I think, again, it means that we've got quite a bit of work to do to ensure that we can lower that stat and ensure that women do feel confident in their role in the jobs that they're doing.

Craig Wilson: Yeah, on the podcast, we've tended to focus more on the kind of news business, but I'm guessing the challenges that we're talking about here are kind of universal within this broadcast industry—it’s not something specific to one.

But one thing I was going to say within news from a profile perspective: There are a large number of women that are on television, for example. So in those sort of presentational, journalistic roles—if you go back to your Kate Adie or Moira Stewart… these are people—for people outside of the UK—these are journalists who are very well known within the UK for what they've done. But I'm guessing in those kind of behind-the-scenes roles, those kind of unseen role, that's where the big challenges really lie.

Carrie Wooten: Yeah, absolutely. And how fantastic is that, though? That we've got that gender representation on screen. I think that's fantastic and there are other great organizations working towards having that gender representation in writing, and directing, and producing, and those types of roles. But absolutely, we're not seeing it in those engineering and technical roles.

I was talking to Morgan Williams from BBC News operations yesterday and, you know, she's really clear that there's still more work to be done in her team to achieve that gender diversity. And also, I just want to be clear about the intersectionality here as well—Rise is very much about gender diversity, but, of course, I'm talking about ethnic diversity, disability… you know, there's lots of diverse characteristics that we're not seeing represented at all. And I think that's why, as I say, reaching out to younger people is critical to ensure that we reach diverse communities more broadly, as well.

But yeah, absolutely, the challenges are still there behind the screen, without a doubt. And, you know, leaders are recognizing it. It’s just, we've got to put the time and effort and cash. I'm going to be really blunt here; it’s not going to happen unless we invest in cash. Like, these initiatives take money, they take people resource, they take commitment, but we have to do that if we want to see that gender diversity, specifically behind the screens in those engineering and technical roles.

Craig Wilson: So, we've talked a little bit about getting people excited and getting people to come into the industry, but I'm guessing the challenges that we're talking about here actually apply at lots of different levels within the industry, that even once you come in, how you then progress, because again, I see this within organizations where the further up the tree you get, the thinner the cohort of women seems to appear. So I guess this is something at all levels that you're trying to address?

Carrie Wooten: Absolutely. Of course, no, definitely. And, you know, there's some clear research that says we often lose women after maternity leave and having children and balancing families… And I think COVID has made that extremely challenging, as well. That kind of blend between home life and family life, and we've definitely seen women leave not only our industry, but industries across the board.

You know, there's some been some research about that and the impact of COVID on women specifically, but of course we need to ensure, you know, as I said, that sea level position, we know that they’re a majority occupied by men, so we need to see that change. We need that balance to shift. And we're only going to see that sea level balance shifted if we see all the, you know, the pathways up to that sea level change as well. So there's still a lot of work to be done to get it.

I think this is the thing. It's not just a one-prong approach. We've got to have multiple strands of initiatives, and we've got to have multiple pronged approaches to… you know, we've got to work with young people, got to work with new entrants, we've got to work with middle management, senior management, sea level position. You know, we've got to be working across the scale to ensure that we reach our target. Otherwise, it's just not going to happen. There's a really unique opportunity here, I think. At this moment in time, as we start to come out of COVID—fingers crossed—following on from the #MeToo movement, following on from George Floyd's death, there's an opportunity for us to ensure that we have diverse communities represented in our industry. And I genuinely feel that if we don't take this moment, if we don't seize it, if we don't grasp it, if we don't commit to it fully, then, you know, we're going to be in the same situation in another 10 years, another 15 years. And if that happens, that's outrageous. Like, that's outrageous. Because we know the benefits. We know the significance of having diverse communities represented in our industry. We know that. We see the researchers. It's there. And as I say, the conversation has improved. We're talking about diversity... But it's not enough at the moment. We need to work harder and stronger and work more collaboratively to ensure that we see that, and in ten years, I'm retired, and I don't have to run an organization called Rise, and Rise won't exist, because that's ultimately what we're trying to do. We're trying to we're trying to get rid of organizations like us so they don't exist, because we've achieved our goal. So yeah.

Chris Wilson: Carrie, it's great to talk to you, and I know from speaking to you and to others who are involved with Rise how passionate everybody is about the organization.

So, I do have one final question, and it's a question I asked everyone in the podcast, which is: What is it, if anything, that keeps you awake at night?

Carrie Wooten: Oh goodness! So many things! Um, do you know what it is, honestly: Is it enough? Is what we're doing enough? I ask myself that all the time and quite often I have to be pulled back an go “Carrie, you know, we can't do anymore.” And I think we probably got to that point this year, where, I don't think we could do anymore on the team that we've got, you know.

I'm the only one that works on Rise in any kind of paid capacity, so, you know, everybody else who volunteers has committed their time. But yeah, my question is always, is it enough? That's what keeps me awake at night. But I long for the day when they're like: “Ok, yeah, that's enough. We've done it.”

Craig Wilson: I think that's a great ambition to have. Thanks to Carrie for joining me on the podcast. Lots of things to mull over there, and remember to get in touch and let us know your thoughts. I'm on social, my username is @CraigAW1969 or email us at our address, which is [email protected].

If you want to find out more on the subject of diversity in the media, why not check out the show notes, where you can listen to another podcast episode focusing on the work of the Creative Diversity Network.

Next time on the podcast, we're discussing one of the hottest topics in the news and entertainment industry right now: security. So, make sure to subscribe to get notified when the episode comes out, and don't forget to share the podcast with your friends and colleagues.

Thank you so much for listening. Thanks to our producer Matt Diggs. My name is Craig Wilson. Join me next time for more Making the Media.

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