Australia's Women of Influence Awards ignores our most influential women

Rear view of female dj working in front of a microphoneWhen The Australian Financial Review publishes its annual list of 100 Women of Influence next month, some of Australia’s most influential women won’t be on it.

Like similar awards given out each year, the 2013 100 Women of Influence awards don’t recognise the contribution made by women in the media. Women like Mia Freedman, Annabel Crabb, Jane Caro, Stella Young, Caroline Overington and many nameless, faceless women working in print, TV, radio and digital media, who both inform and shape public opinion about a wide range of issues. NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL WOMEN OF INFLUENCE!

While the The Australian Financial Review isn’t the only culprit – none of the awards have a category for women in the media – it seems to me any list that includes the word ‘influence’ in the title, should be the one awards where we could expect these women to rate a mention. Unfortunately the organisers of these awards don’t agree.

The 10 categories for this year’s 100 Women of Influence awards are: board/management; innovation; public policy; business entrepreneur; diversity; young leader; global; social enterprise/not-for-profit; philanthropy; and local/regional. If these sound familiar, it’s because just about any other award you can name has similar categories, which means the same group of women are being honoured year in, year out, while the contribution of others is simply being ignored.

The Telstra Business Women’s Awards are given out each year in the categories of: Business Owner; Private and Corporate Sector; Community and Government; Business Innovation; and Young Business Women. These women are rewarded for doing their job well and they deserve it. But what about all the women on the internet who support women in business by telling their stories and inspiring others to follow their dream of starting a business. Shouldn’t their contribution to Australian business also be recognised by the Telstra Business Women’s Awards? Personally, I’ve always thought there should be an award for the individual or publication that best promotes women in business.

As it stands, the only way a woman in the media can make an appearance on one of these lists, is as a spokesperson for a charity or a cause, like TV journalist Jessica Rowe did recently when she topped Prevention magazine’s list of Australia’s 40 Most Inspiring Women Over 40 for 2013. Apparently, rising to the top of a male-dominated profession where women over 40 are often replaced with a more youthful looking version of themselves, is not ‘inspiring’ enough for Prevention magazine. She had to look outside her profession for an activity worthy of recognition.

We see them on TV and online, we hear their voices on radio and in podcasts, we read their words in print and on websites. So why is it that women in the media are ignored when these awards for women are being given out?

I’ve given this a lot of thought and I can think of only 3 possible reasons why women in the media are being excluded from the women’s awards. Maybe you can think of some others and if so, I’d love to hear them.

But women in the media already receive too much attention. Having your face on TV, your voice on radio, or your words in print, isn’t the same as receiving some recognition for the fact that what you do each day is important. More importantly, there are lot of women working in the media who receive very little attention from the mainstream media. For example, the woman (whose name escapes me) who publishes the local paper so all of her rural neighbours can be informed about local issues. Then there are the hundreds, possibly thousands, of bloggers and web publishers on the internet who are keeping independent journalism alive and well in this country.

Why should they be rewarded for just doing their job. You could say the same thing about every other woman who receives an award or appears on a list. I fail to see how a woman who runs a successful enterprise is anymore worthy of recognition, than a woman in the media who is raising awareness in the community about women who are succeeding in business and other areas of public life.

It’s not that important to recognise women in the media? There’s a quote I use on our ‘About Us’ page which I think goes along way towards explaining why it is important for women in the media to be recognised:

“Half the world’s population, but not with half the share of wealth, wellbeing and opportunity. And certainly, women do not get half of media attention, or an equal voice in expression – only 22 percent of the voices you hear and read in the news today are women’s.” [Women in the News: Gender Wire, IPS]

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