ENTERTAINMENT

All Women Everywhere: We Speak To Four Inspiring Women Thriving In Media

Is being a woman in the media hard work? These four shining lights give us their thoughts.

28/03/2016 11:09 | Updated 28 March 2016

Does being a woman in media actually hold you back, or give you unique tools to succeed in a hyper-competitive industry?

As we near the conclusion of our All Women Everywhere month, we ask four women all succeeding in different fields of Entertainment and Media what they think.

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We speak to BBC News presenter Martine Croxall, Picturehouse Cinemas boss Clare Binns, film journalist Anna Smith and film festival director Andrea Holley - they share their personal take on who inspired them to get to the top of their respective professions, what, if anything, holds them back, and the single thing they'd like to leave behind as their legacy...

Montage
Clare Binns, Martine Croxall, Anna Smith and Andrea Holley have all got to the top of their respective Media fields

MARTINE CROXALL
Presenter, BBC News Channel

When was the moment you remember first knowing what you wanted to do for a profession? 

I had decided in my teens that I wanted to work in radio and TV, but I expected to become a producer behind the scenes. I didn't think I had the confidence to be on air.

I had been working as an intern at BBC Radio Leicester for about six weeks when they needed someone to cover the launch of a fund-raising appeal to plant a national forest. No-one else was free so I had to go. I was terrified and protested, but went anyway.  

I hadn't done any radio reporting before and here I was about to do a live outside broadcast. It involved setting the scene, explaining what was happening and interviewing one man from the charity and another dressed as the campaign mascot, wearing a rubber tree costume! Not the most likely way to start but I did a good job and really enjoyed it. I spent the next six months reporting live from the radio car all over Leicestershire and Rutland. It gave me a great grounding and taught me how to think on my feet, be resourceful and cope with the unexpected - all essential skills for presenting live and continuous breaking TV news, for example when the Paris attacks were happening last November, when I was on air non-stop for two and a half hours. 

Who would you say was your biggest professional influence? 

Before my career began I was aware of women like Joan Bakewell and Sue MacGregor, who had got to the top of their profession and were hugely respected broadcasters. Their success showed what was possible. 

Among the broadcasters I know, I owe a lot to the producers and presenters I worked with in my early days in local radio. They were so patient, encouraging and they set very high standards. They taught me the importance of thorough research, using the right tone and speaking as if you are talking to a friend. 

I also received fantastic training from the BBC and have been able to work my way up through the organisation to national television. 

Is there any way you would say being a woman has impeded on what you’ve wanted to do, or from progressing in it? 

I don't think being a woman has been an impediment in my broadcasting career. It's an even male/female split presenters on the BBC News Channel. 

Years ago, few interviewees thought they would get an easy time of it because I was young, female (and blonde), but I was able to set them straight by being well-prepared and robust - the element of surprise was quite useful!

Is there any way you would say it has helped you, or influenced your decision-making? 

I think being a mother has influenced my choices. Though my husband and I have shared the childcare, there have been times when I haven't felt able to volunteer for deployments that would have taken me away from home for longer periods. That's about my priorities. With some planning, I have been able to go abroad with work and go back out on the road occasionally.

What is the biggest challenge in your working day? 

I suppose it's because my shifts start in the late afternoon, I often feel as if I've done a day's work at home before I get to the newsroom! 

Once at work, though, the biggest challenge is probably not knowing what news might break during a shift. But that is also one of the best parts of my job. Every day is different and responding to the unexpected, navigating stories as they unfold is exciting and a privilege.

If there is something you would like to leave behind as your personal professional legacy, what would that be? 

Thankfully, news presenting has changed a lot so we are not expected to be quite so grave anymore. I hope I have been able to show that it is possible to be warm, engaging, inclusive AND authoritative. Most news stories are serious but I try to have fun and introduce a bit of levity when appropriate, and our viewers seem to like that. 

We’re always being told about carving out ‘me time’ in our daily lives - do you actually manage it, and if you do, what do you most enjoy doing with it? 

It's much easier now our children are older - when they were little there was only time to work, sleep (a little) and look after them! As I work in the evenings, I have most of the day at home so I do have time to myself. But I still have to be disciplined in using it well. As we have a dog, I get out walking for at least an hour a day. Each week I manage to have a Portuguese lesson and go to a dance class. I find that if something is in my diary, I am more likely to stick to it. 
Follow Martine on Twitter at twitter.com/MartineBBC


CLARE BINNS
Programming and Acquisitions Director, Picturehouse Cinemas

When was the moment you remember first knowing what you wanted to do for a profession? 

When I worked as an usher at The Ritzy Cinema in the early 80's - heaven. Independent films, talking to customers, projecting films and interesting creative work mates.

Who would you say was your biggest professional influence? 

Seeing other women who kicked ass in the very male-dominated business it was then. Particularly, Romaine Hart who ran Mainline Cinemas and Liz Wren who started Electric Pictures.

Is there any way you would say being a woman has impeded on what you’ve wanted to do, or from progressing in it? 

I never felt any boundaries - I just ploughed through, like bulldozer! 

Is there any way you would say it has helped you, or influenced your decision-making? 

I think it helps me remember that everyone, by and large, is trying to do their best. So be nice, but think outside the box and don't take 'no' for an answer - keep pushing. 

What is the biggest challenge in your working day? 

Emails and getting back to people in a timely manner, not getting bogged down in process, and keeping creative.

If there is something you would like to leave behind as your personal professional legacy, what would that be? 

Qualifications are not everything, so I'd like to think I made my mark on a world where you let people have a chance, whatever their background.

Do you get 'me' time, and what do you most enjoy doing with it? 

Seeing my kids and husband, watching films (honestly), playing the banjo, reading and being by the sea. 
PictureHouse Cinemas info here. Follow Clare at twitter.com/ClareLBinns 

ANNA SMITH
Film critic, broadcaster, ELLE Contributing Editor and Chair of the Critics’ Circle Film Section

When was the moment you remember first knowing what you wanted to do for a profession? 

It was always going to be the media. As a child I recorded my own radio show on cassettes, and later did work experience at the local radio station. I was the Launch Editor of my class’s magazine at school, at the grand old age of 12. I remember writing news reports, crosswords and editorials, although the illustrations left something to be desired! I remember a moment as a teenager, reading the ELLE magazine contributors’ panel and imagining myself on there. A decade or so later, there I was.

Who would you say was your biggest professional influence? 

My late mother was very sharp, funny and articulate – I can still hear her influence in my writing from time to time. Certain university professors gave me an insight into feminism and popular culture, and my postgraduate journalism studies helped instil a very professional attitude. I also remember admiring Mariella Frostrup on 'The Little Picture Show', long before it occurred to me that I could become a film critic.

Is there any way you would say being a woman has impeded on what you’ve wanted to do, or from progressing in it? 

I raised a few eyebrows when I edited a dance music magazine in the 90s, but it didn’t feel like an impediment. I was the first female editor of a dance magazine in the UK, and recently became only the second female Chair of the Critics’ Circe Film Section. It feels like an honour, but I hope many more female critics follow after my stint.

When I decided to specialise in film writing, I did encounter some skepticism. One can only speculate, but it’s possible I had to prove myself even more than a young man of the same ability would. It took a while for some editors to realise I was just as capable of writing about action and sci-fi as romantic comedies.

Is there any way you would say it has helped you, or influenced your decision-making? 

I’ve become a rom-com expert, so it’s worked in my favour to some extent! And I’ve been pleased to be able to take a more analytical, feminist stance on the genre for the likes of 'Sight & Sound' magazine and 'The Guardian'.

I don’t think being a woman has been an obstacle when it comes to appearing on BBC TV and Sky News – broadcasters like a good gender balance and I began my broadcast career as an established critic.

What is the biggest challenge in your working day? 

Freelance writing is fantastic when you’re doing well, but gigs ebb and flow, so it’s not a deeply secure profession. I wouldn’t change it – I feel very fortunate to work from home, going out to film screenings, meetings and TV studios and hosting post-screening Q&As. It’s a fun and rewarding mix, but I have to work hard to keep it that way.

If there is something you would like to leave behind as your personal professional legacy, what would that be? 

I hope I will leave a legacy as Chair of the Critics’ Circle Film Section. We feel passionately about safeguarding the future of criticism. It’s vital that writers are paid for their work - the future of quality film criticism depends on it - but the internet has blurred the lines between the professional and the voluntary. When I give talks to students, I always emphasise how agreeing to work for free could put their own futures at risk, as well as those of others. It’s always rewarding to see them really think about this and take it on board.

What do you like to do with your 'me' time?

When your job involves entertainment, it’s actually quite hard to switch off – going to the cinema and watching TV is my job. But how lucky does that make me?! Hanging out with good friends is always fun – and I’ve recently rediscovered playing the flute. Doing something creative that’s not connected to work is a good way to uplift the spirits and clear the mind. It also reminds me of a happy childhood, which is another boost.
Follow Anna on Twitter at @AnnaSmithJourno 

ANDREA HOLLEY
Strategic Director, Human Rights Watch Film Festival

When was the moment you remember first knowing what you wanted to do for a profession? 

I was fourteen years old and I remember realising that I was the only person in my class at school who knew where Mozambique was. I knew where Mozambique was because I knew where South Africa was and what apartheid was. I knew then that I was going to end up in human rights or some sort of global development career.

Who would you say was your biggest professional influence? 

I feel as if things have changed so much and so rapidly over the past twenty years of my career that I cannot pinpoint a particular person who has influenced me. In truth, technology has probably influenced me more than anything else.

Is there any way you would say being a woman has impeded on what you’ve wanted to do, or from progressing in it? 

I don’t know if being a woman has impeded on what I have wanted to do per se, but I am quite sure that male colleagues probably do not have to hear things such as, “You should be nicer.”

What is the biggest challenge in your working day? 

Accepting (and understanding) when things do not come in on time or on point.

If there is something you would like to leave behind as your personal professional legacy, what would that be? 

People always know where they stand with me. I would like to think that my reputation for not being afraid to say what I thought would endure after I am gone.

Do you manage to find 'me' time, and what do you most enjoy doing with it? 

I do manage it and I cook. I think the thing I have observed in recent years is the toll stress takes on people and how they can suffer if they do not take care of themselves. So I make an effort to cook for myself and stay somewhat healthy.
Human Rights Watch Festival info here

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through features, video and blogs, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you’d like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you’d like to blog about
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