07/03/2012 17:14 GMT | Updated 19/03/2013 07:15 GMT

International Women's Day - Women in Media

Across the world today we celebrate the 101st International Women's Day. Back when it started, women didn't have the vote, didn't have equal pay and certainly didn't have the freedoms we currently enjoy, but it's unfortunately as relevant today as it was then, and here's just a small example of why...

24 hours before International Women's Day and I'm at the Financial Times' Digital Media Conference. An event designed to "examine the most pressing issues and opportunity" in our changing media landscape, to "debate what the future holds for digital media."

Before I've even arrived, Twitter kindly informs me that of the 42 speakers appearing during the two-day event, only one is a woman.

As I flick through the brochure, when I finally do sneak through the doors, the smiling speaker photos reflect our media landscape: middle-aged, middle-class white men, come to lecture us on the future of media in this country.

Here's an idea: maybe the future of media in this country is young, ethnically diverse women? If that is the case, they're not behind the podium and, just as worryingly, they're not in the audience either.

I substantially cut the tiny quota of females who are sitting listening, when I leave half-way through the morning, disappointed by the lack of energy and ideas on offer.

My shock and anger is probably the most misplaced aspect of all this. Why on earth am I surprised?

Kira Cochrane's much quoted and brilliant article for the Guardian last year on women's representation in media has become the bible by which my female colleagues and I preach. (In case you haven't yet read it - and if that is the case, please do so immediately - Kira discovered through painstaking research that amongst other worrying statistics, on average 78% of all newspaper articles each month are written by men).

It's not only a question of what's fair when it comes to these facts on male domination, but how it has an impact on the kinds of stories run within our media landscape, and more importantly how women within these stories are portrayed.

A survey for our sister site,, this week revealed that a quarter of all women are unhappy with how their generation is represented in the media. Speaking to women aged between 18 and 24, that degree of dissatisfaction went up to 50%, surely related to the knock-on effects of middle-aged men calling the shots in the senior positions in our media industry.

This weekend, the Independent published the best and worst places across the world to be a woman. Tempted as I am to rant about the UK's poor showing across the list (we're the 45th best place to be a female politician, behind Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates; and the 33rd best place for female economic participation), I'll stick to the theme in hand.

Where in the world is it best to be a female journalist? Can you guess? The Caribbean. That's where you'll discover the highest proportion of television, print and radio news stories reported by women (it sadly doesn't appear to have counted web news stories). I may be lobbying for a HuffPost Barbados shortly.

However, it isn't just in the written word where we have issues, on the big screen, or to be more specific behind the big screen, there's also a serious lack of high-profile women. It might be the women who make the front pages in their red-carpet frocks the day after the Oscars, but 77% of the people voting for the winners are male. In the UK, only 6% of film directors and 12% of screenwriters are women. No wonder there are so few meaty lead roles for our female silver-screen stars.

It isn't time to change these things. It is long past the time to change them.

I will be debating all these issues and more with journalists Celia Walden and Hannah Pool, and actresses Shohreh Aghdashloo and Rosario Dawson, as part of The WIE Symposium today at The Hospital Club in London's Covent Garden.

Men, you are welcome to come join us, although feel free to walk out halfway through if you're bored. I'd bet on the fact you won't be.