THE BLOG
05/02/2016 09:01 GMT | Updated 04/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Manchester's Women In Media

'You can do anything, as long as you work hard enough.'

I grew up in a house full of girls. Each one louder, naughtier and more more playful than the last; our home was where bedroom walls were painted pink and where perfume was made out of flowers in the garden. Nail varnish stains decorated the carpets of a house that played host to neighbourhood-wide rounders tournaments, football parties and mud fights. It was somewhere we would play rugby against the boys, losing as often as we won. Questioning and creativity was always encouraged, and gender never seen to be a barrier.

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My love for the television industry- for all things student media - definitely stems from Saturday nights spent watching The X Factor with my sisters. However, arrival at University in 2013 demonstrated, almost immediately, the lack of female 'journos' involved in student media. On Friday afternoons, as the University's television station schedule their videos and The Mancunion team prepare their paper to be sent off to print, the office is packed. Students from all years furiously type on laptops as headlines are thrown back and forth across the room... A room almost entirely made up of males. Applications for editorial positions within the newspaper were this year, as in all previous years, disproportionately male and, despite huge efforts from the most encouraging of senior editors, only 26% of opinion articles have been written by a woman.

This gender imbalance is one that extends far beyond my current University level, remaining hugely prevalent across all media platforms. Men dominate both televised and written news, having produced over two thirds of all coverage in 2015. The same year saw only 10% of sports content created by women, with lifestyle remaining the only area that demonstrates any real parity. Writers, studio managers, executive producers, cinematographers; all jobs in which women remain in the minority. A sad truth confirmed by the fact that women made up only 12% of on-screen protagonists in films in 2015. I worry that without campaign, these issues will start to become rooted and maybe, become almost the norm.

We're incredibly lucky here in Manchester. Our Students' Union works day in and day out to support not only it's students but the wider community; reaching out to disadvantaged children and striving to provide equal and fair opportunities to all. A recent visit from school-age children made obvious that the effects of this gender imbalance are felt even in the earliest stages; 11 year-old Destiny stated that she didn't have a desire to go to University 'because there aren't any famous women who have done that'.

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And so, this year, Women In Media (#WIM2016) was born. A conference to engage; to empower; to inspire girls and women of any and every age to dip their toes into the wonderful world of media. With speakers coming from across the country - Hearst Publication's Louise Court and The Guardian's Helen Pidd, to name a few - Manchester's Media Group will be playing host to some of the industry's most inspirational broadcasters, writers, bloggers and producers. A conference open to everyone, with workshops and events thrown throughout the city that aim to inspire, celebrate and share stories of female achievement.

Taking place in the heart of the UK's very own 'MediaCity', we are thrilled to have secured backing from The Independent enabling us to donate all proceeds to our favourite local charity, MASH (Manchester Action On Street Health). A small organisation that provides long-lasting help to women involved in sex work; from their safe house in Manchester's red light district they provide workers with clean needles, a nurse, a 'dodgy punter list' and most importantly, somewhere safe for them to go, to relax, where there is always a friend to talk to.

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Growing up, in our house full of girls, there were only two rules. Don't steal clothes from each other's rooms without asking and always, always work hard. The first, a rule that was constantly broken. However, my Dad's phrase, 'you can do anything, as long as you work hard enough', is one that has always stuck with me. It summarises an upbringing based on the belief that you don't need to be of a specific gender, a specific race, a specific anything, to be able to succeed.

#WIM2016. Inspired by the editors of our favourite magazines, the producers of our favourite television shows. The friends who don't believe in themselves enough to write a newspaper article and the school girls who don't aspire to University because of the lack of females celebrated in the media. Organised by a committee of both women and men, it's a conference that aims to be inclusive and interesting to all genders whilst celebrating some of the strongest and most inspirational women we know. Well, that's our aim anyway! And, as my Dad used to say...

'You can do anything, as long as you work hard enough.'

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Find out more, here.