In 2010 a report came out with the shocking figure that male experts outnumber female experts on UK news and current affairs programmes by four to one. Despite a significant drive from broadcasters and reporters, this figure was still calculated at more than three to one in a 2015 update.
There is a need for more authoritative female voices in our media. Broadcasters themselves acknowledge that they would like to book more expert women to appear on their programmes, but struggle to find them.
The Academy is committed to supporting our women Fellows and grant awardees to play their part to help increase the number of women experts in the media.
There are a range of reasons why women may feel uncomfortable being thrust into the media limelight and for many, the prospect of a media interview is the stuff of nightmares. The Academy is working to provide a programme of highly practical one day training courses to help women develop the confidence and skills to find their media voice.
Since 2014, 50 of our women Fellows and 49 Grant Awardees and SUSTAIN participants have attended our media training, using a training team established specifically to help support and empower women, and we have facilitated 134 women to be listed on the Science Media Centres expert database. Participants from the media training have gone on to give interviews on popular programmes including Newsnight, the BBC’s Today programme, Victoria Derbyshire, 5Live and Women's Hour, as well as appearing in a range of print and online news articles.
All successful applicants to the Academy's SUSTAIN programme will have the opporunity to participate in one of these training courses. Please tick the box on your application form to indicate that you would like to take part in the training.
‘I would encourage everyone to go on this training if they get the chance. As a junior researcher, starting to dip my toe into media work, it was invaluable to experience a realistic studio interview, and get feedback from expert interviewers.' Dr Katherine Sleeman, Clinical Lecturer, King's College London
‘Facing the media is a daunting prospect for young clinicians and scientists. This training course not only told me what the media is looking for from experts, but also how to engage with them in a positive way. I feel much more confident about dealing with the media’. Dr Estee Torok, Clinician Scientist Fellow, University of Cambridge
'This course offered remarkably bespoke training for a small group of specialist academic women. I found the unique opportunity of 'practice' in the real studios incredibly valuable.' Dr Rina Dutta, Clinician Scientist Fellow, King's College London
‘The session was incredibly useful and focused on helping you to effectively communicate your message. The hands on experience really helped build confidence.’ Dr Claire Booth, Clinical Lecturer, University College London
'I believe I can now speak up for science and medicine with greater confidence and insight than would have been the case before participating on the course.' Professor Caroline Savage FMedSci, VP and Head Experimental Medicine Unit, GlaxoSmithKline
'I now feel more confident about contributing to media debates that are important for medical science and my research. I felt cowardly leaving it to others to fight our corner but I am prepared to step up to the mark now.' Professor Susan Wray FMedSci, Professor of Physiology, University of Liverpool
'I went from terrified to relaxed through the course of the day and am now much more likely to speak publicly via the media. It really was a life changing day for me as it made me overcome many of my insecurities about interfacing with the media.' Professor Frances Platt FMedSci, Professor of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, University of Oxford
'It was a wonderful session, very valuable, and packed with good information. I wanted media training and I wasn't sure about the women 'thing'. But actually that was very good and there are particular things - voice, seating, clothes that are different.' Professor Irene Higginson OBE FMedSci, Professor of Palliative Care; Director of Cicely Saunders Institute, King's College London
'This is really excellent training. I found it the most useful piece of training I had done for years. It is hugely helpful for anyone engaged in science and who will end up dealing with the media. I learnt skills that will be helpful to deal with other high-pressure situations that require succinct and clear communication' Professor Anita Thapar FMedSci, Professor of Child and Adolescent, Psychiatry, Cardiff University
'I learnt much more than I expected or hoped for, the team's expertise in the workings of television media was invaluable. It gave me the confidence to work with the media in the future. The studio sessions and feedback were definitely the highlights'. Professor Anne Ridley FMedSci, Professor of Cell Biology, King's College London
Broadcast skills are at the heart of the training session. We use real television studios and participants get to experience a range of show formats so that nothing will phase them when they are on camera for real.
We start the day with an informal chat on the breakfast sofa and then move to the challenge of a live interview from a remote studio before finishing the day with a trial run of the dreaded Newsnight panel debate. Each broadcast session ends with a feedback session where participants can share hints and tips with the trainers and their fellow participants.
Alongside practical opportunities participants undertake theoretical sessions on how to develop key messages and how to translate your research for a broader audience. We include discussion on some of the issues and barriers faced by women when engaging with the media and offer practical and honest advice on how to prepare and what to wear.
The course includes a session on how body language and tone of voice can enhance interview performance with practical exercises to help calm nerves and prepare mentally and physically for a broadcast interview.
The course is delivered by a team of trainers from Media Women - a company developing women's media skills to promote a more diverse range of experts in broadcasting
Julia was Deputy Editor of BBC Breakfast for six years, where her job involved overseeing hundreds of hours of live television, and developing the on-screen skills of scores of correspondents and contributors. Julia knows what makes an excellent broadcaster, and the pitfalls that can make the most knowledgeable, well informed guest appear dull and uninspiring.
Charlotte has over 20 years experience in broadcasting, working for ITN and the BBC amongst others. She is a hugely respected media consultant who regularly works around the world for public and private sector organisations. She is a skilled and effective trainer, with a clear understanding of what is required to get the very best our of those she trains. She is acutely aware of the extra pressures that women often face when getting involved with the media.
Sandra is a specialist in presentation skills, interview techniques, handling people in difficult situations and influential communications. Sandra is a RADA trained Actress and has worked with many ‘blue chip’ organisations including the BBC, BBC Worldwide and Unilever, while in the public sector she has helped the NHS and many City Councils to get their message across. She brings a great sense of humour and warmth to the learning process. People she has helped say she has transformed the way they communicate.
See some of the training in action in the video below.