Three cheers this week for Caroline Criado-Perez who has set up www.thewomensroom.org.uk to gather and showcase the names of women experts, in response to the BBC’s recent assertion that it couldn’t find any women experts to debate breast cancer treatment on Radio 4’s Today programme. It’s a great idea, and very simple. Women can either self-nominate on the still-developing site as having expertise or experience – in anything, really – or can be nominated by someone else. The first few experts up there include an oceanographer, a postdoctoral researcher into astronomy, a midwife, a university lecturer and a family lawyer. This evolving list of media-friendly women experts will help demonstrate to the BBC – and indeed to any other doubting Thomas or Thomasina – that there are in fact plenty of women experts out there. It’s just a question of making the effort to look.
So if you are a woman with expertise or experience to share, and are willing to speak out on your subject – or if you know anybody who might fit that bill – then you should definitely check out the site.
It’s not just the media that struggles with this though. It’s also the organisations that the media approaches for comment. They have their own internal lists of experts to whom a request for comment or appearance will routinely be directed.
So if you are a woman with expertise or experience, you should also ask yourself if your own organisation’s external comms team would know to come to you for expert opinion. If not, be sure to make yourself known to them too. That way, the next time your organisation is approached direct by the media for comment, it will also have you on its own list of experts. And organisations could take a more proactive approach themselves, refreshing their own lists of usual-suspect experts with the female talent that exists but is so often invisible in all organisations.
Finally, I’m impressed by speed and passion-over-perfection attitude with which www.thewomensroom.org.uk has been set up, and the mingling of old and new media which has helped create it. In less than a week it’s gone from an idea inspired by an old-media radio report, to a Twitter request, to the pilot set-up of an on-line organisation, to an article which I read about today in an old-media Sunday newspaper. The idea needs some development, the site’s not perfect, but it’s already up and running. Business just ain’t what it used to be.