'New and important careers': How women excelled at the BBC, 1923-1939
This source preferred by Kate Murphy
Authors: Murphy, K.
Start date: 18 February 2016
From its earliest days in 1923 the BBC employed a sizeable female workforce. The majority were in support roles as typists, secretaries and clerks but a significant number rose to positions of importance and authority. As a new industry, the BBC took a largely progressive approach towards the ‘career women’ on its staff, many of whom held jobs that were developed specifically for the new medium of broadcasting. This article considers how and why they were able to make their mark. Three women attained Director status: Hilda Matheson headed the Talks Department; Mary Somerville the School Broadcasting Department and Isa Benzie the Foreign Department. Others like Mary Hope Allen, Mary Adams, Margery Wace, Janet Quigley and Olive Shapley were programme makers who carved out areas of expertise in drama, science, women’s talks and social documentary. Women also held significant posts in the press office and the photographic library; on The Listener and Radio Times; as accompanists and education officers. Sexual discrimination was endemic in the interwar years and unequal pay, poor promotion prospects and marriage bars were rife. But for the BBC’s professional women, it was subtle and largely hidden and this article considers also how it was addressed.
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Authors: Murphy, K.
Journal: Media International Australia
© Author(s) 2016. From its beginnings in 1923, the BBC employed a sizeable female workforce. The majority were in support roles as typists, secretaries and clerks but, during the 1920s and 1930s, a significant number held important posts. As a modern industry, the BBC took a largely progressive approach towards the 'career women' on its staff, many of whom were in jobs that were developed specifically for the new medium of broadcasting. Women worked as drama producers, advertising representatives and Children's Hour Organisers. They were talent spotters, press officers and documentary makers. Three women attained Director status while others held significant administrative positions. This article considers in what ways it was the modernity and novelty of broadcasting, combined with changing employment possibilities and attitudes towards women evident after the First World War, that combined to create the conditions in which they could excel.