IWD should remind the podcast industry to support women from underrepresented backgrounds

PodPod asks women in podcasting to share what they want to see from the industry moving forward

While International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and the present, it also serves as a reminder to amplify the voices within this community that often get overlooked or are underrepresented. For women in podcasting, part of their responsibility is to look after the groups within our community that need to be given more of a platform in this industry - Women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, muslim women, disabled women, and so on - and continue to push for their voices to be heard. 

It’s also the podcasting industry’s responsibility as a whole to continue to support these voices through funding, promotion, and providing a platform throughout the entire course of the year and not just during International Women’s Day. That’s why we’ve asked a few of our favourite women in this industry from diverse backgrounds to share what International Women’s Day means to them and what they would like to see the podcasting industry doing in order to lift up more voices of women from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Aiwan Obinyan, AIAI studios founder and Gay Times senior podcaster producer 

“International Women’s Day is a mixed bag for me; on the one hand it's incredibly important for women to get recognition, both for the amazing ways we contribute to the societies we are part of, and also the infinite struggles women face around the world even in this 21st Century. On the other hand, a day is not enough. Women's rights, issues, struggles and achievements should be highlighted every day in every way, making it clear to generations now and forever that women were, are and always will be important to every human endeavour on our beautiful planet.

Within podcasting, Black women and women of colour are a seriously neglected demographic. It's not so much about simply lifting up voices but how many voices are being lifted up and across which genres and formats. I think if industry leaders and decision makers could see women in a more holistic way, as people who love to laugh as much as the next person, who have diverse interests and careers, who have differing and similar struggles and attitudes it would make for a richer and more nuanced podcasting landscape for audiences that identify as women.”

Shelina Janmohamed, The Shelina Show host and Ogilvy vice president 

"It's great that we recognise we need more women's voices in podcasting. Heck, we need more women's voices everywhere. Giving them the metaphoric mic as hosts and guests is the important first step - but there needs to be more. The female voices also need to be given time and space to develop. No-one bursts onto the scene and gets commerce-busting figures in one episode, a few drops or even one series. Like any craft, a podcaster needs time to find the sweet spot. And for listeners to also discover the new voice and build a relationship with them. 

That also means that platforms - and those wanting to commendably encourage more female voices - also need to factor in PR, marketing and building reach. And this applies even more so to women from under-represented backgrounds. Until time, space and promotion is added to opportunity - and it's so exciting to see the opportunities opening up - the job will only be half done. "

Rhianna Dhillon, PodPod host and film critic 

“I would like to see International Women’s Day celebrate the women who have made huge strides in breaking taboos in podcasting and the ones who talk about the daily joy and frustration that comes from being a woman. But I would especially like to herald those podcasters who ensure that any noise about female representation and diversity in podcasting doesn’t die down immediately after IWD.

It goes without saying that women are underrepresented in many industries and in terms of podcasting, we only have to take a look at the podcast charts to see just how few women make the top spots. And take a guess at how many are women of colour. I’m all for celebrating IWD but we’re here and we’re shouting all year round - what we need now is for the decision makers, platforms and podcast funders to put their money where it matters - into finding and targeting the listeners who don’t currently hear themselves represented, and developing and supporting the voices of those who will make a difference to those listeners.” 

Reem Makari, PodPod reporter 

“I think it’s important to use International Women’s Day as a push to amplify more voices from underrepresented communities in this demographic but it is equally as important to continue to do that all year round. This means continuing to make the effort to connect with more women from different backgrounds and providing them a platform, advocating for more funding and promotional opportunities, and recognising that inclusivity in podcasting means going above and beyond to find which communities are underrepresented instead of just highlighting the ones that are already being spotlighted.” 

Namulanta Kombo, Dear Daughter award-winning host 

“International Women's Day for me is about celebrating how multifaceted women are. I would love to see more funding and platforms for women to create podcasts that celebrate the nuance of being female. I'm fascinated with our unique stories that hugely impact our lives. These stories need to be told and heard - whether extraordinary or mundane - that celebrate the subtle differences of what it means to be female.”

Lou Mensah, Shade podcast host and creator

“I am a Black woman, I have a disability, and I also have caring responsibilities. Therefore I need to be smart in how I work. However, the prevailing CPM focused model is basically a conveyor belt. This homogenises content towards a majority voice, making difference and originality seem less sustainable. This in turn makes access inequitable. It is outdated and discriminatory.

Audio as a medium is naturally responsive to market needs. The industry relies on the talent of marginalised creators for inspiration, and for profit. But in my experience, both personally and anecdotally, this audio industry, in striking contrast to its market responsiveness, entirely neglects our functional needs.

As James Baldwin said: ‘How much time do you want for your progress?”