Meet the founders of the Cambridge Women in Media Society

Blanca Schofield-Legorburo

As someone interested in both the representation of women in media and in a career in the field, I was so excited when I saw that a new society had been set up this year for Women in Media. I quickly sent an email to the committee asking if I could be involved, then received a really friendly reply and went to a welcome meeting.

The founders, Anya Cooper and Natalie Brierley, have shown such enthusiasm in spreading awareness of their new society, but also of the broader image we receive of women in media, be it music, TV, journalism or another area. In just under two months they have managed to put together what looks to be an amazing conference in the Union, with six keynote speakers who are prominent in the media, taking place on the 3rd March. I recently sat down with these two lovely ladies to talk about the conference and what this society means to them.

What inspired you to start this society?

Natalie: We were so surprised that there wasn’t already a WiM society in Cambridge, considering that there is such a big journalism, blog, podcast and creative presence here. We want this to be not just for networking, but also to discuss ideas around the ways in which women are presented. It is important for women to be more present in all careers within media as if there are no women in those roles then the way they are presented will inevitably be skewed.

Anya: This summer I helped organise a conference by Amnesty International on Student Journalism; there I met students from Manchester who had already established a WiM society in their university. A national initiative was then started whereby societies would be set up in several universities in order to build a network of female support across the UK.

Tell us about your launch night with the Hip-Hop society

Natalie: We co-organised a hip-hop society night as a kind of launch for us, which was for fundraising, but also for celebrating this platform for women in music. Music is still an area where women are strangely under-represented, particularly in styles such as hip-hop and, in fact, the Hip-Hop society is looking for more female members.

What are your hopes for this conference you have planned?

Anya: We are hoping that this conference will empower aspiring women and NB students and will give an insight into the nuances of different experiences in the field. For example, this summer I saw Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 speak about her career as a reporter in war torn countries. She explained how, unlike their male counterparts, female correspondents pretty much always get 100% of the story in the Middle East, as they are given access to communicating with more people in these areas: as a woman, they are seen as less of a threat. I don’t know about anyone else, but I become frustrated when every women’s talk I attend is restricted to talking about how women are repressed. These conversations need to be supplemented by evidence of empowerment and achievements. This is why Hilsum’s ideas about how being a woman can be used as a tool in unexpected ways in journalism were so inspiring to me. It is also important to represent the different intersectionalities in our society and culture, and so we have women from various backgrounds coming to speak.

What are some thoughts that you have been having on women in media?

Anya: We want to include male allies and hear their experiences about journalism and about working with women. We think it is fundamental that men are included in the conversation, as dialogue is such a significant element of any solution.

Natalie: There can be a tendency for women to be pressured to cover topics only about women – they should feel confident to cover that but also more!

Anya: We need to tackle the objectification of women – this is essential because issues around Women in Media go beyond the boundaries of the profession. Media is everything that we consume – it is not limited to journalism but everything we watch, listen to, read – it fundamentally effects, and often skews, our perceptions as a whole.

What are your future plans?

We want to make the conference an annual occurrence! We are also currently discussing ideas around organising an art show which looks at the way female and NB bodies are presented in media – if anyone is interested in being involved do let us know! We are also thinking of including men in a panel and hearing about their experiences of working with women and representing women, and see how we can create an open collaborative atmosphere. CV workshop events will also be on the agenda for those who are focused on the career aspect.

After this year’s conference we will be looking for a committee as half of us are graduating! It is so important to us that this society continues to flourish and so we hope to organise more and more opportunities and events.

Thus my conversation came to and end with these women, who are so motivated, fun and friendly! Make sure to book your tickets for their fantastic conference, the first ever of its kind in Cambridge, which is taking place at the Union on the 3rd March.

All information can be found here:

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