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‘New and important careers …’ How women excelled at the BBC, 1923-1939.

Murphy, K., 2016. ‘New and important careers …’ How women excelled at the BBC, 1923-1939. In: Gendered Labour and Media, 18--19 February 2016, Centre for Media History, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. (Unpublished)

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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.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Uncontrolled Keywords:BBC; employment; history; interwar; radio; women
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:30943
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:06 Jul 2018 11:18
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:11


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