Women start to make their voices heard in podcast world
The niche area of the digital age is opening up to more females, Katie Wright reveals
In the last decade, as podcasts have gone from niche interest to mainstream thanks to the huge successes of podcasts like Serial and My Dad Wrote A Porno, listeners have gone from being 75% male to an almost even split of men and women (according to research from US company Edison).
Yet, the voices we hear emanating from our phone or computer screens have remained - with the exception of the aforementioned hits - predominantly male.
The current UK iTunes top 10, for example, is comprised of a total of eight male hosts and three female (some shows have more than one presenter) and the US list is even more male-dominated, but, year on year, we're actually seeing an improvement in terms of gender diversity.
Swedish-based podcasting platform Acast has seen the number of female podcasters increase by 200% in the last year, with global figures showing a 63% rise, which director of content Adam Martin believes is a result of the industry starting to pay more attention to female hosts, rather than simply because there are more.
"While female hosts have always been a presence in the podcasting sphere, they didn't get picked up by major stations or networks, which chose to promote male fronted shows instead," he says.
Acast's new offering includes Joblogues, a weekly career advice show, and Toku, in which journalists Holly Nielsen and Kate Grey chat about everything from video games and TV to fan fiction and periods, because they "had a lot to say, and we thought people might want to hear us".
"Podcasts can be pretty egotistical things, but we were also coming at it from the angle that there weren't many women like us out there in the podcast world," they say. "So, there was a market for that, even if it was only other women like us. Luckily, it worked."
And they'd encourage other women to get involved, too: "Podcasting is one of the few media where it's self-selected, so when you see the male-dominated world of films and TV and everything else, this is your chance to equalise it a little bit."
Carola Hoyos, editor of the FT's executive appointments section and co-host of the podcast Irreverent Questions with Mrs Moneypenny, agrees.
"You need time, an iPhone and very little else. Give it a go and if you enjoy it, keep going and listen to yourself improve," she recommends. "I don't see why podcasting should be male dominated.
"Serial and Fresh Air are two different types of podcasts at the very top of their game, both by women and two of my favourites. Be authentic, research, prepare and keep looking for ways to improve. The rest is noise."
And don't be scared to broach difficult topics, Nielsen and Grey advise. "Some of our most popular episodes are the ones in which we aim to talk about something we feel isn't discussed enough," they say.
"If you feel you have something to say, don't worry about a theme, or a hook, or anything like that.
"Just go out there, be yourself, and you might find a gap in the market - an audience who needs your voice. Especially if you're a woman.
"You never know, you could be a role model for someone."