Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Nolan in radio sexism row following interview with academic duo

Stephen Nolan
Stephen Nolan
Dr Jennifer Rudd
Dr Rupert Read
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A female academic has accused the BBC of sexism after Stephen Nolan repeatedly called her by her first name on the radio while using a male guest's professional prefix.

Dr Jennifer Rudd featured in a Radio 5 Live segment on Easter Sunday alongside Dr Rupert Read.

However, the chemistry graduate expressed fury afterwards because her fellow Extinction Rebellion activist was addressed by his title more often than she was during the discussion.

Dr Rudd said: "In the heat of the moment it was hard to notice how I was being addressed as I was focusing on getting my words out and being coherent.

"I noticed it specifically at the end when Nolan said: 'Dr Read, it's been nice talking to you. Jennifer, thanks as well'."

Dr Rudd, of Swansea University, said she relistened to the debate about the widespread disruption in London caused by climate change protesters before expressing her outrage online.

"I listened to the interview after I was finished and noticed that every time or almost every time I was referred to as Jennifer and Rupert referred to as Dr Read," she added.

"It was really frustrating."

She also voiced concerns on Twitter about what she said was an "imbalance" in how men and women can be addressed.

"If both are referred to as first name it's not a problem," she wrote. "If both are referred to as Dr it doesn't bother me.

"However, when one is and one isn't, there is an imbalance."

The Extinction Rebellion activist, who also participates in the Recycling Carbon outreach group, which encourages people to consider climate change, claimed an individual's title can also be a mark of respect, asking: "Is one any less deserving of respect than the other?"

Other female academics expressed support for the University of York graduate, who completed her PhD in Basel, Switzerland.

Dr Claire Surr, a professor of Dementia Studies at Leeds Beckett University, called for BBC employees to undergo training.

"This kind of #everydaysexism has to stop and the media companies must speak to and train their employees on unconscious (or conscious!) bias when this happens," she tweeted.

Professor Alice Roberts of the University of Birmingham branded Nolan's behaviour as "appalling" as the regular TV presenter revealed her own frustration over being referred to as Dr Alice instead of Professor Roberts.

Another academic questioned whether the BBC has "a policy of treating women guests' qualifications as lesser" than those of male guests.

Meanwhile, Dr Read complained of "institutional bias" after he was "repeatedly rudely interrupted and belittled" by Nolan. "Jennifer was belittled because of being a woman representing XR," he wrote on Twitter.

"I was belittled and treated very rudely simply because of being a rep of XR."

The BBC said both academics were introduced by their full titles at the start of the discussion and both were referred to by their first names numerous times. However, it conceded both parties "should have been referred to in the same style" throughout the discussion.

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