Passionate about promoting gender diversity in the workplace, Summit Speaker Sadie Groom co-founded Rise, a non-profit group that aims to open up more opportunities for female broadcast professionals.
Hi Sadie! While we are familiar with what you’ve done on the professional front, are you able to share more about yourself, such as your interests?
Well, running a business and the extra-circular work I do with Rise doesn’t give me a lot of time. But when I do, there are a few things. First off is my 8-year-old son Elliot. I spend a lot of time having Lego building competitions with him – which I never seem to win!
Secondly, I love the world of golf – I have been playing on and off since I was 12 and it is my end-of-career goal to play more than I do now. I love going to tournaments and will watch it on TV all the time if I can. Lastly, I am trying to visit 50 countries before I am 50 – I have six to go in five years so my passport is going to get a lot of use over the next couple of years.
Speaking of interests, what inspired you to start Rise for female professionals in the broadcast industry?
I have always known there is a gender imbalance in our sector, but it really drove home when I had my son – the attitude towards me and my capabilities as a business woman changed. Over the next few years, I started to really notice how little women there were in the sector, and how new ones didn’t see it as a good option (mainly because there are few role models). Women were also not rising up to senior positions. Having done some industry research, I had some hard data and could see that the women in the industry did want a group that could support, mentor and provide networking opportunities. And thus Rise was born.
From your observations, what are some of the gender-related issues faced by female broadcast professionals?
One of the main things for me is the lack of role models. In our survey, we found that out of 1500 manufacturers/service providers, less than 2% had female CEOs. What this demonstrates is that there are glass barriers in the industry and that it might be difficult to overcome them – be it funding for female-led start-ups, flexible working arrangements for families or just a general perception that females don’t have the technical skills. From a female’s perspective, we have to realise that we don’t have to be perfect to be a role model, and that we need to put our hands up and sometimes not lean in but throw ourselves into things.
Secondly, gender bias is an issue. On a stand at NAB this year, I overheard the following conversation:
Visitor: I have a technical question for you
Exhibitor: That’s okay; I will get Nicola for you.
Visitor: No, I said I needed to speak to someone technical.
This example, along with comments such as “this workflow is so easy, even a woman can understand it” should not be being said or even thought about in 2018.
In your opinion, what are these issues largely caused by?
For me, this comes down to two things: Education and confidence. Be it the education of STEM subjects in our schools to girls and/or the education of boys about gender bias.
In Asia, STEM subjects are widely encouraged and taught to girls. Hence, the number of female business owners is significantly higher in the region. Through Rise, we are also trying to educate the industry as a whole on what is acceptable and bringing the issue to the fore.
Confidence is also important as it is well-known that women don’t necessarily put their hands up for things, and won’t apply for jobs that they don’t fit 100% of the criteria for. As an industry, we need to work with females of all ages, shapes and sizes to give them the confidence to go for it.
What can be done to level the playing field?
On a wider level, businesses, educational establishments, industry associations and tradeshows like ConnecTechAsia all need to work together to support the issue and work out ways of making changes. The mentor scheme that Rise has set up in the UK is a start. And ideally, we want to roll this out globally within the next year.
Also, one of the best quotes on diversity is “if you can see it, you can be it”. As an industry, we need to promote the women in it – one of the ways of doing this is by approaching them to be on conference stages and giving them the confidence to be able to do this. On a more direct level, people need to think about the gender-biased things they say or do and self-correct themselves.
How can companies’ working practices be improved for women?
The first thing companies can do is to understand any issues that women are facing. Very often, they won’t tell someone for fear of recrimination. Females should be reassured that their concerns are taken seriously and in a circle of trust.
Next up is flexible working. In this day and age, we can all work from home. And whilst it doesn’t need to be done all the time, it’s important to trust that an employee will not abuse the system. Again, this industry can require a lot of travel, and for people with families, it is just appreciating that a “fly in, get the job done, fly out” situation may work best.
What excites you most about what you do?
It may sound a bit clichéd, but it’s all the great people that I meet and work with and achieving the results for them – either as clients, press or the people I meet through Rise. This is a fantastic industry – once you get in, you very rarely leave due to the friendships and connections forged in many different countries. Exhibitions like ConnecTechAsia give us a chance to meet up with them all.
You will be speaking at ConnecTechAsia Summit 2018. What do you think will be the most important takeaway from your time at the Summit?
Hearing from a bunch of great women and men about their experiences in this and other industries! I also look forward to learning valuable tips that I can share with the women I meet globally.
Keen to hear more from Sadie Groom? Join her at ConnecTechAsia Summit 2018’s Broadcast Media Track, where she will be moderating the following discussion: “Women In Broadcast: Break into the Media-tech Industry and Climb the Glass Ladder”. Level 3, Suntec Singapore, 27 June 2018. Delegates may register for the Summit here.