Make no mistake, women — especially those who are not white — have a long way to go before they achieve a real sense of representation in the world of radio. It’s an area in which black and other minority women have struggled to find their voice in the past, but this is changing quickly in 2021. In a recent segment on NBC Washington, numerous women of color came together and voiced their goals for a more inclusive, diverse radio industry¹. Washington, D.C., for example, shows positive trends when it comes to more representation for creative minority women working in radio.
An Issue that Must Be Addressed
According to an article published by NielsonLab, women and minorities have seen a decline in representation on radio in recent years. A survey published in 2018 highlighted the fact that in 2017, fewer women of color were working in the radio industry than in 2016. Clearly, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. In addition, the survey found that less than half of radio news teams employ a single woman. In the aforementioned segment, NBC Washington also stressed the fact that few radio stations are black-owned. However, researchers also discovered a positive note amidst the slew of disheartening data: more women were taking on leadership roles in the radio industry than ever before.²
Today, there are a number of success stories that will undoubtedly inspire women of color in the radio industry. Activists have pushed for the introduction of a new bill that would give tax breaks to radio stations that are owned by minorities or women³. Jemele Hill has created a new podcast network on Spotify that will help give black women more visibility on the platform. While podcasting isn’t quite the same as radio, it’s a fast-growing industry that caters to the same general audience. Hill is no stranger to the entertainment world, having left ESPN in 2018 to start her podcasting empire. Her podcasts have been quite successful, and she will soon be joined by a number of new shows hosted by other black women4.
The growing influence of women of color in radio is not limited to the United States, either. In the United Kingdom, women like Henrie Kwushue and Nadia Jae are part of a new generation of black, female radio hosts. They are bringing their own unique flavor to the airwaves, and the representation of black women in the UK is becoming less of an exception and more of a rule.5
The Importance of Radio
While some might see radio as outdated and obscure in the era of Netflix, social media, and Spotify, this form of media still has immense value – especially in low-income neighborhoods. Radio has an almost unparalleled level of accessibility. Anyone can tune in and listen to radio shows each week without buying a subscription or expensive equipment, and this provides people with a sense of connection to their community. Women of color have a crucial role in the radio industry as they help create a sense of community and belonging in minority neighborhoods.