Within the BBC 55% of their employees are female with women making up 45% of the board. This is an amazing achievement and the BBC are rightly considered to be leading the way when it comes to having a good gender balance. In the words of Anne Morrison, Director of the BBC Academy, “you might think that the BBC has won this fight and can move on to other forms of inequality”.
But, she continues, if you look at technical departments within the BBC, the percentage of women drops to around 25-30%. At the BBC they don’t just throw their hands up in despair or ignore the issue. Instead they partnered with six of the most influential groups campaigning for an increase of women in technical jobs – WISE, WES, Women in Technology, UKRC, Everywoman and Talent 2030 and staged an amazing event at their White City HQ.
What was so good about this event was that, brief introduction by Anne and Susan Watts of Newsnight aside, the event did not talk about women. Instead the talks were seriously technical (and very interesting) and the audience just happened to be women. The theme of the event was the BBC’s flagship technology product, iPlayer.
Attendees heard first from Daniel Danker, General Manager of iPlayer about the uptake and projected growth plans for iPlayer. Then Marina Kalkanis gave the most technical talk, explaining about the encoding used to stream video and audio content put to iPlayer and how the service copes with the phenomenal demand expected at peak times e.g. during the Olympics. Samantha Grant discussed the iPlayer interface and design and Kirsteen King revealed the secret difficulties of working with Sky to enable access to iPlayer on another platform. Susan Watts, the face of women behind science and technology broadcasting, hosted a panel discussion to round off the evening.
Once again, a triumph by the BBC, giving us all a warm fuzzy feeling that our country is represented all over the world by such a great organisation.
A video of the event will be available on the BBC Academy YouTube site.