'Posing in a bikini for a job' and 'risque banter' - Derbyshire Times' journalists share their experiences as women in the newsroom

To mark International Women's Day this week we have compiled the thoughts of the women in our newsroom.

By Gay Bolton, Julia Rodgerson and Alana Roberts
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 4:25 pm
As journalism became a profession, women were restricted and faced significant discrimination.

Gay Bolton has been a journalist with the Derbyshire Times for 39 years.

"Journalism is an amazing job and I can truly say that it's presented me with so many opportunities and challenges.

I've been out on the streets of trouble-torn Belfast with the Army during the Eighties, had a cosy chat with Tony Benn during his campaign to be elected MP for Chesterfield, interviewed stars such as Peter Andre, Mary Berry and Peter Sallis and even made it into a crowd shot in a Def Leppard video!

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The newsroom in the 1970s was a very male-dominated environment.

But there have been times I've had to suffer for the job. Posing on a beach in a bikini on my birthday in January against a backdrop of icicles is one call of duty that is etched on my mind!

Another is being sworn at a musician in a superstar band while another slammed the phone down on me after I asked him a tough question.

When I started work almost half a century ago, journalists hammered away on typewriters and there was a fog of cigarette and pipe smoke hanging over the desks. Pranks were played on unsuspecting females and the banter between men could be risque and littered with bad language. How times have changed in the hands of the politically correct brigade and compensation culture.

There's only one period that I ever wished that I was a male reporter. My early time as a trainee saw me write a darts column under the pseudonym Shanghai, decipher rugby reports and collect cricket results - none of which I ever fully understood. Thank goodness I've never been asked to cover a football match!

Gay Bolton

Julia Rodgerson is deputy editor at the Derbyshire Times."When I started out as a trainee reporter the newsroom was very male dominated but I always felt like an equal among my colleagues.

For several years I was the only woman in the office and I made lovely friends with the men I worked closely with. There was always plenty of banter - as in any newsroom - but I never felt uncomfortable.

The only time I felt slightly separated from the men I worked with was when I had children. I disappeared on maternity leave for six month - in a fast paced industry that's always changing - and although I returned to work full time I still had the responsibility for small children.

Even in couples where both partners hold down jobs, women still tend to shoulder more of the child rearing and journalists rarely work 9-5, Monday to Friday. We have to be responsive, we live for breaking news and scoops but our profession doesn’t always feel compatible with family life.

Julia Rodgerson

But times have moved on and flexible working has helped a lot of people - especially women. My daughters are used to seeing me at the laptop and pleased that their mummy 'makes newspapers' and I feel that not only can you keep growing and succeeding in your career once you become a mum but you can also gain new skills."

Alana is a recently qualified senior reporter.

"Journalism is a male-dominated profession, there’s no denying it. Although something I’ve always known, I was given my first real glimpse of this during university where I found myself among the minority being a female studying the journalism course.

And that hasn’t really changed throughout my short time in the field. From my first job to now, with the Derbyshire Times, I have mainly been surrounded by male colleagues or men in leadership roles.

Alana Roberts

Luckily for me though, and not to discredit the work of my male counterparts, but I have also had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing female journalists this far - again, however, it’s hard to ignore that we are outnumbered.

All this may sound dire but I do believe we are seeing a shift. Reports suggest that the gender gap is decreasing and I’m sure those that have been working in the industry for some time have noticed this.

In terms of the job itself, though great, being a female in a male-dominated industry is not easy. At times I’ve had to battle for respect and safety, even dealing with an interviewee who once tried to hit on me. It doesn't always happen but it is something that can make you feel like they weren't seeing you as a professional to begin with.

Those are just some of the negatives but there have also been so many positives. I'm proud to be a female journalist, and I encourage other women to follow their dreams to break down these inequalities that still exist."