Prue Leith: Older women on television are 'a bit token'

Video: The cook and broadcaster told London Live said she was still pleased to see Mary Berry's revival

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The Independent Culture

Prue Leith has said that while television is beginning to embrace older women in the UK most presenters were mere symbols of tokenism.

The cook, writer and broadcaster told London Live she admired the work of Joan Bakewell, 81, and Mary Berry, 79, saying of the latter, "I mean she's even slightly older than me and she is having such a revival.

"So at last television is thinking there is something in these old coffin dodgers yet."

However, she added: "There are older women on television a bit, but they are probably a bit token. Each broadcaster has one of them."

Leith is the author of numerous cookery books and has been a food columnist for various national newspapers. She is currently best known as a judge on the BBC show Great British Menu.

Leith said that the tokenism shown towards older women on television was a product of the ageist nature of British society.

"Any woman will tell you that after the menopause, nobody whistles at her," she said. "Well, that's just the beginning.

"You know, we all are prejudice about old people. It's completely different in the Far East. I have a Cambodian daughter. In the Far East, older people are revered for their wisdom and sort of respected for their contribution they've already made so nobody would dream of being rude to an old person."

Earlier this month, Gabby Logan said equality on television will have reached "a nadir" when Strictly Come Dancing was hosted by a woman in her seventies and a man in his thirties.

"You look at Saturday night television and you've got two women in their forties hosting a prime-time television program with no man to be seen in that presenting duo so that's a first," she told London Live. "But whether there are women in their sixties and seventies? Probably less so and you do see more men of that age allowed to continue their careers."

The BBC faced a public backlash in 2009 when it axed veteran choreographer Arlene Phillips from the Strictly judging panel, replacing the then 66-year-old with Alesha Dixon, then 30.

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