Inside Story: Successful singletons on going it alone in media
Bridget Jones is the archetypal media singleton: desperate for a man, always getting herself in embarrassing scrapes and intent on proving herself as a serious journalist. A new book, I'm Celibate Get Me Out of Here (Know the Score Books, £7.99), by advertising agency creative Jo Elliott suggests that the Jones lifestyle of hapless dates and excruciating encounters online is very much alive and kicking in the media today. But is the Jones character out of date? Are some women actually choosing to be single to get ahead? We asked some successful singletons for their views on going it alone in the industry.
Monday 03 July 2006
SARAH GOLD, 35
Managing director, Clemmow Hornby Inge
There's a tendency for people to assume in the media industry that because you're single you must be some power-crazed career bitch. They just presume that you're obsessed with your career. But that may not be the case. It could be just that, like me, you've been in a long-term relationship that didn't work out. I love my job and I'd love to go further, but I'm not avoiding having a relationship because of it. And my attitude to work, having been single for the past two years, hasn't changed at all. It's hard when you're single in a senior position because I find men can be intimidated by my success. But I don't think online dating is the answer, or the norm in media. I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. I'd be mortified.
VICTORIA DAVIES, 32
Deputy managing director, TBWA London
I genuinely don't think that I'm single because I'm successful. I'm single because I haven't met anyone. It's easy to give excuses and to say that senior women are a certain "type", but I hate being boxed as a "senior single woman". It's wrong to do that. Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic, but I believe it's just about whether you've met someone that you've fallen in love with or not. I've never really bought into the view that men are intimidated by successful women either. Being successful in your job and holding down a relationship if you're busy at work, whether you're a man or a woman, is difficult, full stop. Arguably, it's easier to meet someone when you're more senior in this industry because you're more in control of your own life.
AMANDA LAMB, 33
TV presenter, A Place in the Sun
My career contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. I was away for so long and no matter how hard we tried to make it work, we couldn't. Last year was the first year I've been single in my adult life. During this time I've really been able to work out what I want, what I like and what I need. I've also got a lot more focused on my career and I spend more time on my appearance, like going to the gym more. It's hard in media if you're career-driven. You can be seen as aggressive and too single-minded. I love my career, I won't give it up for anybody. But most men find it difficult to go out with a woman in the public eye with a strong sense of self. One day I'd like to settle down and have babies, but my life is really cool just now.
Head of news and current affairs, Channel 4
I owe my brilliant career to the fact that I am a single parent. I was a very happy producer-director on World in Action, but I decided I would like to have a baby. I wasn't going out with anyone, so I planned my pregnancy and now I plan our life together. With a baby, I knew I needed to get an office job and in TV one of the best ways to do that is to become the boss! In my job, you meet all sorts of fascinating men - Chief Buthelezi, John Prescott, Piers Morgan - but they are not always available. My daughter Hettie comes up with ideas. She suggested I marry Bin Laden - I talked about him so much, she assumed I was keen on him. Now she thinks a husband might get in the way, but I think he could be handy. A man who could do science homework would be ideal.
SUSANNA SIMPSON, 28
Founder, Limelight PR and PR Week Young PR Professional of the Year in 2003
Being single was hugely advantageous in setting up my business because it takes so much work, focus and long hours. The media industry is very sociable and there are lots of evening events, so I'm probably out two or three evenings every week. You've got to have a partner who understands that you are going to be socialising some evenings. It's probably not the best industry for jealous boyfriends. I don't worry about being single at all, as I meet lots of people through my job. Maybe in 10 years' time if I'm still single, I will worry.
ANNIE MILES, 52
Director of independent production company Talent Kids and ex-managing director of Fox Kids in the UK
The reason why a relationship never happened for me was because I didn't put enough into relationships. But I'm not sure I wanted to. That is not something I could have admitted to myself when I was younger, because of the pressure to conform. But when you get to the wise age of 52, you're old enough to put your head above the parapet and say that you didn't want a life of cosy coupledom. Throughout my career, if I'd had to choose between the man or the job, it would always have been the job. If I had wanted it to be different, I would have made it different. I love my life as a singleton. You have to get used to being alone, but you don't have to be lonely.
ALEXANDRA OVERTON-WOOD, 39
Business development director, branding agency Coley Porter Bell
Being a working single mother I give my all to my daughter and my work. Finding the time to form a new relationship with all my other commitments is challenging. Working in the media industry is full-on. People work hard and are consumed by what they do. It would take an amazing person who is understanding, self-assured and independent to keep up. Anyone remotely insecure would probably feel neglected. Not a very good classified ad admittedly!
AMY LENNOX, 30
Head of online at media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD
My career is really important to me and I don't want to settle down and have kids just yet. I'm young to be in this role and, potentially, working so hard did put a strain on my last long-term relationship. A lot of the guys my age are junior to me, which makes a relationship very difficult. Online dating is very common in the industry and I've been on a couple of dates. Ironically, both of them worked in media too. But despite my job, I think I actually do better offline. I love my job and I'm very lucky, but I do have a slight fear of waking up one day with a great career behind me, but no kids or a family to share it with.
CATHRYN SUMMERHAYES, 29
Rights manager, literary agency David Godwin Associates
There are definitely benefits to being single in my career. You're free to do what you want with your time, for a start. In publishing, there's a hell of a lot of single women. Probably because there are so few men! I'm 29 and many of my colleagues, my age and older, are single. Those who aren't single tend to be leaving their husbands, or being left by them at the moment. I've just moved into a house with another single literary agent. She's same age as me and has just left her fiancé because she's decided she wants to be single. So there are plenty of us out there!
SOPHIE DARBYSHIRE, 32
Freelance account director, Soho marketing agency Personal
Internet dating was fine for three months, but after that it was all a bit weird. I went into marketing seven years ago and it's a fun career with lots of single people. I wouldn't choose to be single, but it's not particularly easy to meet men. My department is full of girls and those that aren't female are gay. You're also working long hours. I'm actually about to take a three-month break from the industry. Never know, hopefully I might even meet a man!
LYNSEY STEWART, 29
Account director for Manchester-based advertising agency Radford Advertising
I am a very ambitious person and I find it easier to focus when I'm single. When you're in a relationship, there's a lot of compromise around decisions, such as where you're going to live. It can be quite difficult if you're both struggling to carve out careers. In my job, I do get asked to do things at the last minute and to be places at short notice and I socialise most nights. I work hard and I enjoy spending money on myself. The thought of being settled does scare me a bit. I like the spontaneity of my lifestyle. I don't feel like Bridget Jones at all. It would be nice to meet someone special, but that hasn't happened until now and I've used that to my advantage.
Ex-series producer on That's Esther and founder of production company Plus3
I haven't tried with relationships very seriously. As a single mum running my own production business, I can't really see how I would have the time or energy to devote to one. The very social nature of this business, where we are dealing with people all the time, means you don't feel as isolated as you could be in other industries. But it can all be a bit shallow. Relationships with men in the business have always been a no-go area for me. They get too threatened, and if you aren't careful it turns into a competition and it can get nasty. Plus, I don't want to talk about work all the time.
NAZANINE MOSHIRI, 30
ITV news presenter-reporter
A lot of women in the media find it hard to meet men. The hours I do are horrendous. That's one of the reasons I haven't met anyone. I spend most of my free time catching up with friends and family, and don't have room for anyone else. People think that TV presenters are always out at glamorous parties, but most of the industry events that I go to are not places where we are going to meet people that we want to go out with. I feel very lucky to be doing what I'm doing, but it's hard work and extremely tiring. Another difficulty in my job is that people can be a bit taken aback and overwhelmed by what I do and there's a perception that perhaps I won't be interested in them. It can be hard to get beyond that. So now, when people ask me what I do, I just say I'm a journalist. I haven't tried online dating. I wouldn't go down that route unless I was really desperate.
JO ELLIOTT, 36
Ad agency designer and author of I'm Celibate Get Me Out of Here
When I first tried internet dating five years ago it was all very new, but now single people think nothing of going online to get a date. Especially media types. It's become a way of life in the media. Online dating sites are full of them. We're more outgoing and, because our jobs are quite reliant on deadlines and waiting for a client to come back to you, we spend a lot of time online anyway. There's no stigma attached to it. I was out socialising all the time in my 20s, enjoying the lifestyle, and not particularly bothered about relationships. We would tend to go out in the same group and a lot of male colleagues became really good friends. I suppose I didn't tend to meet anyone because you don't get approached if you're already in male company.
HELEN BLABY, 31
Travel reporter, Radio Five Live
When I've had relationships with people who haven't worked in the media, they've always wondered why my career has to come first, or why I get so stressed about it. It's very difficult to explain to somebody why you're only as good as the last words that came out of your mouth, especially when you're freelance. They don't understand the weird hours that I have to keep either. Being single has definitely been good for my career. I can pick up jobs here, there and everywhere and I'm not answerable to anyone. It's much easier. In a relationship, you need to give and take and I don't think I'm very good at that.
CHARLOTTE ROBINSON, 31
Business development director for Tank, a magazine publishing company and creative agency
It takes an independent and strong-willed personality to succeed in the media industry. So, by default, we are generally more comfortable on our own. Most of my friends are in the same or similar industries, and I am by no means the only one that is single. If lots of my friends were married, or in long-term relationships, then I would probably be more aware of the fact that I am single. In our careers we have also had to be quite choosy, and not settle for second best, and I think that this transgresses into all areas of our lives too.
RACHEL COOKE, 41
Publishing director, children's non-fiction list, Franklin Watts
I'm not single by choice, I've just never met anyone that I've felt like being with on a long-term basis. Certainly, 10 years ago I would have thought I'd be married and having children at this stage in my life. But being single has meant I've been able to focus on my career and not rush off at 5.30pm to feed babies or pick up children from nursery. I imagine it must be really exhausting juggling my current job with family life. On the other hand, sometimes I think it is a disadvantage not to have children because there is nothing forcing me to leave the office. Working in a female-dominated industry doesn't worry me. In fact I get irritated with the more flirtatious men that you have to flirt with to get the things you want done. I love my job but I do not expect it to be a source of romance.
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