Media: Women jockeying for a job: Female pop DJs are still few and far between. Martin Wroe wonders why

LAST WEEK Radio 1 announced that a disc jockey called Claire Sturgess would be taking over Dave Lee Travis's Saturday morning show. This is noteworthy simply because Ms Sturgess is a woman. Even in 1993 precious few women make their living spinning discs on pop music radio stations.

There is Jakki Brambles on Radio 1 at lunchtime - the woman with the biggest audience - and the veteran Anne Nightingale, still hosting her Sunday evening request show . . . . But after that the names do not exactly trip off the tongue.

To be fair, there are two other women at Radio 1 - that makes four out of their 24 disc jockeys - but none in peak daytime shows, where they can be catapulted to celebrity by huge audiences. At rival Virgin Radio they have just one woman, Wendy Lloyd, overnight on Monday and Tuesday and at weekends.

The trouble is the talent, says Virgin's Managing Director Richard Skinner. It is just not around: 'It's not for want of looking but I won't put sub- standard jocks on the air just because they are gay or women or have yellow hair. I hear women jocks on other stations and it's obvious that they are there simply because of their gender.'

Two years ago Atlantic 252, the long-wave pop station broadcasting from Ireland, carried out research which found that of 45 Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations and 860 disc jockeys, only 8 per cent were women. They launched Jocksearch and received 4,000 entries from prospective women jocks.

Unfortunately, the winner, Clare Ashford, signed for Capital Radio before she could begin work for them. At present, Atlantic's only female disc jockey does 'overnight' shows. Women, says Travis Baxter, Atlantic's Managing Director, tend to be attracted to radio journalism but not to playing records. This is in contrast to the United States where celebrity female jocks are much more common. British music radio, he argues, cannot shake its history of 'cloning'.

'There's a clear set of clones, such as the Gloria Hunniford type who present middle-of-the-road music, the journalist on BBC local stations, the ILR clone who is predominantly male and the Radio 1 jock who harks back to the days of the pirate ships and is also usually male.

Women pop-pickers, he continues, remain a rare breed because of '20 years of management prejudice in British radio.'

This was illustrated by the case of Julie Maddocks, a former disc jockey with Invicta Radio in Kent, who last year was awarded pounds 11,000 compensation because the station had told her she had to choose between her job and being a 'mumsy'.

Some managements claim to be trying to undo that heritage. John Birt, Director General of the BBC, has asked Radio 1 that its presenters 'reflect the profile of our audience, which is roughly half female.' By this measure the station would need 12 female disc jockeys.

Would politically correct radio be popular radio? No, it would be fatal, argues Len Groat, Head of Programmes at Trent FM and Gem-AM in the Midlands. But it's happening, he says, citing the meteoric rise of Claire Sturgess, who was Simon Bates' secretary and had never spun a disc until she was selected for the Friday Rock Show after the departure of Tommy Vance in April.

'It's nepotism and it's unfair when someone who hasn't gone through the grounds of radio training gets a show like this. It's also the BBC shooting itself in the foot - she'll never keep Dave Lee Travis's ratings.'

A Radio 1 spokesman puts a different spin on Ms Sturgess's rise: 'If women are not out there in local radio then we will train them ourselves.'

They are obviously not there in local radio - Mr Groat has had just one tape from a hungry female disc jockey in the last four months, but hundreds from men. He has a theory: 'The role of the radio DJ was designed for men in the same way that a typewriter keyboard was originally designed for women's fingers. Women being DJs have to adopt a male role.'

Ms Sturgess reasons that the absence of role models accounts for the paucity of female disc jockeys and that her rise could help change things. 'There was no one I could look to when I was at school, but if I could be a role model for other girls that would be great. I'm already getting lots of letters.'

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape