Women to be recognised by Walkleys board

Major change to Walkley Awards to address gender biases in media

by Olivia Cleal of Women’s Agenda 

The Walkley Foundation will only consider women nominees for this year’s Walkley Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism.

The one-off change comes after Project Faustine, a research initiative from the Walkley Foundation, discovered a significant lack of high-achieving women journalists being recognised in the annual journalism awards event.

Karen Percy, the Deputy Chair of the Walkley Foundation, said the move will help tackle significant gender biases in the media industry, something which she herself has experienced firsthand.

“I have been a journalist for 36 years – I know there are great women out there,” she said. “But there’s been a blindspot, somehow.”

Since 1992, just seven out of the 30 awards for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism have been awarded to women journalists.

“Once you’ve seen that, you can’t unsee it,” Percy said.

Upon realising this, the Walkley Foundation board decided to launch Project Faustine, named after 19th-century Australian journalist Eliza Ann Ashton who went by Faustine in her byline in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph.

The board appointed a senior journalist to interview leaders, women journalists and other key personnel in Australia’s media landscape.

The project, summarised in an extensive report, discovered there were dozens of women the media industry have failed to recognise over the years.

Percy said the results of Project Faustine inspired the “proactive” changes to only accept nominations from women journalists in the 2023 Walkley Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism.

“We’re excited about this,” Percy said. “It’s important we recognise the great contributions of high achieving women in our industry.”

Percy said the change is not permanent and is a “one-off” for this year’s 68th annual Walkley Awards as a starting point to address inherent gender biases in Australia’s media landscape.

“Even if we did nothing but put women forward for the awards, it would still take a long time to redress this issue,” she said.

“Women make up more than 50 per cent of the industry, and yet they still struggle to get the recognition. This is seen at its most obvious in the Walkley Awards.”

Percy said there has been some backlash surrounding the change in the online space, but the Walkley Foundation will move forward with the decision.

“There are some people who are grumpy about this. But no one has given us any meaningful reason not to do this,” she said.

“Any change upsets people. But as a board, we have made this decision. It’s the right thing to do.”

On July 17 Women in Media launched their Industry Insight Report, showing one-third of women in the industry are considering leaving their jobs in the next 12 months.

More than half of women working in the industry scored its commitment to gender equality as ‘weak/very weak’, according to the report.

Percy said recognition for high-achieving women journalists in Australia could spark change for women in media.

“The results (of the report) are symptomatic of the gender biases we are trying to redress,” she said. “We have to be proactive and allow women to be part of the conversation.”

Nominations for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism are open now, and the Walkley Foundation encourages women journalists from all backgrounds to nominate.

“Women are diverse and come from many different backgrounds,” Percy said.

“We’re hoping the community comes forward with lots of deserving women.”

Nominations for the award close on August 31, 2023. The recipients will be announced at the 68th Walkley Awards gala dinner in Sydney on November 23, 2023.

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