What Women Want – A Tone Def Production

Sharon Taylor – ByrnesMedia

From the Canadian Music Week program: “What Women Want – 2017 Insights into Radio, Music and New Media. Highlights and headlines from the most recent national survey of women who listen to contemporary music formats in the U.S. by Alan Burns and Associates and Strategic Solutions Research. Alan Burns and Strategic’s Hal Rood distill this giant study of 2,000 women into 50 minutes of deep insights.” 

I was looking forward to this event at Canadian Music Week. I noticed that Alan Burns and Hal Rood were presenting the analysis of the research they had collected. I know them both by name and by reputation and respect their work. I had expected that by event time more people would be added to the presentation and discussion.

The findings of the research might have been fascinating, but as the minutes ticked by, the voices in my head started to drown out the voices of the two men delivering the information.

With not a woman on the stage, with not a woman referred to as part of this research and its analysis, with not so much as a nod to the ‘mansplaining’ environment and its obvious awkwardness; my frustration with the situation only grew and the distillation of the information was lost.

This is not a rant on political correctness.  I’m not talking about outdated language, or a silly oversight that needs correction. It’s worse than that.

This is an industry that I love, one that can be so creative, progressive, responsible and educated, and yet, one that allowed a panel entitled “What Women Want” to exist and didn’t even think about addressing the obvious dichotomy.  It’s just so incredibly tone deaf and out of step.

Radio, you can disappoint me so.

Flip the script.  Would it be wrong to have a panel called “What Men Want” and have the presenters be all female?  No.  The phrase “What Men Want” is not a damaging stereotype.  Men are not a visible minority.  Men do not have a history of being “taken care of” and “told what to do”.

Having only men on the stage discussing “What Women Want” perpetuates an ugly stereotype and it reinforces to all the professional women in the room (which looked to be about 50%) that no matter how hard you try, men are still the ones in the driver’s seat.

Fix the attitude and generate an authentic platform for this info.   What do women want?  Can’t tell you what that research said about female listeners.  But I can tell you what the women in this industry want – inclusion, representation and equality.

To all the men and women up and down the line who didn’t see this seminar as problematic, gender bias can happen even when you think you are doing the right thing.

Just put one woman up there with credentials presenting the same stuff and I’d nod my head and agree.  It would feel inclusive and interesting.  All you need to do is fix the optics and you’ll get all the low hanging fruit like me.

Even if you don’t get it, just pretending that you do would be appreciated.


Sharon Taylor is a radio consultant at ByrnesMedia and is the first to admit that she has no idea what anyone wants. Nonetheless, she is woman hear her roar at sharon@byrnesmedia.com.