Leader Admits to Sex Scandal at the BBC

BBC Broadcasting House
Photo: Dan Taylor

The BBC has had a problem of sexual imbalance i.e. it is very male dominated. Apart from various accusations of being ‘ageist’ when it comes to female presenters, the recent revelation in Guardian (28/9/12) was that Radio 4’s Today programme, a flagship broadcast, had an average of only 18.5% female reporters and guests. However, this was an improvement from the summer of 2011 when the figure was 16.6%; which was the first time the gender divide had been measured.

The interesting point here is not about the sexual imbalance, even though the figure of 16.6% is almost exactly the same as the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards. It’s really the actions of George Entwistle, the incoming BBC Director General. Rather than issue edicts, he used interviews during his first week to state his desires and used the Today programme as a target. In leadership terms, his most significant statement was that he just wished to:

“… make it clear to people that’s what I think.”

When making the pronouncements, he presented the problem as one of culture, thereby not singling anyone out for blame. The result was that almost immediately the proportion of female guests and contributors rose to an average of 24%.

What this illustrates is the importance of what the CEO says, people (well some people) will always take notice – hopefully not to the extent of the Henry 11 and Thomas Becket! And of course, the idea is that the more you say the same thing, the more likely it is that it becomes embedded in custom and practice.

The leadership question is thus:

What do you regularly and consistently say in order to get it embedded in the fabric of your organisation?

Read the Guardian article


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