On Monday, we made our way to a mannequin-filled Airbnb (not kidding) in downtown LA for a few days of meeting, swapping ideas and interest with, and scarfing sidewalk tacos alongside 600 fellow women audio + podcasting nerds. This year's Werk It Festival was a blast, attracting women from all walks and locales. And a big reason we're smiling like goofs in that pic is how the WNYC-led fest is legit leading the charge to boost diversity in our earbuds.
The Werk It vibes are especially meaningful to us--C&C--since we got our start podcasting years before audio reporting geniuses Sarah Koenig, Julie Snyder and Dana Chivvis made Serial happen. In fact, New York Public Radio president Laura Walker founded Werk It because of how white bros were already drowning the nascent media a few years ago (and still today, albeit less so). “I read a research study done on the top 100 podcasts on iTunes in 2013,” Walker told FastCo, “that indicated that (only) 20% had either a woman host or woman cohost, meaning 80% had just men in them.”
Podcasting together on Stuff Mom Never Told You since 2011, we--Cristen and Caroline--were part of that 20 percent Walker referenced. But us cracking the top 100 in iTunes sounded less glass ceiling and more sad trombone back then. No really. In a 2013 Bitch piece parsing the white dudeness of podcasting at the time, Julie Snyder of the uh-mazing Radiotopia cited SMNTY as an example of a tokenizing of sorts in the top 100 rankings on Stitcher.*
And she wasn't wrong. We wanted to podcast about "girl things" on Stuff Mom Never Told You, and advocated for ourselves to make it happen. But if the original pitch had been for, say, a general knowledge or comedy show, would we have had to dig in our heels even harder to get bosses on board? Gender would've inflected the convo much differently, that's for sure. Simply being a woman lent insta-expertise to hosting a podcast about and for women, after all. Which . . . that's a whole other post.
In the early 2010s, we felt the same sad trombone Julie Synder did for precisely the gender dynamics and stereotypes she highlighted. Achieving relative podcasting success, at least according to iTunes and Stitcher rankings, introduced us to a thoroughly life-changing community of thoughtful, brilliant and hilarious folks around the world. But meanwhile, we too routinely witnessed our corner of the industry have an awfully tough time wrapping its hivemind around the appeal of women's voices, perspectives, and opinions. Women were meant to be seen and not heard, it seemed to say at times.
Fast forward six years, and so much has changed since then, of course (just check out that marquee above). It so felt good to have Unladylike Media on our badges, and Werk It was like finding our tribe; the rad, eclectic, impassioned women who are likewise determined to make themselves heard. And what makes that energy even more effective is how, unlike what many of us have experienced from dudes along our way, the women now calling podcast shots are determined to listen to, hear, and amplify each other as well.