Harriet Harman says there are not enough older women in broadcasting


The departure of Dame Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey from Woman’s Hour means radio is “losing two of its all too few older women”, Harriet Harman has said.

The Labour MP told the Radio Times that older female broadcasters are “rare”.

Dame Jenni, 70, left the BBC Radio 4 programme earlier this month while Garvey, 56, is quitting the programme at the end of the year.

First Direct 50 Women Of Substance – London
First Direct 50 Women Of Substance – London

Emma Barnett, 35, will begin presenting the programme next year.

Harman said: “Once a woman’s childbearing and childrearing years are behind her, what is she actually for?

“Certainly not broadcasting, it seems, where older women are as rare as hen’s teeth.”

She said she is “missing” Dame Jenni already, adding: “Goodness knows we need women like her across society right now.”

“As men grow older, their greater experience is acknowledged,” she added.

“They are something different, something more mature.

“But somehow the public needs to be protected from hearing, let alone seeing, an older woman.

“There are young (usually glamorous) women in broadcasting, but they face a cull at 50.”

Radio Academy Arqiva Hall of Fame Fellowship honours
Radio Academy Arqiva Hall of Fame Fellowship honours

She added that while the role women play at home has “come to be acknowledged… the role of older working women is not”.

“Whether it’s a woman’s role at work or in her family, she’s not past it when she’s past 60,” Harman said.

“You know that and I know that, but who will say it in the future if there are no older wise women left in broadcasting?”

Harman, 70, was a guest on Dame Jenni’s final episode of Woman’s Hour.

Writing in the Daily Mail earlier this month, Dame Jenni criticised the BBC for what she saw as a disparity in pay between the corporation’s young and old stars.

She said it was “rather more than infuriating to find younger, less experienced presenters earning twice or even three times as much as me, or the long list of executives on six-figure salaries with job titles that seem to have precious little to do with broadcasting”.