Throughout October, the BBC has been running “100 Women,” a series of reports and programs on radio, television, and online exploring what life is like for women globally today. Beginning with a profile of teenage education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, the season has also included stories on everything from female poets in Kabul to airbrushing photographs in fashion magazines, and featured Chelsea Clinton and Google’s Susan Wojcicki as guest editors of Newshour, the World Service’s flagship news program.
The series culminates on Friday with a conference of 100 women from all over the world, broadcast live from BBC headquarters in London.
CJR spoke with series editor Fiona Crack about her work on the project.
What was the inspiration for the series?
We do a lot of thinking about how we deal with stories in the newsroom, and sometimes how we deal with them in a piecemeal way, and which kind of important themes we have to step back and have a look at. And one of the catalysts for thinking about issues affecting women was when the young student got raped in Delhi in December last year, which was a shocking story, and it made quite a few people think about how we cover sexual violence, and where we are at the moment with women’s rights.
But there was also an audience issue. Our audience often tells us, particularly our female audience, that they want to see themselves reflected better in our output—whether that be presenters or stories that are of particular interest to women, or stories that affect women more than they do men.
How did you put everything together? What inspired the animated video of a girl walking through her life?
When we started planning and looking at it, one of the ways we tried to make sense of it was to look at a girl’s life from conception all the way to widowhood and death. What it did was let us try and look at some of the issues as she went through her life, how those chances were different from a boy of her age, how those chances would have been different if she had lived a 100 years ago.
It’s a huge theme and it could be very vague, and it could touch lots and lots of different things… [So] to make it about these 100 women, we tried to find ways that it would give a narrative to our audience, that it would anchor them somewhere. And the little girl walking through her life, and those risks and opportunities she faces, I think, is a great umbrella to the season.
This idea, especially the conference, seems very reminiscent of the Women in the World initiative run by Tina Brown.
We did certainly look around and see who else had done this, and I know Tina Brown has done this very successfully…But the idea of ours was very different in the sense that the 100 women themselves are not a power list. Neither have they applied to come to a conference to hear high-powered women speaking.
The idea behind it was to get a world of women together in a room. So it wasn’t just high-profile people, it was also women whose voices are heard less frequently. They might be grassroots campaigners, they might be stay-at-home mums who are fighting for the right to bring up their own children. What we wanted was a world of women in that 100 that would echo our audience, and they would be able to hear themselves back within that room. And I think that’s different to what other people do.
What do you hope to achieve with the series?
What we wanted to achieve in this [,which] was absolutely core in all our thinking, was a kind of kickstart to an increase in women onscreen, whether that be as contributors or presenters, and also the issues that we’re covering and the way that we’re covering them. We hope that this season would give us a kind of kick in the right direction.