As the new CEO of the Walkley Foundation last year, I was astonished when I discovered that since its inception in 1992, only seven women have won the foundation’s annual Outstanding Contribution to Journalism award.
In contrast, 21 men and two organisations had picked up the career achievement gong which is judged by the directors quite separately from the Walkley Awards which honour stories published in the year. It seemed like an astonishing anomaly.
Having worked as a journalist and editor in major Australian news organisations over the last three decades, I have observed first-hand the leadership, wisdom and journalistic excellence of hundreds of impressive female journalists. Why had so few of them been recognised to sit alongside their stellar male colleagues? Why when so many women have been recognised as Walkley and Gold Walkley winners, judged by their peers and the Judging Board for the quality of their work, was the Outstanding category so out of synch?
The same question occurred to the directors of the Walkley Foundation when they met to consider the 2022 awards. A report was commissioned to analyse the issue and then, after much consideration, it was decided to attempt to redress the balance in a one-off move in 2023.
As a result, this year the callout for this category is open for nominations for significant female journalists; in 2024 nominations will again be open to men. The Walkley Awards themselves are not affected by this decision.
This move had been criticised in some quarters but as board chair Adele Ferguson has said, the past imbalance “does not reflect the make-up of our industry and the contributions women have made to the media industry over the decades.”
When I delved into the Walkley Foundation’s records it became apparent that the root of this discrepancy has been a lack of nominations of senior women over the years. Many more men have been nominated.
Just as pro-activity was required to see more women nominated in the Australian honours lists, so this year’s one-off callout for the Outstanding Contribution category is aimed at bringing forward names of women who should, at the very least, be considered for this honour.
All journalists, male and female, can put forward nominations of women who have been working as journalists since 1992, when the award began, to the present day. Group nominations are particularly welcome. There is no limit to how many nominations you can lodge.
Don’t assume someone else will get around to nominating that trailblazer, that mentor!
Entries close on August 31. Visit our website for more information and to lodge an entry.
— Shona Martyn, CEO, the Walkley Foundation: pictured as editor of HQ Magazine in 1993