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Here’s the third video (in the series of seven on feminine leadership) from my conversation with Dr David Paul in Sydney. We’re talking about how the media filters stories and comments on women and what we can do about it.

Two current stories about women and the Olympics caught my attention. Right now, I’m travelling in Canada so I am missing the Olympics in London.  I managed to see the Opening Ceremony live  but I’ve not had much chance to watch any further TV coverage. However I have been scanning the Canadian papers for commentary.

A story that I did take note of was about coverage of female Olympians. US research published in June of television coverage of the Olympics by Professor James Angelini of the University of Delaware who analysed all 64 hours of American network NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, found several key differences in the way men’s and women’s sports were depicted. Sportscasters framed men’s and women’s successes and failures in different ways. Male athletes’ achievements were more frequently attributed to athletic ability and commitment to sport, whereas women’s successes were more likely to be put down to luck. When female athletes failed, their physical ability and commitment were questioned, whereas men’s failures were presented in the context of their competitors’ success. The same was noted when the 2008 Games in Beijing were studied.

How damaging is this to women’s psyche and for our self esteem …… I bet most of this goes unnoticed because it’s subtle. Yet it must surely add to a woman feeling “less than”. Some media disrespect and bias against women is much more obvious. This media treatment was spotted by Elizabeth Renzetti, a columnist in Canada’s Globe and Mail who shared her disappointment at the focus of the attention at the press conference for the British Women’s beach volleyball team. “The first question to the athletes” she writes, “was: Will you promise to wear your bikinis even if it rains? …. The male athletes sat there while no one asked them a question, because we already knew they weren’t going to wear bikinis. They were free to think about boring stuff like training routines and nutrition.” Apparently, this year the women’s beach volleyball teams have been given the option of wearing shorts and long-sleeved tops instead of bikinis. She also goes on to point out that Australia’s minister for sport had to comment on criticism of one of the country’s female athlete’s weight saying that the comments were “appalling” while Britain’s Jessica Ennis, even with her washboard abs has been called “fat” by high-ranking officials in her sport.

Now this isn’t in the least bit subtle. What to do about it? How do we divert the media’s attention to a more positive appraisal and reporting of women? That is something David Paul touches on in our conversation in this week’s video. He urges the need for us to have transformative conversations so we can clarify our messages …. basically constructing and planning for more positive PR for women. He says we need to get organised. It’s a very interesting suggestion. He points out that in order for the media to stop criticising the hairstyle of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, she needs to divert their inane conversation and give them clearer messages of what she stands for.

Notes from this conversation with Dr David Paul:
* the media focuses on what Julia Gillard wears….. Nobody else is interested. The news is filtered through the masculine lens of the media and press. There are many transformational possibilities with the media.

* The media shapes everyone’s thinking, whether we like it or not, subconsciously the messages get through.  With Julia, we focus on her hairstyle and what she’s wearing as opposed the messages.  We listen to this because there is nothing else to listen to.

* Julia Gillard needs coaching on really stating her messages and reiterating them. Most people don’t know what she stands for apart from a couple of things: carbon tax and taxing mining companies. We really don’t know what she stands for and women need a vision, that’s the key to our transformation.  Men would get on the bandwagon too if they saw that it was a vision they wanted to follow.

* Oprah Winfrey has created a vision, she is a brand and a presence. She has single-handedly made a success of her programme.  She has created a transformational space where she has invited men and women to change the world. Somehow we don’t focus on the schools that she has created in Africa. We need to start focusing on the good that women do.

* Julia Gillard does not focus on the good that she has achieved because she always says she needs to strive for more.
So the message is:
What is our vision?
What we strive for?
What do we want to change?

We need a clear articulation. It starts with a conversation:
What is important to us?
Articulate it clearly
Get behind it
Put out simple messages.

* We need to improve our public relations and have the right message then push it out through the media and social media. We need to get organised.

* Why do women say my husband does not listen to me?
The message is not said in succinct ways. And it’s not repeated often enough.
To tackle a man’s mind you have to say your message very clearly, men have a very small attention span!    We have to say “this is our message” and we have to keep repeating it, be very clear.

*That is exactly what President Obama does. Martin Luther King said I have a dream about 25 times in one speech.  He anchors this key phrase into our memory. That’s exactly what Margaret Thatcher did, she was a very good communicator.

Be clear
Know our priorities……  narrow down what is important after discussion
Go out and make changes from there.

* In these transforming conversations:
Be succinct and clear
Stay on course, keep with the vision and don’t wander all over the place.
Sell the message: our current systems are not working.

* Women need to get on the bandwagon, we need to talk about what the change could be even though we don’t know what it is. Nobody knows it so discuss it and find out. We have to step forward, women are innovators, we create, out of nothing, the most amazing things. Men are always amazed at what women can do!

Previous postings of conversations with Dr David Paul on feminine leadership:

1) The importance of feminine qualities in women leaders

2) More women needed on boards