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Sexism in media: Journalist and author Tracey Spicer fights back

ABC News logo ABC News 30/04/2017
Journalist, presenter and writer Tracey Spicer, © Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images Journalist, presenter and writer Tracey Spicer,

It's going to take a real rattling of cages to change the sexist culture that can still be seen at the top levels of some media organisations, according to journalist and author Tracey Spicer.

Spicer has worked in the industry for three decades as a journalist, presenter and writer and said it was easy to see how women could be worn down.

"Your self-esteem and confidence in your own abilities are chipped away by comments like, 'You are too fat, you're too old, stick your boobs out more, lose inches off your bum'," she told News Breakfast.

"I was told a colleague was 'porking up', could I go for a run with her? This is a woman who is size 12.

"This has happened to all my friends in this industry and I am not going to stand by and let it happen to me and see it happen to other women in society without taking a stand."

The experiences form part of Spicer's new book, The Good Girl Stripped Bare, which she hoped would start a conversation and lead to change.

Spicer said women in the media were often held to a different standard than men, and a greater emphasis was put on their appearance.

"It is definitely worse in commercial media," she said.

"I was told to stick my chest out more to show the audience my best 'assets'.

"Bear in mind this is when we are reading the news, we are talking about the horrific things that are happening in Syria, we are told we must look more beautiful to tell the audience that."

'Times are slow to change'

This might sound like an old story, or a throwback to a bygone era, but Spicer said it still happens.

"I thought there might be generational change, but I see men of my age in positions of power in commercial media now who are behaving like the men in the previous generation," she said.

"So I worry it will take something like a real rattling of the cage … for things to change."

For Spicer, this change needs to happen at the top, and it's a problem not limited to media organisations.

Data released earlier this year showed fewer large Australian companies were run by women than men named either John or Peter or David.

"Certainly there are some [women] on the boards but when it comes to the executive, there are still only two powerful women out of the 30 heads of the main media organisations in Australia," Spicer said.

She said since speaking out she has been inundated with emails from people, including men, who see these issues in their workplace.

"[It's] across all industries," she said.

"Men talk about, 'this happened to my daughter, this happened to my wife, this happened to my sister'.

"I think gender equality has to start in the lounge room before the board room.

"We have to really think about the things we say to our boys and girls."

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