IT gives me little pleasure to report that in the space of a year the issue of women in political journalism has not just stagnated, but arguably got worse.

Last year on International Women’s Day, I wrote about my annoying habit of counting the number of male and female journalists at events I cover, tracking the Scottish political lobby as if they are a herd of buffalo.

On multiple occasions I have found myself the only woman in the room. On the last day of term before Christmas break, there were a staggering 15 men in the Holyrood gallery for FMQs, and me.

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There are times at post-FMQs briefings with press officers that I’ve looked around the committee room and realised if I had decided not to go, as I sometimes do, it would have been all male journalists.

There is only one occasion that I have been surrounded by all female journalists - at the SNP’s regional assembly in Dumfries in the summer.

During a huddle with First Minister Humza Yousaf, all three print reporters were female, as were the three broadcasters. While this was heartening, days later in Glasgow with Yousaf again, I was in a huddle with six men and one other female journalist. There is little consistency, and it's evident that the issues are structural and just not being tackled.

I sometimes wonder why I’ve taken it upon myself to be the one monitoring this issue - and I’ll admit noting down the gender breakdown in the margins of my notepad has become a recurring habit.

The National:

I’m not the only one who has campaigned on the issue, as the Equal Media and Culture Centre for Scotland at Engender (EMCC) has done a fantastic job of investigating who holds the power in our media landscape.

Project manager Miranda Barty-Taylor tells me that the onus has to be put on the media industry to monitor itself and diversity if we hope to achieve “real change”.

“What gets monitored gets managed,” she adds,”and establishing the practice of measuring progress against appropriate, self-set targets is a vital step in their commitment to address inequality.”

In the space of 12 months I’ve seen numerous capable female journalists leave to go on to jobs in broadcast or leave the industry completely. At the same time I’ve seen male colleagues moving from one office to another in the lobby corridor, the annual musical chairs of political journalism jobs I’ve borne witness to on more than one occasion.


In August last year I covered a damning report by the EMCC that showed, amongst many creative industries, the lack of women in leadership roles in our media. Of the four female political editors they identified, this equated to 20% of available jobs. Yes, you guessed it, men took up the other 80% of positions.

And since then, two of those four women have moved on to other positions.

As Barty-Taylor points out, attempting to collect data on the issue can go “out of date almost as it is printed”.

Our industry has also seen jobs cut, the number of political positions available for journalists to specialise in is shrinking. Again I have not even breached the issues of class, race or disability.

The National:

I could fill a whole column of the issues I’ve faced being a pregnant reporter this term, but instead you can read my Baby Box review.

Barty-Taylor adds: “We urgently need more women, and more diverse voices generally, in Scottish political journalism, particularly in print.

“Doing so not only increases women’s visibility in a traditionally male-coded area of media, but diversifies the kinds of topics and narratives featured in political journalism in Scotland. “Ultimately, ensuring a greater diversity of writers enriches the overall quality of democratic participation and discourse in Scottish politics.”

Having to take a step back as I log off for maternity leave, I can’t help but feel guilty there will be one less woman around to hold politicians to account, and mix up the kind of questions being put to those in power.

But, editors and those in positions of power in our media industry are the ones who have to answer for this lack of diversity, all I can do is to continue to shout about it.