August 2021

Speak Up: BBC Radio 4 documentary

Women may be caricatured as babbling chatterboxes, but in public, women speak a lot less. Be it in conferences or committee meetings, television or parliamentary debates, women do not get a proportionate amount of air space as men. Mary Ann takes us on a global journey to find out why women aren’t speaking up and if they are being disproportionally side-lined, excluded from the world’s debates.

She explores the role history and social conditioning plays: the ancient Babylonians thought if a woman spoke in public, she should have her teeth smashed with a burnt brick; in classrooms today boys get far more attention, teachers accepting their calling out of answers, while punishing girls for the same behaviour.

She hears that when women do speak, they are often spoken over regardless of their status. In the Australian High Court, women judges and even the female presiding judge were regularly interrupted by male advocates. And women aren’t heard in the same way as men; many struggle to see that a woman might be the expert in the room.

About the author

Journalist, author, public speaker, consultant, non-executive director, broadcaster

Mary Ann Sieghart is author of the best-selling book, The Authority Gap: Why Women Are Still Taken Less Seriously Than Men, and What We Can Do About it. She spent 20 years as Assistant Editor and columnist at The Times and won a large following for her columns on politics, economics, feminism, parenthood and life in general. She has presented many programmes on BBC Radio 4, such as Start the Week, Profile, Analysis, Fallout and One to One. She chaired the revival of The Brains Trust on BBC2 and recently spent a year as a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She has chaired the Social Market Foundation think tank, is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, and sits on numerous boards. She was Chair of the judges for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022.

Read Biography

Mary Ann Sieghart