The following is an article written by Sharon Taylor that is a follow-up to an opinion piece originally published by FYI in Feb. 2018. Her central thesis is that the Canadian broadcasting community has for too long allowed tyrannical behaviour and neanderthal thinking to poison workplaces, and the result is that this communications sector has disadvantaged talented women to the advantage of men in the workplace. The sentiment obviously is not absolute nor universal, but another furor is blowing up in the industry, and it suggests that turning a blind eye to avert seeing a potential problem is still a disquieting practice.
I'M SO GODDAMN TIRED OF THE BOYS CLUB! There, I said it.
Four years ago, the MeToo movement erupted in the US. I wrote an article back then for FYIMusicNews that skirted around the edges of misconduct in Canadian radio. Written in the heat of the moment it was an incomplete take on a systemic issue.
I have spent a lifetime in the business. I adore the people in radio. It’s why I signed up. People in radio are passionate, funny, creative, and talented. That includes on-air of course, but also other departments like writing, producing, engineering, sales, promotion, admin, music, et cetera.
I knew that it was a male-dominated industry from the get-go, so I assumed certain things going in and made changes to fit. For example, I started swearing. A lot. I worked harder and faster than anyone else. I never dated anyone at work. I didn’t wear pink. I refused to take anyone's shit. I didn’t take days off. I emptied ashtrays in the boardroom. I never complained. I did the hard things. I toughened way up on the outside, and on the inside.
Like every other woman, I was so happy to just be in the room.
I’ve had incredible experiences, and most of my besties in radio are men, but for obvious reasons I was never a part of the “boys club”. You’ve seen them, in group photos, having a time with not a woman in sight.
Jennifer Valentyne, while calling out John Derringer, also calls out management. As so she rightly should, since it’s not about one guy who has run unchecked; it’s also about the managers who should have protected her.
For a little while in the '80s I was the Program Director at CFTR when people like Tom Rivers, Dick Smyth and Mike Cooper were the marquee talent.
There was never an issue of any magnitude with Tom, Dick or Mike during my tenure; however, it was during that time in this market that some things crystalized for me. Successful talent who are important to the revenue, not only make the most money in the station but are protected and allowed a different code of conduct. I remember whispering into a couple of ears “we’re creating monsters”.
The lack of consequences over decades has made a space for Derringer's behaviour.
Everyone needs help staying on the straight and narrow. No talent in any market whether large, medium or small, is autonomous. They are managed by other people appropriately called managers. Keep the talent happy, keep them creating at a high level, but also keep them real.
This industry has never really put a dime towards performance training their own people. You learn by your mistakes. Most managers are winging it when dealing with personalities, and themselves - they are justifiably terrified of losing their own position. Yet, don’t misunderstand, they should know right from wrong.
There is a system that’s similar in every company. When a line is crossed the campaign begins. Mediate, minimize, ask the victim to adapt, apologise, sweep under the rug, move them to another station, another market, assure staff all is well, and serve up more NDA’s.
Nobody is the wiser, except, of course, HR, and the next victim.
My name is Sharon Taylor and I gave radio the best years of my life. Literally.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm fun and I like coffee.