Secrets Are What Hold Women Back

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This week, we put down our headphones, closed up the studio and went to the fourth annual Werk It Festival in New York City. Well, actually, Flushing, Queens.

Attended by hundreds of women in podcasting, the conference used to be invitation-only but is now open to anyone who wants to learn more about podcasting. This year, it was held at the Knockdown Centre, a concert hall and DIY venue in Queens.

 The weather outside was gloomy but the vibes inside were glowing.

The weather outside was gloomy but the vibes inside were glowing.

It’s a warm and supportive event that is trying to do right by women; there’s a breastfeeding spot for new moms. The schedule had sessions on everything from tech for beginners to pitching your podcast. It’s also a fast-paced schedule. We broke up the sessions between both of us and we were still running around trying to catch up with what was happening on each stage.

 Vicky is actually sending two emails at the exact same time.

Vicky is actually sending two emails at the exact same time.

The Food

The food...was not good. The conference day is long - you check in at 8am and keep going until 5pm - so we hoped for more food options. They were good enough to have a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option every day, and it was all gluten free. But, like, bruh.

 We ordered burritos for delivery before we Hulk-ed out and became Hangry Bitches.

We ordered burritos for delivery before we Hulk-ed out and became Hangry Bitches.

The Cost

Whew, it is pricey. At four hundred dollars AMERICAN, it is not a cheap adventure. (It is also why, frankly, we’re bitter about the food). They do offer scholarships though. Add in flights, transportation within NYC, accommodations, live show tickets, and it can rack up in to a sizeable bill.

If you can get your job to send you, you should absolutely do that. If your job won’t, you gotta pull together a prayer to the credit card gods and any friends who have a spare couch you can sleep on.

Here’s the swag bag we got:

 10 Things That Scare Us? There’s just one, and it’s our credit card bill after this trip.

10 Things That Scare Us? There’s just one, and it’s our credit card bill after this trip.

The Sessions

If you’re thinking about a podcast or trying to refine a podcast you’ve recently started, this conference is for you. You’re going to hear from some of the biggest names in podcasting - Phia Bennin (Reply All), Keisha TK Dutes (TK In The AM), Jenna Weiss-Berman (Pineapple Street), the team behind The Daily, the Buzzfeed PodSquad (pause for silence) - and you can talk to them, which is incredible. There were also reps from the big distributors like Spotify, Pandora, Himalaya, Apple and so on. If figuring out new spots to post your podcasts is the goal, you can definitely get a ton of information.

That’s the other thing: It’s a ton of information. You’ll want to take a lot of notes! School is in session.

 Standing room only.

Standing room only.

If you’re a more established podcaster, the conference is a good opportunity to network. The Jobs Jobs Jobs session is what you’re waiting for: anyone who is hiring gets up on the stage and says what jobs their company or podcast has. It’s everything from indie podcasts with a little budget to NPR who has more roles to fill than they had time on stage to share.

Our favourite session was Having Kids with Nora McInerny (Terrible, Thanks for Asking) and Ami Spishock, an artist manager from Fort William Management. It was supposed to be about Being A Mom/Podcaster but it was really about Spilling All That Tea. We learned so so much.

Like, don’t sign away your podcast rights. Ask for the backend. Require your publisher or network to tell you how much money the show makes for them. Get a good accountant. Find out what a deal memo is. And yes, you can take a newborn to a podcast recording.

That’s the kind of candor we were hoping for throughout the conference and didn’t hear until the last hour of the second day. The conference was focused on demystifying podcasting and encouraging people to get into it if they’re not already, which is a good mission and one we totally love. But it came at the cost of being honest about the business of podcasting. As much as it’s an art, it is also a business and we felt lots of stuff went unsaid.

That lack of specificity and detail is not what women in podcasting need. We believe that transparency helps all of us. They did have a pay transparency wall where folks could share how much they’d made over the years, but few of the presenters on stage shared those details.

 For a conference with hundreds of attendees, it would have been amazing to see even more of these posts.

For a conference with hundreds of attendees, it would have been amazing to see even more of these posts.

Pineapple Street’s Jenna Weiss-Berman did share how they decided what total dollar value they needed in order to quit their jobs and start a company. Once they signed $700K in contracts, they went independent.

There was a lot of talk of benchmarks without hearing what actual benchmarks might be.

We wanted to hear more of those stories. Numbers can be scary, but we have to be honest about them.

 We love numbers!

We love numbers!

One Last Thing


Whenever there’s an event, I always remember that Oprah used to say, “love is in the details.”

And a bunch of details bothered us at Werk It.

There was no Wifi. Someone snuck us the password for the Knockdown Centre’s wifi but again, for that cost, we shouldn’t have to get ahold of the Secret Menu of Options. The screens were tough to see if you couldn’t get a seat or had to sit further back. On the main stage, you could barely hear if you were seated in the back half. The second stage didn’t have enough seats, so popular sessions saw attendees sitting on the floor where you couldn’t really see the screens or presenters.

 This is how much women love podcasting.

This is how much women love podcasting.

Coat check cost $5 each day, per item (and lots of attendees brought luggage), which is not an insurmountable cost, but it might be!

It is one thing to be woman-centric but it is another thing entirely to be barrier-free. Everyone, including us, can do this better.

Producers of Colour “Too Hard to Find”? We Made a Directory.

POC in audio.png

Every fall, audio producers from around the world (mostly the US) converge on the Third Coast international Audio Festival in Chicago. Eighteen years ago, long before the so-called podcast boom, WBEZ alumnus Johanna Zorn founded the conference as a way to celebrate the best of audio documentary from around the world. It’s become a place for freelancers who can afford the steep registration fee to eat build-your-own-tacos next to producers from some of the biggest shows in podcasting.

The vibe’s always been more or less convivial, but something broke this year. The conference usually ends with the Third Coast awards ceremony; the self-proclaimed “Oscars of Radio.” This one began with producer Phoebe Wang accepting the award for Best New Artist for her thoughtful piece “God and Gays”. Instead of the usual “This-story-is-so-important-to-me-and-I-couldn’t-have-done-it-without…” type of speech, she used the platform to call out the overwhelming whiteness of the industry. You can read the full transcript, but here’s a taste:

I hear people say all the time that, “We tried our best to find a person of color for a job opening and we couldn’t find one, because not enough people of color applied or because they weren’t qualified enough for the position.” And I think that is total bullshit.

Because what I hear when people say we tried our best — what I really hear is: “We chose to spend our time and our money on something that we decided was more important than hiring a person of color.”

And what I also hear is: “We’re okay with alienating a massive group of listeners who don’t have any space or emotional energy to hear from another straight white dude talking at them, and we’re okay with having massive blind spots when we share stories about people of color.”

So if I could offer some suggestions: Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go on the internet, recruit people, invite them to apply for your position, invite them to join your applicant pool.

This isn’t the first time anyone’s levelled this critique in general, or on the radio/podcast industry in particular. Writer and radio producer Stephanie Foo has talked about it more than once, but it might be the first time it’s been followed up with a list of 46 POC audio producers, read aloud, in a room full of industry decision-makers who have no choice but to pay attention. The speech ended with Phoebe challenging anyone who has the capacity to fix this problem to email pocradiohires@gmail.com, and the response has been huge. If you’re an employer, send us an email.

Drawing on the momentum from Third Coast, a few of us—Phoebe, Adizah Eghan, Afi Yellow-Duke, and Zakiya Gibbons and me—got together and started working on a plan to help solve the problem that POC producers are “too hard to find” by creating a directory. At the time of writing, there are over 400 entries, and it’s still growing. We hope that it’ll serve as a resource to connect more potential employers with POC candidates across the industry, but it’s also a space for us to connect to one another, which means that you don’t have to be looking for a job to be a part of it.     

So if you’re a POC audio person of any kind, get in this directory.

A final word, from all of us:

To white people: Do better. The lack of racial diversity in the audio industry is not our responsibility to fix. And remember, your responsibility doesn’t end when you hire people of color.

To our POC family: We see you and we stand with you. Let’s continue to support each other.

Adizah Eghan, Zakiya Gibbons, Aliya Pabani, Phoebe Wang, Afi Yellow-Duke

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“It’s been interesting to watch people kind of turn to comfort-watching, and their sources of comfort, and their sources of joy, as a type of security blanket,” says Anne T. Donohue. “Why did we stop? Why did we stop watching things that are comforting, or joyful? You have to have a little joy or a little bit of escape, otherwise you’ll just want to walk into the ocean — more than you already do!

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