Opinion

What Lisa Wilkinson’s departure means for junior women in media

As Lisa Wilkinson steps down from her role on The Today Show over an alleged pay dispute, Bold Media's Emilie Sharp considers what it all means for the industry's junior females.

Lisa Wilkinson’s departure from The Today Show has sent a tremor through the nation. Both her co-hosts and viewers were shocked to see her depart so abruptly, and the alleged reason why is nothing short of jaw dropping.

It’s hard enough being a small fry in the ‘man’s world’ that is media, but this puts it in a whole new light.

Wilkinson with Today co-host Karl Stefanovic

Nine has stormed the ratings this year with The Block and Ninja Warrior, along with recently announcing they’re bringing Love Island Down Under, so it’s safe to say they’re not short of a bob of two. This begs the question: why is one of Australia’s leading journalists at one of Australia’s leading networks still fighting for equal pay?

Though I could ramble on about what total bullshit all of the above is, I think there’s a deeper issue here. As a young female in the industry with just about a year under my belt, Nine’s inability to “meet the expectation of Lisa Wilkinson and her manager on a contract renewal for a further period” says we still have a long way to go. And that’s terrifying.

While I’m not privy to her contract with Nine or Stefanovic’s JD, the situation in general paints a bleak outlook for juniors entering the industry. It’s 2017, not 1918, or even 1957 for that matter. I know we’re one of the last countries in the world to take action on marriage equality (don’t even get me started), but surely we’re not this backwards?

A quick look at Lisa’s impressive resume reveals an extraordinary list of accolades, including editor of Dolly at the age of 21 before becoming international editor-in-chief of Cleo.

At 21 I was still navigating my way through uni, let alone editing a national magazine, so if someone as accomplished as Lisa has to negotiate the same pay as her equally-as-accomplished male co-host instead of just being offered it, what chance have the rest of us got?

In saying this, I’m not trying to belittle my skills, or those of my peers. I’m confident in my ability to do a cracking job when I turn up to work every day, and am sure all other juniors in the industry have the same attitude.

Wilkinson during her days as editor of CLEO magazine

I’m simply pointing out that if someone with Lisa’s credentials is unable to come to an agreement about pay with her employer, the bottom of the ladder is a daunting place to be.

Australia’s leading networks need to remember the next Lisa Wilkinson has to come from somewhere, and a situation such as this doesn’t do much to inspire the future generation of media folk.

The top is arguably the best place to be when it comes to making a stand on equal pay, and while I’m not in a position to change things, I hope someone who is can help paint a more positive picture for our future.

Emilie Sharp is an account executive at PR and communications agency Bold Media.

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