If podcasting is the future of media, it’s because of women. And women are the future.
Podcasting, arguably, is one of the more accessible forms of audio media in terms of who has access to tell stories and the way those stories are told. They give people an opportunity to share their stories authentically. Podcasting isn’t like other media. There often aren’t a bunch of cameras and people in the room while you’re recording.
In fact, it’s often the opposite: just the host, a producer and an engineer. It is storytelling at its most intimate, where listeners can connect with regular people like them who have similar or wildly different worldviews. Podcasting has seen a huge surge in popularity not just because it’s quality content, but because people are connecting to the content they cannot find in traditional media.
When I was growing up, I never thought “I’m going to be a podcast producer.” Podcasts didn’t exist, firstly, but moreover, I wasn’t shown many women in technical roles. When I went to school and started getting into audio production, the same rang true: all my professors were cis-gendered men, 80% of my classmates were too. I found myself constantly having to assert my knowledge of gear and terms in school. In most recording booths I occupy these days, I still have to.
How can a medium that is so new, still have the same diversity problems of traditional media like TV and cinema? If podcasts are the future, where are all the women?
When I started editaudio, my experience was top of mind. I made it our mission to hire, train and bring up women, trans* and non-binary people in the industry. If we want to truly connect authentically with listeners, we need to continue to create production studios and hire talent that is representative of those listeners!
The podcasting industry and audio storytelling has been made better by the women in it. Women have had a great impact on the style of storytelling, the voices being heard, and how the industry has changed over the years. Here (in no particular order) are 14 women who have left a lasting mark on the art of podcasting.
1. Renay Richardson
Renay is the CEO and Founder of Broccoli Content and the creator of the Equality in Audio Pact, which is meant to help those in the audio industry really commit to greater diversification in their content and their teams.
2. Laura Ruth Walker
Laura was the CEO of New York Public Radio, which holds WNYC, WQXR, Gothamist, and other media outlets, and made an effort to get more women into podcasting by starting WNYC’s own accelerator program and WERK IT, a women’s only podcast festival.
3. Kerri Hoffman
Kerri is the CEO of PRX (Public Radio Exchange), a non-profit organization that helps develop and distribute shows, while also training people in the industry. Kerri also led the launch of some of our favorites like Radiotopia, Ear Hustle, The Moth Radio Hour and Reveal. She serves on the boards for Greater Public, RadioPublic, PRPD, The Podcast Academy Awards and The Peabody Awards.
4. Jenna Weiss-Berman
5. Aliya Pabani
Aliya is an audio producer, artist, and former host of The Imposter, an arts and culture podcast from Canadaland. She currently produces and hosts the Encampment Support Network podcast for a volunteer network advocating for more long term and safe encampments for people experiencing homelessness, especially in the midst of a pandemic.
6. Connie Walker
Connie is the Cree journalist, formerly with the CBC, who started the Missing and Murdered podcast on the disappearance of particular cases of Indigenous women: Alberta Williams and Cleo Nicotine. Using the CBC database, Connie made huge strides in investigative journalism by teaching Indigenous history, while also seeing these cases through to their conclusion and finding some semblance of an answer for the victims’ families.
7. Helen Zaltzman
Helen is the host of The Allusionist, a podcast about language, she was also the first British podcaster on Radiotopia. She is also the co-host of Answer Me This!, where she answers listener questions on various topics, and Veronica Mars Investigations, which recaps every episode of the TV show from the beginning. Helen runs a Facebook group for podcasters, Podcasters’ Support Group, which has over 30,000 members.
8. Phoebe Judge
Phoebe is a queer award-winning American journalist who co-created the podcast Criminal after spending some time documenting wrongful imprisonments in the US. Criminal has been described as the NPR of true crime podcasts.
9. Kathy Tu
Kathy is a producer at Radiolab and New York Times Opinion Audio. Before Radiolab, she co-hosted Nancy, a show about the queer experience. She has also had a hand in producing podcasts like The Memory Palace, The Mortified Podcast, and Masterpiece Studio.
10. Katie Mingle
11. Hanna Rosin
Hanna “runs NY Mag’s podcasts” (as she puts it). She was a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, and has also covered politics and religion for The Washington Post for many years, and has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ and The New Republic, among many other publications. She’s also a co-host for NPR’s Invisibilia and an editor at The Cut.
12. Sarah Myles
Sarah is an award winning podcast producer with 10 years of experience in audio. Her Rise & Shine is an initiative to help budding podcasters get into the audio industry. She’s also run panels and talks on podcasting for Nottingham Trent University, Spotify, and the London Podcast Festival.
13. Hana Walker-Brown
Hana is an award-winning radio producer and sound designer based in London. She has made radio for Falling Tree Productions, Radio Wolfgang, BBC, and has done sound design for platforms including SquareSpace, BBC World, Lonely Planet and Space Explorer. She is currently the creative director at Broccoli Content, and writing her first book.
14. Sangeeta Pillai
Sangeeta created Soul Sutras as a feminist platform for all South Asian femmes to counter the stigma and talk openly about cultural taboos like sex and sexuality, periods and menopause, and even mental health, shame, and sexual harassment. Their flagship audio project is the Masala Podcast, which features interviews with fierce South Asian womxn about such taboo topics. Sangeeta provides this safe space while also maintaining a connection to her South Asian cultural identity.
This list is by no means complete, but these women have all made an impact on the industry. I’m grateful to work alongside them and to continue uplifting others in the field.
Continue learning with lessons on mixing songs, home audio production, electronic music recording, beat making, and much more, with Soundfly’s in-depth online courses, like Modern Pop Vocal Production. Subscribe for access here.
Steph Colbourn is an audio producer, engineer and artist. She is the Founder of editaudio a full-suite podcast production company that’s operated by women, nb and trans* people. editaudio creates podcasts globally, including shows for Google’s News Initiative, Harper’s Bazaar and NowThis. They are production partners for Alphabet Radio, and in February, editaudio launched their own original podcast, Hope This Finds Me Well.