Fran Acheson on the BBC’s Expert Women initiative

One of the best experiences of my working life has been my involvement with the BBC’s Expert Women programme. The programme was launched in 2013 by the BBC Academy (the BBC’s training arm), and I came on board in 2017 first as joint, then sole lead, running Expert Women events in Scotland and London. The first big task for each event was trawling through the applications – space meant we only had 24 places on offer and there were thousands of two-minute application videos to watch and select for shortlisting. Top prize for most memorable video remains with engineer Dr Dani Barrington, who perched on the lid of a loo to talk about the role water management plays in women’s health.Then there was the pure delight of finally meeting our selected women on the day of the event, and watching the group move from mass trepidation to becoming fluent and hugely engaging contributors to radio and tv discussions – all in the space of eight hours. So far, our alumni of the past three years have notched up over 700 appearances on air – that’s a tribute both to the expertise and dynamism of our Expert Women and the effectiveness of the EW programme. I hope the programme will continue in some form – it’s a vital contribution to a more diverse and better balanced broadcasting ecology.

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