The number of women podcast listeners continues to inch higher, with the latest Edison Research data showing they make up 46% of monthly podcast listeners. Similar to how racial diversity of hosts has brought in new listeners, the industry is working to create more shows by and for women. The just-announced inaugural class at the Seneca Women Podcast Academy is offering an indication that strides are being made.
“We thought if we could do a competition, we could measure the interest and we could provide the opportunity,” said Seneca cofounder Melanne Verveer. “We had hundreds of respondents who wanted to be a part of this, and it was an extremely difficult process to narrow it down --but now we're going to be able to get the chance to hear from these extraordinary people.”
Seneca, which partnered with iHeartMedia, kicks off a six-week program next month that will teach a group of ten female creators. They will also receive a stipend and top-of-the-line audio equipment to produce episodes of their shows, which will all become part of the iHeart-distributed Seneca Women Podcast Network.
“We know from the growing numbers of listeners that we have tapped something critically important and that there is a yearning for these kinds of conversations,” said Verveer. “It's such an intimate vehicle in which to have a conversation,” she explained during a presentation for ad buyers Thursday.
Seneca Women teamed up with iHeartMedia to help produce and distribute its podcasts. Gayle Troberman, iHeart’s Chief Marketing Officer, said they too identified a need for more female podcasters. “We saw that we were at risk of having a sort of microcosm of white male voices,” she said. It also fit into iHeart’s pledge that at least half of its investments in new shows and creators would be for diverse voices. “Seneca Women's Network has just been such an important part of that,” said Troberman.
Seneca Women, an online women’s rights community, launched the Seneca Women Podcast Network in 2020 with the support of Procter & Gamble who is also backing the Seneca Women Podcast Academy.
P&G Vice President Allison Tummon Kamphuls said the launch came as the consumer products goods maker was in the middle of a larger examination of where it was sourcing its content and advertising and concluding too few women and minorities were part of its mix. ”We create products for women and girls, and we've always had a commitment to gender equality. Along the way, we've gotten really clear about where we can make an impact through our advertising, and other areas of our business,” said Camphol’s. That has led the company to not only focus on women's economic empowerment and education, but also using the advertising and the content that it creates to support those messages.
“It's really important to us that we have accurate portrayal of not only women and girls, but also of men and boys and showing men and boys doing household chores, showing women and girls in underrepresented areas like STEM or business and leadership,” said Kamphuls. “There were certain beliefs and stereotypes, and our goal has been to shift this narrative. And so our role in that is making sure in media that accurate portrayal is there so that we could dispel some of these myths. And when you see accurate and more authentic representation of women and girls, and men and boys and people of all gender identities.
Dr. Laurie Santos, host of Pushkin Industries’ The Happiness Lab, is one of the female podcasters already attracting listeners. The series was born out of lectures the Yale University professor gave and quickly caught on. Rather than write a book, which Santos said can “get stale,” she saw podcasting as a way to convey real voices in her stories about how to use evidence-based practices to feel happier.
“It really was just the sort of perfect storm where I could share these narrative stories and these little soundbites about scientific tips you could use to be happier. And what's amazing is that it's resonated,” said Santos. “As a scientist, it's been fantastic to sort of see this medium and what can be done with it.”
Bridget Todd, host of There Are No Girls on the Internet, said some of the biggest hurdles she faced when launching her podcast were ones she created herself. “When I first started podcasting, I spent a lot of time worrying about the way that my voice sounded, and I worried about every little response that I got,” she remembered. “I wish I could go back in time and say, don't spend any time worrying about how your voice sounds. You don't need to have a fake hourglass voice to be taken seriously as a podcaster.”
Coming from academia, Santos thinks not only does podcasting mean a woman doesn’t need to worry about hair or wardrobe like on TV, she thinks the barriers of entry overall are easier achieved for women in podcasting. “It hasn't been a medium that's been around for a long time, and that means that we can make it our own,” she said. “It's really welcoming for women for diverse voices. And that, for me. is really exciting.”