Women who inspire, TV3's Rachel Smalley
"I wake up at quarter past three in the morning,
five days a week. It’s a pretty early start but...
you get used to it."
Actually no I’m lying, you never get used to it. But it kind of gets easier.
You’re a broadcast journalist. Run me through an average day for you.
That’s the thing with this career–there is no average! Sometimes it’s fabulous, other times it can leave you feeling a bit strung out.
I’m at work by 4am, in makeup and prepping, then meet with my producer and we talk through everything. At 5.30am I’m in the chair and we’re gearing up to go live at six. We’re off-air at 8.30am, I go in to a meeting, and can have any number of meetings or interviews after that…Then there’s my little boy, Finn. He’s four and he dominates my afternoon. Later in the evening I’m back online, gearing up for the next morning’s show.
Wow. Do you live in a permanent state of tiredness?
I guess it’s a pretty unforgiving job in that you need to be across everything. But the main thing you need to be is nosy, which you know, I kind of am.
What’s a hallmark of a good interview?
When the other person is engaged. I want to know they’re being honest, and I get a gut feeling if I don’t think they are. If they won’t answer my question, I’ll ask it again. If they still tip toe around, then I’m assuming our viewers have enough intelligence to see that themselves. They can read into the fact a politician isn’t answering the question so I’ll move on to something else.
Margaret Thatcher’s death dominated global headlines this morning, what can you admire about her?
Gosh, she was an interesting woman. Much of what she did infuriated me, much of what she did I admired. But she was bold and brave the first woman ever in that role. And for that, I think she is to be admired, because British politics is such an establishment. She went where no woman had gone before. If you put her policies aside for a moment, that in itself is a pretty remarkable achievement.
“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Do you have any other favourites?
“This lady’s not for turning.” Today I think though I would get up and say this woman. But it’s funny, isn’t it? It was a different era.
Yet she was never a fan of feminism, at all. Which is intriguing because a lot of people would see her as an amazing role model for women. But I think she saw the world as, she happened to be a woman…she was achieving what she was achieving because she was good, not in spite of.
I agree with that. You find the best person for the job, regardless of their sex.
That’s what she was saying, she noticed differences like “you don’t comment on men’s attire…” She believed gender shouldn’t single her out when it had nothing to do with the job.
Do you think we can do better at thinking like that?
I think we should, because we don’t have it in the [media] industry yet. People still think the credibility of news and current affairs is best served with a healthy dose of testosterone, and I don’t think we’ve grasped that women make up fifty per cent of our population yet. I’d like to see some change there.
Obama described Margaret Thatcher this morning as being a woman who “Stands as an example to our daughters that there is no ‘glass ceiling’ that can’t be shattered.” What are your thoughts on ‘the glass ceiling’ for women?
I grew up thinking, what do you mean, glass ceiling? But I think we see clearly now through the likes of limited pay equality, and lack of women in senior positions, that it is there, it does exist. That said though, it’s women who can drive change…It’s changed a lot, but for example if I was to get really angry in an interview, become enraged with someone, if I was a man people would say “He’s lost it, he got really annoyed in that interview.” But if I was a woman, I can guarantee I’d be described as “Hysterical”. That’s the difference.
Or, she got “emotional”.
Yes exactly. “She got emotional and hysterical.” So that’s the perspective you’re always trying to change, I think.
That said, what’s your advice for young women keen to get in to journalism?
Go for radio. That’s the best place to learn how to use your voice, how to write.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
I just wish I had confidence at 21! And I think your generation does have a lot more confidence, a lot pluckier. We were almost, apologetic, you know, shy. I don’t know if that was just me, or more indicative of my generation as well... If I could tell my 21 year-old self something, it would be, “It’ll be O.K. Follow your instincts.” Because it was just such an awkward time, I’d never want to go through my twenties again.
Aww, that’s sad..!
Yeah, totally. But my thirties were great! Twenties were just a confused state of, what am I doing, am I doing the right thing, and you know, just…awful time. Thirties were much better.
There was a lot of speculation this morning over what Margaret Thatcher’s legacy will look like. What do you want your legacy to be?
For my son, really. That I was a good Mum. That I was always there when he needed me, and was kind of the rock behind him for his life. That’s what I’d like my legacy to be. Because at the end of the day when you’re lying on your death- bed, the media’s not going to be crowded around you holding your hand and telling you you were great. It’ll just be your family. So I hope one day when I go my son can say, “Thanks, Mum. You were great.”
For a deeper discussion on women at work, Rachel recommended this article to me. I really enjoyed it and hope you get something from it too!