Kate MacCarthy rounds up the best of the breast with these fantastic podcasts for women, by women. Whip out your headphones and get stuck in…
Roughly 6.1 million of us tune in to a podcast every week in the UK* and the boom shows no sign of slowing down. Listener numbers have been steadily increasing in recent years, especially among the largest demographic: young people aged 25-34.
The age of listeners doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that the smartphone is the listening device of choice. What does seem strange, though, is the gender split. While most radio and on-demand listening services have audiences equally split between the genders, podcast audiences are dominated by a 62% share of men.
This seems bizarre given the ever-increasing number of fantastic podcasts made by women for predominantly female audiences. It’s possible for anyone with a mic and a point of view to start a pod and potentially turn it into a lucrative business with the help of sponsors. Women creators are therefore able to set their own agenda, with no limitations imposed by outside forces, and women listeners are drawn in by the resulting frank and honest discussions about the female experience.
Girls are flocking to the genre, and hopefully the listener statistics will come to reflect that, but in such a densely packed market it can be hard to know where to start. Five of the best are highlighted here, alongside some words of wisdom from the creators themselves about who inspires them and how they hope to inspire their listeners.
The Guilty Feminist Podcast
If you think of yourself as a feminist but sometimes wonder whether you’re doing enough for the cause, you’ll find comfort in the welcoming arms of The Guilty Feminist. Hosted by comedian and inspirational mega-babe Deborah Frances-White (can you tell I’m infatuated?), the show describes itself as ‘a podcast in which we explore our noble goals as twenty-first-century feminists and the hypocrisies and insecurities which undermine them’.
Each week Frances-White invites co-hosts to tackle topics ranging from Mooncups to makeup, all in front of a rambunctious live audience and with a heavy dose of hilarity.
From the brilliantly self-deprecating ‘I’m a feminist but…’ admissions which feature at the beginning of every episode to the open and honest discussions which follow, the message is that you’re doing OK as long as you’re trying your best.
She says she hopes the podcast inspires women to “take up more space, find their full voice and dare to be who they are”. As for the women who inspire her? “I’m massively inspired by the wonderful Phoebe Waller-Bridge for imagination and fearlessness, Jessamyn Stanley for body positivity and capability, my mother for loving fully, Maya Angelou for wisdom and positive resistance and Nora Ephron for raw honesty”.
It’s funny, yes. It’s also inclusive, empowering and sometimes deeply moving. A must-listen.
Formerly known as ‘The Debrief Podcast’, this how-to guide for twenty-somethings offers the reassurance that comes from knowing you’re not alone in your quarter-life crisis. It’s hosted by Tessa Coates and Stevie Martin, who say: “We hope to show our listeners that ultimately everyone is going through the same things. You’re never alone. And if you’ve made a mistake, we’ve definitely made the same one so much worse.”
Each episode begins with a ‘the most adult thing I’ve done this week’ segment, with some examples including ‘putting a newt back in a pond’ and asking for a raise at work. They’ve covered ‘How To Be A Good Housemate’, ‘How To Survive Other People’s Weddings’ and the totally brilliant ‘Ethical Fashion: What Is It And How Can I Do It?’
The podcast seamlessly blends quick-witted chat between two genuine pals (Stevie and Tessa make up two thirds of sketch comedy trio Massive Dad) with practical advice like what to do if there’s a gas leak in your flat or how to deal with catcalling. They blend guidance from experts with their own personal experience, peppering it all with a social conscience and extremely infectious laughter.
While the hosts are brilliant at twenty-something angst they’re also motivational, enthusiastic and utterly hilarious. You can’t help but feel buoyed up and ready to take on the world after listening, even if that just means reorganising your sock drawer. They put it best themselves: “We hope to inspire our listeners by giving them a voice, pushing them to find their currency and realise they’re amazing.”
The Fringe of It
Launched in February of this year, The Fringe of It is a weekly conversational podcast hosted by bloggers Charlotte Jacklin (of Betty) and Liv Purvis (of What Olivia Did). The pair call themselves ‘early grandmas navigating their way through millennial life’ and the vibe is cosy chats with a cup of tea in hand. It’s like listening in on a phone conversation between two friends who aren’t afraid to broach the serious as well as the silly. They hope to “start conversations about friendship, loneliness, money and all the kinds of topics you want to talk to your friends about.”
They met online before connecting IRL and say they hope the podcast can do the same for their listeners by bringing them together and creating a community. “We have a Facebook group so that people can reach out and meet up. We think that’s the best part!”
The High Low
Do you follow the latest goings on in popular culture and the news? Are you capable of being interested in both geo-political trends and Taylor Swift? If so, this one’s for you!
Hosted by journalists Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, The High Low takes its name from a style of ‘high-low’ journalism which allows for a combination of both the weighty and the light-hearted. Discussions are wide-ranging, with no topic deemed either too cerebral or too trivial. Host Dolly’s hope that the podcast “creates a space for curiosity and discussion with no judgement amongst our listeners” is definitely borne out.
The content is carefully curated and bang on the zeitgeist, but Dolly and Pandora’s commentary is what really makes this show. Each story is dealt with sensitively and intelligently while allowing for personality and humour to shine through.
Listeners can expect universally fantastic TV, book and article recommendations, a fast-paced run-down of the latest news and a listeners’ questions segment. With themes including imposter syndrome and workplace quandaries, the advice slot addresses many of the issues facing young women today. Their counsel has the feel of a conversation you might have with two trusted girlfriends and is always kind, empathetic and supremely wise.
Pandora says: “More than anything else that Dolly or I have done in a professional capacity, The High Low seems to resonate personally with our listeners. The e-mails we get, some of them highly emotional and personal, really testify to that. We handle our listeners with care. Their hearts and hopes are important to us!”
Hashtag Authentic is a fantastic resource for online creatives, covering topics ranging from how to engage an audience online to managing work/life balance as a freelancer. Each episode takes the form of an interview, with guests including Hadley Freeman and Jon Ronson.
Host Sara Tasker successfully built her own online business after gaining a following on Instagram, where she posts some seriously dreamy imagery. She champions creatives who are unapologetic about their desire to earn a living from their craft.
“When I first built my business, it felt like hunting for unicorns – a seemingly impossible dream that nobody around me believed in”, says Tasker. “I reached a point where it worked out enough that I could look back and say, “why does nobody tell us this is possible?”, and then set out to be the person that does. That’s the message behind whatever I do on Hashtag Authentic. To show how possible it all is, and to share practical and actionable ways that people can get started on chasing their creative dreams.”
In a trailblazing move which empowers all women, she has spoken openly about her own finances, demystifying a topic which remains taboo even in the age of oversharing. As JK Rowling and Lauren Laverne once discussed in a memorable interview, ‘Every time women have a conversation about money, an angel gets its wings’. Tasker is enabling whole colonies to take flight.
Find Kate on Twitter: @thepenintheink
* All statistics taken from the Radio Joint Audience Research MIDAS winter survey 2017. RAJAR is the official body for radio audience measurement in the UK.