Making Headlines: An interview with Emma Alberici

Whenever I think of ABC Journalist Emma Alberici I go back to a Foreign Correspondent episode where she was investigating Silvio Berlusconi’s questionable behaviour. In it was a fiery exchange between herself and a female member of Berlusconi’s party. In fluent Italian she would not let up, she wanted to know how a woman could forgive her party leader under such damning allegations.

There were two things I admired about Emma in that interview, her relentless questioning and her fluent Italian.

As part of my coverage of the She Leads conference I was offered the chance to speak to Emma who is the event moderator. It was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Emma AlbericiSince that Foreign Correspondent interview Emma returned to Australia and now fronts Lateline. For me she is one of those ‘women in the media’ success stories and on talking to her I could see how this happened. Off the top of her head she lists a female Head of News, a female Executive Producer of 4 Corners, of Australian Story, of 7:30 and a female Head of Radio.

“Some of the most influential programs (are) all run by women,” she says. “On screen I think we’re doing pretty well. In fact I think we’re dominating. You’ve got me on Lateline, you’ve got Leigh (Sales) on 7:30. We have a female presenter of the midday tv news and of the 7pm news.”

But sadly this is not the case in the commercial world.

“There are very few female Executive Producers of any news programs in the commercial world,” she reflects. “It is quite stark actually and I think it plays out in the way news is reported.”

When you look at the workplace policies of the ABC you can understand how women have made such strong strides there. They are not just female friendly, but life friendly too. Having spent some time in the commercial sector I struggled to recall any of these conditions being available to me.

While we can look to our public broadcaster and see a good news story in getting the balance right, we clearly have some way to go.  Yet this goes beyond the media and more to society.

Emma believes: “men have to become more like women and women have to become more like men.”

“What do I mean by that?” she asks rhetorically.  “Women need to show a little more aggression in the way they behave in the workplace and men need to show a little compassion and a little more of their nurturing side so they start to demand the kind of changes that women have long been calling for, and until you get that whole mix right nothing is really going to change.”

Emma is also a believer in setting quotas for women at the Executive level. She cites the Norwegian experience where legislation was introduced requiring 40% of women sat on Boards.

“One of the biggest vindications of that policy is that those women who are on those Norwegian boards are in high demand all over Europe,” she says.

By the end of our chat I could not help but feel inspired but also a little deflated. We still have a long way to go and as Emma points out this is generational change.

“Yes it is much harder for women but I think that’s because of what society expects of men and what society expects of women and we need to change that, so we need to expect more of men around the house and with children,” she argues.  “But we also need to celebrate men who stay home and the men who pull their weight more with children because if we don’t respect that, if we don’t expect that, then it is just not going to happen.”

Published on: Aug 14, 2013, Discordia