The women’s podcast first launched on irishtimes.com in September 2015. We were admittedly a bit late to the party. Two years earlier, Apple had already announced that it had amassed a billion podcast subscribers, and by the time The Women’s Podcast first aired, that newspaper was already churning out a suite of excellent podcasts on the topics of politics, business and world affairs.
Why did a team of female journalists from the Irish Times want to create a podcast by women for women? Well, to mutilate a well-known Jane Austenism, it was a universally recognized truth at the time that the global podcasting landscape had a surplus of men talking into Zoom recorders (Zooms being the recording device of choice of the insightful podcaster). Also, to mutilate a well-known Virginia Woolfism, we wanted a Zoom of our own.
We originally thought of calling the podcast Sound Women – there seemed to be no better use for one of the highest compliments, uniquely Irish. Annoyingly, that same year, we discovered that an English public had already appropriated this name. We settled on The Women’s Podcast, a podcast to do exactly what it said about the purple colored logo, exploring the issues affecting women’s lives in Ireland and beyond.
Over 500 episodes later, we’re still here and thriving. We are now planning a relaunch with an all new multicolored logo to coincide with International Women’s Day.
We never ran out of material. Our initial launch coincided with the birth of #WakingTheFeminists and a few months later, the Hearing Women’s Voices study by Jane Suiter and her colleagues at DCU, focused our minds on the urgent need for more women on the air.
Over the years we have had fascinating conversations on a range of topics. We talked at length and in sometimes hilarious detail about important topics, from menstruation to masturbation. We’ve won awards for our coverage of the mother and baby home controversy. We spoke to women in the Irish Defense Force, trans women, Dublin schoolgirls, authors, activists and mothers. We spoke to fun Irish women like Marian Keyes and Joanne McNally and Irish women on the international stage like Samantha Power.
Beyond Ireland, we featured episodes on women’s struggles in the Middle East and heard about the plight of Uyghurs in China. In our last podcast, we spoke to Ukrainian woman Nadia Dobrianska, and an upcoming episode will feature women in Afghanistan telling us about life under the Taliban.
Sometimes we even allowed men on the podcast. In 2018, during our coverage of the abortion referendum, three men shared their moving and difficult experiences with the women in their lives. More recently, in our ongoing discussions of the problem of male violence against women, we spoke to activists Jackson Katz and Ryan Hart about the need for men to be part of the solution.
Behind the scenes, a team of excellent women make and shape the podcast. Podcast experts Suzanne Brennan and Jennifer Ryan are co-producers, columnist Kathy Sheridan shares hosting duties and Irish Times journalists such as Sorcha Pollak, Bernice Harrison, Jennifer O’Connell, Niamh Towey, Rosita Boland and more others are regular and valued contributors.
Podcast from home
In addition to our weekly episodes, we’ve held several joyous in-person events for our audience, sometimes in a forest at the Body & Soul festival, sometimes at venues such as the Sugar Club in Dublin. We started life at The Irish Times studio, but for the past two years, for obvious reasons, we’ve been PFH, Podcasting From Home. I recorded my first episode of PFH under my duvet – I decided the acoustics were better – until I got to grips with the recording equipment and moved to an office.
We hope our pandemic-inspired Big Nights In women’s podcast, featuring women like Caitlin Moran, Eileen Flynn, Amy Huberman, Marie Cassidy, and Tolü Makay, has added some levity and a release to life in containment for our podcast community.
Now, to celebrate our relaunch, The Women’s Podcast is hosting The Change, a special evening of online storytelling at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8. To mark International Women’s Day with co-host Kathy Sheridan, women will share their personal stories of transformation.
Change is a colloquialism used for menopause, something we talked about a lot on the podcast. Our panel, including very strong women such as author Hilary Fannin, Miss Ireland Pamela Uba, activist Lavinia Kerwick, actress Philippa Dunne, journalist Brianna Parkins and recently arrived Ukrainian political researcher Angelika Sharygina will share their surprising stories and stirrings of change. We hope you will join us.
You are invited to join The Change on The Women’s Podcast live on Facebook @ITWomensPodcast at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8.