Tracey Spicer is one of the most successful, well-recognised journalists in the Australian media landscape. But that doesn’t mean she’s been immune from awful bosses and sexist jibes throughout her career.
During her stint at the Channel 9 newsroom during the ’80s, Spicer worked under a news director who would spit out phrases like, “I want two inches off your hair and two inches off your arse!”, and instruct female presenters to, “Stick your tits out more”. Charming.
You don’t need to be a newsreader to encounter this kind of boorishness in the workplace; every woman in the country can probably tell her own stories of being intimidated, degraded and undermined by a nasty boss.
Yet the way Spicer dealt with this problem goes against the popular stereotype of how women treat one another in the workplace — i.e. tearing one another down, throwing one another under the bus… you know how the story goes. (Post continues after gallery.)
“My female colleagues formed a cabal called the Pussy Mafia, which was nurturing and supportive – two words you don’t usually associate with newsrooms. It worked until our program was axed,” the 47-year-old Sky News anchor recalls in an article for Debrief Daily.
This particular ‘Pussy Mafia’ consisted of five women, and as Spicer explained to Daily Life they formed a “protective pack”. After leaving Channel 9, she says similar “girls’ clubs” formed in subsequent workplaces.
In 30 years, there was only one instance where Spicer was betrayed by a female colleague — a younger journalist she had adopted as a mentee at the Ten Network. When Spicer went on maternity leave, the woman had lobbied for her job behind her back.
On her return, Spicer arranged to have coffee with her protegee only to be told, "Look, I don't think it's good for my reputation to be seen with you right now."
Despite this experience, Spicer — who is a convenor of Women in Media and teaches TV Presenting at AFTRS in Sydney — says she's committed to mentoring and standing by her female colleagues. And she thinks all women in all workplaces should follow suit.
"Female friendship is powerful protection against the 'gender asbestos', as Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick calls it, built into the walls of workplaces," Spicer writes for Daily Life.
"But we must remain vigilant. It's easy to fall into the trap of targeting other women, especially in industries where there's fierce competition for a handful of positions... let's create more girls' clubs, to rival the boys' clubs." (Post continues after video.)
On the topic of Tracey Spicer's career, the mother of two has also shared some hilarious anecdotes from her early presenting roles.
On Debrief Daily, she recalls her first day as a weather girl at Channel 10 — which unfortunately coincided with a case of lurgy that made Spicer look like she'd "fallen face-first into a bowl of strawberries".
"I was speaking about the squiggly lines on the map when they began to blur. A familiar feeling crept over me: cold hands and feet; raised heartbeat; rivers of sweat. Then I started swaying. Holy crap, I thought. I’m going to pass out, on air, in front of half-amillion people. What the f*#k am I going to do?" she writes.
"There were two options. Let nature take its course and fall from the frame, crashing onto the concrete floor. Or simply walk away. I chose the latter. Halfway through the cloud map, I stopped. ‘I’m so sorry, I have to go,’ I announced rather formally, and walked off-camera before collapsing in the corner."
So, if you're having one of those days at work, just be relieved you don't have a camera pointed straight at you.
Do you have supportive relationships with the women in your workplace?
Tracey Spicer is in very good company when it comes to women on Aussie television. Here are just some of our favourite newsreaders: