Credit: Reni Eddo-Lodge with Paris Lees, one of the previous WBW winners. Courtesy WBW

An awards ceremony recognising female journalists has been put together in the space of 24 hours, in response to the lack of women nominated for The British Journalism Awards 2019 (BJA).

The Words By Women (WBW) awards has not been held since 2016 but has been revived amid the backlash against the BJA, an event for public interest journalism set up by journalism news website Press Gazette.

Many journalists expressed their outrage on social media this week as the BJA categories lacked female nominees - with one featuring more people called 'John' than women.

"It is massively disappointing to see shortlists made up almost entirely of white men when there are so many brilliant women in journalism," said Marie Le Conte, freelance journalist and co-founder of WBW.

Most recent research by the Women In Journalism (WIJ) network revealed that in 2017, around two-thirds of senior journalists working in UK national newspapers were men. This is only half the problem though, as recognition at journalism awards hinges on which reporters get to cover the biggest stories in the first place.

The same research by WIJ showed that only 25 per cent of front-page stories were written by women. However, culture change is possible; publications like the Guardian has increased front page female bylines from 22 to 43 per cent in the space of five years, which was helped by the appointment of Katharine Viner as editor-in-chief. Meanwhile, in publications like The Sun, front-page stories written by women fell to 15 per cent over the same period.

"In a lot of newsrooms, the people who get to work on the headline-grabbing, awards-friendly stories will be men. Men will be more likely to be assigned to these stories in the first place, even though women can definitely do them as well," said Le Conte.

In response to the criticism, Press Gazette put out a statement on Twitter, accepting the lack of female nominees in certain categories is "far from ideal".

Dominic Ponsford, editor-in-chief of Press Gazette, wrote in an email to Journalism.co.uk that he wished Le Conte well with the event. He also pointed out that the top prize of Journalist of the Year went to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg in 2016 and the Guardian reporter Amelia Gentleman in 2018.

"Women are under-represented at a senior level in journalism and across the board in some specialist areas. The industry as a whole has a duty to address this," Ponsford added.

"The BJA can only recognise more women journalists if more enter, so I would encourage any entering the Words By Women event to also enter ours.

"There are so many women journalists out there doing fantastic work and we are keen to recognise and celebrate them to help encourage the next generation."

The WBW wanted to hold its event the day before the BJA, so the application process was on a very short notice. However, that did not deter 661 entries in 36 hours, and senior female journalists from confirming their place as judges, including HuffPost UK executive editor Jess Brammar, Vice UK’s executive editor Zing Tsjeng and more.

Winners of the ten different categories will be announced in central London next week on Monday (9 December 2019).

Categories include political reporter, news reporter, culture journalist, features writer, sports journalist, comment writer, tech journalist, business journalist, foreign reporter, lifestyle writer.

Note: A previous version of this article included information on how to submit nominations for the Words by Women awards. As entries have now closed, this article has been updated to reflect this.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).