Old Girl, Hilary Barry, in the News

Check out an article about one of our Old Girls, Hilary Barry, which was published recently in the NZ Herald: Click to view

Hilary Barry - Attended QMC: 1980 -1987, Head Prefect in her last year.

Hilary continues to support the College and often returns for special occasions. Last year Hilary was the key note speaker at the Year 13 Leavers Dinner, below are extracts from her speech:

Do not forget what it means to be a Queen Margaret College girl. Stand up for yourself, stand up for what is right and at all times, do it with the good grace and charm that every Queen Margaret girl possesses.

t’s exactly 25 years since I left school. I grew up in Wellington, went to Victoria University and then journalism school on Willis Street and my only goal was to work in radio. When I finished my training, I got a job at a small private radio station in the Wairarapa. It was set up and solely owned by Paul Henry. I was 21 and he taught me how to read news.

He was so tight with money. He would not spend a cent and even refused to buy me short hand note pads. Instead he would use discarded photocopy paper, cut it up and staple it together. At 21, I was just grateful to have a job and a salary.

Luckily, life did look up and I was head-hunted to work for Radio New Zealand in Masterton. This was a big step up. I was sole charge of a thriving newsroom that was inundated with stories of serial killers, sexual deviants and the local shearing competition, called the Golden Shears.

After a couple of years in the Wairarapa it was time to head to a bigger newsroom but there were not many jobs within Radio New Zealand. I started looking elsewhere and the obvious move for a broadcast journalist was into television.

There was a job going in Wellington at Fair Go, so I went along for an audition. I did not have enough experience but the producer of that show sent me a couple of copies of my audition and said I should send a copy to TVNZ and one to TV3.

TVNZ rejected me but TV3 gave me a job in their Christchurch newsroom. I spent six months in Christchurch with TV3 and then made the move north to Auckland, where I’ve been ever since - reporting, presenting and dabbling in my original love - radio.

I have not regretted my move into television but being in the public eye has certainly brought some interesting moments. You get recognised by a lot of people, who often try and work out where they know you from.

"I know you don’t I … do our kids go to the same school?"

"Do you play golf at Heretaunga?"

As far as 3 News goes, Mike McRoberts and I are the shop front of the operation. When people complain about what’s on the news, they often vent to us. The most common criticism we get?

"That’s not news."

People are as opinionated about what is or is not news as they are about All Black selections.

"The news is trivialised," they say. "One Direction? Justin Bieber? Well that’s definitely not news. "

And yet, when the Beatles came to New Zealand and hundreds of screaming girls turned out to see them … that made the news in 1964.

Another source of complaints, particularly if you are a woman on television, concerns your appearance. In fact for female presenters, appearance seems just as important, if not more sometimes, to the audience than your ability. I have had viewers admire the hair, detest the hair, object to the lip colour, hate the jacket, love the jacket. Suggest the colour doesn’t suit me, "oh but that one does."

And sometimes it’s very hard to resist the temptation to ask, are you actually watching the News?

Britain’s first female news reader was Nan Winton, who presented her first bulletin for the Beeb in 1960. She only lasted a few months because the audience research showed viewers thought it was "not acceptable" to have woman presenting the news.

A recent article by current BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce reveals a lot more of the background. The headlines after Nan Winton’s first bulletin were all about her appearance. She was dubbed "Newsgirl Nan."

The Evening Standard wrote, "Miss Winton usually hides herself behind a desk. Pity. She has a 36-25-37 inch figure."

In the Weekly Post, there was an article headed, "Girls just can’t read the news." It said, "the plain fact is that the news is one of those rare television items which requires one simple no-nonsense characteristic from its authority. And how many women do you know who can even begin to appear and sound authoritative while remaining attractively feminine?"

Even today there are definitely double standards when it comes to male and female news presenters. I’ve heard attractive female news presenters referred to as "Autocuties."

As women, we are asked to do far more articles for glossy mags than our male peers, we are frequently the subject of unwanted and unwarranted scrutiny over the way we look, how we dress and how we juggle our home lives with working.

Reporters doing articles on Mike McRoberts never ask how he manages to run the household while working, but they often ask that question of me.

BBC presenter Miriam O’Reilly won a six figure payout from her former employers after being dumped when the show she presented moved to prime time and she was replaced by a younger woman. She was 53. The BBC admitted it was wrong and that her case marked a sea change in the representation of older women on television.

I’m often asked if I worry about losing my job because of aging (another question that never gets asked of Mike McRoberts) and whether I feel pressure to have botox or cosmetic surgery to counter the effects of age. The honest answer is, no.

I’m sharing this with you, not because I want to paint a grim picture of gender imbalance in the workplace. But I think it’s important that you know, as you leave Queen Margaret College, that you will still have occasions, when you will have to stand up for yourself as a young woman. To point out perhaps, that you ought to be treated equally to your male colleagues, and to deliver that message with grace.

We have had a first class education and we’ve also learnt, as young women, that we can do anything we want to with our lives. We have choices. And that’s what our mothers, grand-mothers and great-grandmothers fought for. They got us the vote, the opportunity to go to university, to have a career and a family, if we want to.