More power to the women of print

Jo Francis
Monday, March 4, 2019

Thanks to Kelly O’Sullivan and her new networking group, I have learned about the great Emily Faithfull and her early, all-female print works. What a woman!

Way back in the last century, I joined the printing industry more by accident than design. The work was pretty hard (lots of manual handling of large heavy sheets of materials), and pretty dirty (I shudder to think about the amount of time I spent up to my elbows in thinners). It was also heavily unionised and something of a closed shop in many areas (I remember a grumpy middle-aged chap flatly refusing my admittedly fairly feeble attempt to join the NGA).

Hardly surprising, then, that it was also very male. This issue’s From the Archive story about training in 1995 also perfectly demonstrates the sort of default attitude from the past where every trainee was presumed to be a ‘he’. 

Oh, how things have changed, and for the better. While the historical gender imbalance in print will take some time to unwind, there’s a plethora of talented young women making their mark in our industry, which will be all the richer for it. 

During my career there have always been notable women in some of the top jobs – particularly on the print buying side – but not so many reach the pinnacle of organisations. An inspiring example is, of course, the late great Kathy Woodward. But it’s also the case that Walstead, one of our biggest print groups, has two women in key roles on its main board, which is hopefully the shape of things to come. More of this please.

Today, our modern, technological marvel of an industry is a rather more appealing prospect for the sort of female talent that will be instrumental in shaping its next chapter – although no doubt, even as I type some poor soul somewhere is cleaning out a processor. 


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