Dawn’s appointment as Interim Chair of Channel 4 was confirmed by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries this week
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGES BY CHANNEL 4
Dawn Airey is the very definition of a trailblazer. One of the most powerful women in the media landscape, this week, she was announced as the Interim Chair of Channel 4, just shy of two months after her appointment as a Non-Executive Director. Dawn is guiding the organisation into a new era as it embraces the challenges of the digital age, including the Government’s proposal to privatise Channel 4. Her appointment was confirmed by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries.
Dawn is a media powerhouse. Operating in an array of different roles, she speaks to the modern corporate world: multiplicity is the new normal. The Chair of FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Football, National Youth Theatre and Digital Theatre, she further acts as an Independent Director for Grosvenor Estates GBI and as Non-Exec Director at Blackbird Plc. She has previously held positions with Getty Images, Yahoo!, Channel 5 and ITV, notably, every UK broadcaster besides the BBC. Her portfolio is outstanding.
“I came to Channel 4 for the first time 30 years ago as Controller of Arts and Entertainment. Here I am, back 30 years later, first of all just as a Board Member, and now as Interim Chair. It’s lovely to be back working with such an important broadcaster”, Dawn states. She has a particular hunger for organisations embarking on a great wave of change, focusing her career efforts on inspiring positive representation and meaningful progression. “I want to do things where actually you feel you’re making a difference in a positive way. Whether that is a difference to little girls playing football, whether it was in my television career, giving opportunities for people to tell their stories or realise their dreams. I want to use my power in a positive way to facilitate good working environments and to facilitate great content on screen”.
“I think I was a Millennial before anybody knew what Millennials did with their careers, having eight careers in their working life. I was ahead of my time in terms of longevity”, she laughs. “When I was headhunted as Chair of FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Football, I said, you know, I’m not steeped in football. I have an interest in football, and I love, and I can see how important football is to peoples’ lives. It was also helped by the fact that my other half, Jacquie, is obsessive about football. My father enjoyed football, and our youngest daughter is a player. I also have an interest in the power of sport for positive change, and I could see particularly off the back of the World Cup how massive football could be for women”, Dawn states. “We’re trying to inspire positive change in terms of getting little girls to aspire to be professional footballers. Seeing women’s football being taken as seriously as men’s football is really important. It shows that women can do and be anything”.
On equality, diversity and inclusion efforts, Dawn believes that the best form of LGBTQI representation is assimilation. Married to television producer, writer and director Jacquie Lawrence, the couple have raised two children together, from whom Dawn takes a lot of inspiration. “Honest, positive representation is assimilation into the mainstream. If I look at my kids, who are 14 and 11, the world that they’re growing up in, in terms of positive representations of the multiplicity of characteristics that make up the human population, is just the norm to them. That is so joyous, because when I was growing up, LGBTQI representation just wasn’t there. For me, it’s about embracing difference”, she states. “I don’t know that my sexuality in the corporate sphere is any big deal. And I think that’s a really good thing. That is assimilation. Lesbians are everywhere! People who are LGBTQI are everywhere”.
Concluding by issuing some advice to her younger self, Dawn issues an empowering message. “Be yourself. Be braver. I missed out on a lot of ladies in my life because I wasn’t brave earlier on. If I had been braver, I would also have realised that I wasn’t alone”, she reflects. Those are beautiful words to live by.
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