Sarah Millican: Where are all the female presenters and comedians?

"I’ve sat next to women in restaurants and cinemas, but never at work"

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I’ve always worked with loads of women. From the shop floor at WHSmith to the popcorn stand of a cinema by way of a Jobcentre call centre and department in the civil service where I’m still not sure what I did, women were everywhere. 

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In polyester skirts with a dedicated pen pocket, scraping cheese off walls, helping people back into work, telling real-life customer service horror stories when a power cut left the call centre useless and dark, but we weren’t able to go home in case the power came back on. Even in the job where I’m not sure what I did, I shadowed a woman and sat near some other ones. It was normal.

There were fellas there too, it wasn’t exclusive, but loads and loads of women. Women who got you some toast from the canteen when you hadn’t asked, women who cuddled you when you had to take a pregnancy test, women who shut the door to the photocopy room when you were “divorce crying”.

When I sit next to a woman now, it’s a real shock. So much so that we both comment on it. I recorded an episode of The News Quiz recently where I sat near Sandi Toksvig and opposite Sara Pascoe. This made me quite giddy. We waved, as it was such a novelty.

Then last night at a recording for BBC Radio 4’s The Unbelievable Truth, I sat NEXT to a woman for I think, the first time since I left the office of the job I can’t name. Sure, I’ve sat next to them in restaurants and cinemas, but never at work. It was such a treat.

How awesome it must be to be Tess Daly or Claudia Winkleman right now. Another lady on the stage with you. Wowsers. Never has the appointment of television presenters been so newsworthy. 

What? Two women hosting. But who will move the show along? (Women can.) Who will do the jokes? (Women can.) Who will take the bins out? (Women can – and telly shows don’t have bins, you big silly.) 

And imagine being Angela Rippon, Julia Somerville and Gloria Hunniford? On top of all being women, they are all over 65. It’s quite jarring when you tune in to Rip Off Britain at first. Jarring for a moment, and then I could barely watch the show for clapping and saying they’re all brilliant women to no one else in the hotel room. It’s a good start. But the way to make it less noteworthy and newsworthy is to make it commonplace. That is when I will really rejoice.

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Sarah’s DVD Home Bird Live is released on 17 November. Pre-order at radiotimes.co.uk/dvdshop