Tracey Spicer will be instantly recognisable to our readers. Hers was the trusted face we saw for more than a decade on our televisions on either our local or national news bulletins. Tracey came back to her hometown of Brisbane to share her story and her book ‘The Good Girl Stripped Bare’ at the Brisbane Writers Festival. In her frank and funny femoir- part memoir, part manifesto -Tracey ‘sheconstructs’ the structural barriers facing women in the workplace and encourages us all to shake off the shackles of the good girl. I was thrilled to speak to Tracey about her early life, her work and to hear her opinions on how far women in the workplace and the media have come.
Tracey Spicer and I share many things in common. We both grew up in Redcliffe, had bad frizzy perms, were lucky enough to receive free university education and we both tried to fit the image of ‘the good girl’. I asked Tracey about her experiences growing up and the expectations for girls at that time.
Tracey says, “In that era girls were expected to sit quietly, act as glue in conversations, serve tea and scones and never- EVER-talks about the nasty business of money. Of course, this conditioning makes it very difficult to ask for pay rises and promotions in the workplace, or express our opinions in broader society. I guess I proudly call myself a bogan (or as it was back in the day, bevan) because growing up in a place like Redcliffe makes you acutely aware of the class divisions in Australia. We pride ourselves on being egalitarian, but there’s a somewhat snide undercurrent to conversations when you say you’re from a low socio-economic area. Combine Good Girl and Imposter Syndrome and you end up with an awful lot of women internalising misogyny and living with pretty low self worth.”
Like most of women of that era, Tracey’s hero was Jana Wendt, “As soon as I saw her on television I wanted to be her. And I don’t think I just wanted to be a journalist or current affairs presenter. I wanted to be a slight, dark haired woman of Eastern European ancestry because it seemed to be much more sophisticated than being the big-titted bleach haired ‘bevan chick’ from Redcliffe. Seriously Mum and Dad were always passionate about fighting for the underdog, so a sense of social justice, instilled as a child, was the motivation for my career in journalism. I studied a Bachelor of Business–Communications-majoring in journalism, at the (then) Queensland Institute of Technology. It was an extremely practical degree, and I was able to study at a time when university was free. Thank you, Mr Whitlam.”
Tracey’s career went from strength to strength and she says, “After reading the weekday five o’clock news in Brisbane for two years I was a national news anchor in Sydney for more than a decade. I loved my job, as I was able to combine documentary-making in the developing world with news-reading in Australia. However I learned that journalism was more about how your hair looked than the number of exclusives you covered. This was a shame because recent research shows audiences are crying out for depth and diversity in their media.”
Tracey was very publicly axed from her job after becoming a Mum and famously pursued legal action. It would have been a difficult and unsettling time and Tracey agrees, “It lit a fire in my belly which rages to this day. In Australia, one in two women experiences pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The Network said I should write a press release saying I’d chosen to leave for ‘family reasons’. I argued that women had been forced out of their roles for decades for the crime of having children. Someone had to draw a line in the sand and say “enough”.
Tracey bravely pursued legal action, “I made the decision in a billi-second. I knew it might end my career, but I didn’t care. I wanted to stand in solidarity with all of those who’d been sidelined or sidetracked. We are stronger when we stand together and it was a privilege to give emotional, financial and legal support to the thousands who called or emailed with similar stories.”
What Next for Tracey?
Tracey is still in the media with her own company Spicer Communications through which, “I choose portfolio projects involving writing, presenting, training and broadcasting. Currently I’m working on another book, writing columns for Fairfax, hosting a panel on a new show for Channel 7, teaching presentation and running masterclasses to amplify women’s voices under the banner ‘Outspoken Women’.
Her advice to women in the workplace and media today is, “stand up, speak out and connect with your sisterhood.”
About the Book
No topic seems off limits in Tracey’s book including, “abortion, voluntary euthanasia, domestic violence, bullying, gender pay gap, depression and the list goes on…” Tracey says reaction to the book from both men and women has been extremely supportive. “I’ve been overwhelmed by solidarity. It’s been lovely to share stories with so many who’ve had similar experiences. During these discussions, we also share strategies on how to move forward.” At the Writers Festival we can expect, “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!”
Tracey entertained audiences at the recent Brisbane Writers Festival. Whilst in Brisbane Tracey could be found catching up with friends, walking along the Brisbane River and fangirling over some of the other stellar authors who visited our city. I can safely say it was a real fan girl moment for me speaking to this local media personality and author.