A week after B&T hosted its inaugural Women in Media forum, which OMD sponsored, senior social manager for OMD Sydney Danielle Le Toullec has shared the five hottest bits of advice she picked up throughout the day. You better believe we’re bringing this event back in 2017.
It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to pick the brains of ten of Australia’s most successful women.
Last Friday, at the first ever B&T Women in Media Forum, attendees were divided into groups and then launched into a round robin of speed mentoring sessions with each of the women, which lasted for 15 minutes each. We met, listened and learned from the women who are smashing the glass ceiling and paving the way for younger generations of women to come.
Each woman, extremely successful in her own right, has clearly identified her strengths and strongly articulated her personal narrative. They wore their experiences with pride and a sense of poise that comes from years of being one of, or indeed the only woman at the table.
So, what did I learn?
- Gender equality is a conversation for both sexes and flexible work is for everyone
Lizzie Young (director of innovation, partnerships and experiences at Nine Entertainment Co.) made a great point in her keynote to kick off the day:
— danielle le toullec (@daniletoullec) August 19, 2016
Lee Leggett (former CEO, Initiative Australia) encouraged us to be healthy, and look after ourselves – we all agreed that flexible work needs to be accessible for everyone.
It’s not just for working mums. It’s the dads, those who have hobbies/passions on the side, the people who have to commute for hours to get to work, or those who just want to get out on time to go to the gym.
Lizzie called for a new award to be included in next years’ B&T Awards, Male Champion for Change. A suggestion which was met with resounding applause from the audience. As much as I love that there is a forum for Women in Media, I strongly believe that for any positive change to happen, this is a conversation for both genders.
As Margie Reid (OMD Melbourne, MD) mentioned, the boys’ clubs exist but you need to know how to communicate and start working together.
- We choose who we work for
Gaye Steel (head of marketing, Mad Mex) urged us to work at a company that aligned with our values. Ultimately if you are in a company where you feel undervalued or unequal to your male counterparts, it’s time for change. Be it change within your organisation, or failing that, change somewhere else.
“Don’t underestimate the power of your feet to take action”, said Karen Stocks (managing director, Twitter Australia). As I look around OMD, I am overwhelmed by the level of female talent that we have. I feel very fortunate to be working in a company where it truly is a conversation of talent over gender and we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to senior women to look up to.
- It’s a war of talent
Tech companies are setting the new benchmarks. When Karen Stocks was talking about the launch of Twitter in Australia, she said that whilst engineering does tend to suffer from a lack of diversity, the commercial side flourishes from the fact that there is no blueprint.
There was no domain for experience then, so it was a skills race. Rapid change, collaboration, communication are all skills that are the foundation of todays’ most successful tech companies. Ultimately, we know that the future belongs to those who will work for it.
— danielle le toullec (@daniletoullec) August 19, 2016
- Presence and authenticity cannot be faked
As impressive as all these women were, the main thing that I loved about their talks was that they were real. There was no rigid armour. Just a genuine desire to pass on their knowledge in the hope that their experiences would help more talented women get a seat at the table.
So, as Gaye urged us, develop your personal brand and be consistent. Know your strengths and use them wisely. In our next session, Mim Haysom (general manager, M&C Saatchi) drove this point home when she said that “it takes time to learn that you’re most influential when you are yourself”.
It’s a very powerful moment when you stop looking around the room and comparing yourself to whoever you think is the smartest, rather focus on your point of view, and what you bring to the table. Mim left us with these words of wisdom: “bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell”.
- The power of language
“Sorry, can I ask a stupid question” – the amount of times I’ve heard women say this in a meeting, (yes, including me) drives me crazy. This is a topic that was perfectly captured in Pantene’s “Not Sorry” ad. Long story short? This needs to stop!
Language is such a powerful tool in business and the ability to harness it with your colleagues, your clients and even yourself, will be the difference between a successful or mediocre career and life. So be confident in what you’re saying and don’t dilute the sincerity of a real apology by saying ‘Sorry’ every five seconds.
- Jump before you are ready (I know I said five but who doesn’t love a bonus learning)
As Kim Hamilton (OMD Sydney, GM) pointed out, “Nothing is ever perfect… there will always be something up in the air”. Sometimes you need to just say yes, trust your instincts and work it out later. So push yourself to accept new challenges.
As Hearst Australia/Bauer Media GM + chair of Wests Tigers, Marina Go’s experiences really showed me that it is all about finding the work that gives you energy rather than draining you. It is possible to have kids, a career that challenges you, and a happy life. It is about setting priorities around your non-negotiables. And always make sure you surround yourself with talented people that are honest and will support you.
The wrap up of the wrap up:
Ultimately gender equality in the workplace isn’t something that will be ‘fixed’ within a day. We all know that the pay gap exists, however I truly feel that we’re at the tipping point and it’s time to redefine the story.
We need to champion successes of both genders and find a way to even the pay gap. I don’t believe the answer is quotas. We need more transparency around pay, a supportive/flexible work environment that is open to everyone and programs that empower workplaces to call out inequalities as they arise.
It is time to say less, and do more.