I Lost A $15 Million Pitch Because I Was Female: HM’s Virginia Hyland

I Lost A $15 Million Pitch Because I Was Female: HM’s Virginia Hyland
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It’s been just 24  hours since B&T and Seventh Street Media (SSM) launched its podcast mini-series on media agency CEOs, and now Virginia Hyland is stepping up to the plate.

Hyland Media, of which Hyland is the founder and principal, was a finalist in the Media Agency of the Year category at last year’s B&T Awards. The agency’s clients include Uber, Steggles, OPI, Rimmel, Olympus, and Marc Jacobs.

Speaking candidly to Fear At the Top host and SSM shief executive Luke Girgis, Hyland shares her journey from the small country town of Gilgai to the big smoke where she is now the leader of a successful media, creative and social agency group.

Hyland also shares her agency’s strategy for winning and retaining business, and her biggest mistake as an employee and as a CEO.

But perhaps the most alarming part of her conversation with Girgis is how she describes her position in what is a male-dominated industry as a “double-edged sword”.

“The first example is when I was invited [four years ago] to pitch on a $15 million client, and the reason [why] we weren’t successful in winning that pitch was that the head of the marketing department didn’t believe a female could negotiate as well as a bloke,” she says.

“We spent weeks of our life putting together the pitch, the ideas, the effort and the energy – all dismissed because of gender. That was a pretty hard pill to swallow, and I question why I was even invited into the pitch in the first place.

“The opposite side to that is when you look at the audience and the spending power of females, and when you’re pitching on cosmetics, fashion, pharmaceuticals, FMCG brands that are targeting a female audience, we have an edge in that area because we innately know how to use make-up, we understand the audience, we understand mums.”

Even though gender shouldn’t matter, Hyland says it can still be a decision-making factor with business today.

“How do I deal with it? I just get on with it. I don’t let it worry me. It’s water off a duck’s back,” she tells Girgis.

“We’re growing, were building irrespective of all our challenges, so we’re onto a good thing and you just can’t worry about that sort of stuff.”

For those who want to hear everything Hyland had to say via iTunes, you can do so here, and if you missed the first episode of the podcast series with OMD boss Aimee Buchanan, you can check it out here.

Stay tuned for the next episode, which will feature CHE Proximity chief Chris Howatson.

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