“TV Was A Boys’ Club”: Nicole Sheffield

Four young friends drinking beer, telling jokes and laughing

Heading into TV production was the only area NewsLifeMedia CEO Nicole Sheffield ever really felt her gender was an issue.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

Speaking at GroupM’s ‘Lean In’ event in Sydney this morning, Sheffield was questioned about whether being a woman has ever helped or hindered her in a work situation.

“The only example I’ll give is when I moved to magazines to television,” she told the audience. “It was the first time that I really felt it was a massive boys’ club. And I felt my gender. It was the first time I was conscious of my appearance, and a lot of things that I look back on and it’s crazy, but I had to play that game. It wasn’t an easy game.”

Wandering down memory lane, Sheffield explained how when she was working in TV it took one production company a year to return her call. If she was a man, Sheffield believes her call would have been returned.

“People asked, ‘do you think they would have returned your call if you were a male?’ I actually do think they would have,” she said.

“That’s just how it was. And I think it’s changing. But it’s the only time I’ve actually felt a negative.”

Fellow panellist Maile Carnegie, managing director of Google Australia, added she has never looked at the world through a gender lens.

“There are times in my career where it’s gone against me that I’m a woman, but there have probably been more times now in my career where I’ve probably had a benefit because I’m a woman,” she said.

“I don’t really dwell on either of them. I kind of look at them as a portfolio.”

It’s not just women who cop this though.

Carnegie added: “If you are a transgender, there are going to be times when it goes against you and times where it goes for you.”

Men too, she added. If you’re a man working in human resources in the “lipstick ghetto”, as Carnegie puts it, “it’s not going to work in your favour”.

“You play the hand that you’ve got.”