Women In Media: It’s Barangaroo Comms Director Amanda Wilson

Women In Media: It’s Barangaroo Comms Director Amanda Wilson

Today you’re in for a real Women In Media Treat. It’s none other than Amanda Wilson, a woman with a resume so long it’s hard not to be impressed. The former editor of The SMH is now the director community engagement and communications of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority. Here, Ms Wilson talks Sydney’s newest development, being expelled from school & her memoirs…

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I thought becoming the first woman editor of Australia’s oldest media outlet, The Sydney Morning Herald, in 2011 was a huge achievement and hard to beat…
Then I left and started my own business, which is something I’m enormously proud of. Now I’m working on bringing Barangaroo (pictured below) to life – my first role working for government – and I think that’s a pretty big achievement too.

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When I was appointed editor, people wanted to know how it felt to be the first woman to do the job in 180 years…
I said what felt to be true for me at the time – I didn’t think of myself as a woman. It got a lot of laughs. But the fact is until I became editor, I never thought of myself professionally in terms of gender. I was a journalist. Looking back, that says something about how women have had to think about themselves in order to succeed in media. Be one of the boys, or at least don’t be too “female”.

So last year I wrote an essay on being the first editor of The SMH, prompted by the sacking of the first woman editor of The New York Times. She started in her job six days after I started in mine. The theme was, ‘being a woman in media is tough’. Last year I worked with the Walkley Foundation, Tracey Spicer, Caroline Jones and a group of wonderful women to found Women in Media in NSW. It’s a networking and mentoring organisation and, believe me, it’s a really necessary organisation.

I was expelled from my convent school at the end of year 11…
Despite being a prefect and sports captain, the nuns said it was because I was a communist or an anarchist – they weren’t quite sure – but really it was because I tried to dispute the technical possibilities of the virgin birth with the reverend mother. It’s hard to recover from that.

Until recently, women have not had many female leadership role models…
The leadership role models were all men – and many of those were very old school. If you tried to always be tough and resilient that might have helped you get to the top, but actually it’s not a failure of leadership to be soft, to take off the tough mask and be yourself. Rather than define it, I prefer to think in terms of women’s leadership styles being different to those of men. Being authentic as a leader is vital. So is understanding that there are many different styles of leadership, and that to be good at it you have to try to master as many as you can.

At times I have felt like giving up…
And so I have done so. Or at least taken a long break. I think of a career as something you sustain over many years, and that also sustains you. The best way to do that is to step forward when you can and step back or out when you have to. That might mean stepping out to study, to raise a family, to write that novel, to get your health back. True success comes when you realise you don’t have all the answers and life is there to be lived.

I’ve always loved telling stories and been hugely curious about the world…
My father was an actor and one of my relatives ran a big ad agency. As a girl I wanted to find something in a creative industry – but not either of those! I found myself a job as a copy kid in a newspaper office and when I realised they paid you to write, I was hooked.

My ultimate career goal is…
To write the memoir I’ve been putting off for years.

If I wasn’t doing this particular job, I’d be…
Writing that book.

I would advise my 20-year-old self to find a mentor…
Or a couple of mentors. You don’t have all the answers – and you don’t have to do everything on your own.