Belinda Rowe Unpacks The Forces Of Discrimination That Lead To A Lack Of Diversity In Leadership Roles

Belinda Rowe Unpacks The Forces Of Discrimination That Lead To A Lack Of Diversity In Leadership Roles

Belinda Rowe is a force to be reckoned with. An independent non-executive director working across ARN Media and Sky New Zealand, a former managing global partner at Publicis Worldwide and a mentor for The Marketing Academy, just to name a few.

Rowe is also a passionate campaigner and advocate for women through her membership of Chief Executive Women and active participation in Women in Advertising and Communications. She’s seen firsthand what happens when workplaces aren’t diverse, respectful, and inclusive spaces and works tirelessly to help young women entering the industry build the confidence that makes this diversity possible.

Ahead of the B&T Women In Media Awards, presented by Are Media, B&T spoke with Rowe on how discrimination and exclusion can lead to less diverse senior leadership teams.

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B&T: What inspired you to pursue a career in media? 

Rowe: After studying psychology, sociology and politics, I was attracted to a career in marketing communications because understanding consumer behaviour is fundamental to knowing how to unlock growth for companies. But it was the intersection between media and creative really inspired me given the creative power, value and opportunity it brought when connecting audiences and brands. Also, the significant spend of marketing in all forms of media and the rapid changes across my career meant there were continuous new opportunities to explore and discover. 

B&T: Who has been your biggest role model that has helped you get where you are today? 

Rowe: There have been many people who have supported me on my journey. The standout role model was Maureen (Plavsic) Kerridge who was the first female CEO of a Television Network in Australia and Free to Air globally. Maureen was an inspiration to many and she was generous with her advice and insight. She had an incredible intuition, picking up signals and helping you find ways to connect with others which strengthened my self- belief and supported me in designing pathways to succeed. She always lifted colleagues around her. 

 There is now a Media and Advertising scholarship program to honour her legacy for uplifting women through CEW and the support of the Kerridge family foundation. 

B&T: What advice would you give to the next generation of women in media following you? 

Rowe: I mentor women leaders and one of the most common areas that comes up is self-confidence that can inhibit growth. My advice is to instil belief in your own self-worth, impact, and abilities by building a network within your organisation and externally. To take the time to invest in leadership development and career planning. Always align yourself to the new and emerging trends as well as who you work with is key to future opportunities. Importantly, never be afraid to ask for that next learning or new role or promotion and pay rise. 

B&T: If I were to ask what pivotal moment in your career pushed you to where you are now, what would it be and why?  

Rowe: The predominant moment in my career was when I led ZenithOptimedia Australia. It was a highly successful company given its unique approach and smart talented team that attracted brands like Telstra, Qantas, NAB, Lion Nathan, Nestle and News Corp.  

This led onto a global career with Zenith and Publicis Media on their global executive board for 10 years based in London.  

B&T: How do we get more women interested in media careers and sticking with it into leadership roles? 

Rowe: We know 1 in 4 female middle managers surveyed say ‘they were likely to leave the industry based on their experience of discrimination and lack of inclusion’. Further to this, the gap data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency where men are paid on average 14.6 per cent more than women highlight the need for action. 

The industry needs to recognise and lean into these two major issues to ensure there are diverse, respectful, and inclusive workplaces and to focus on increasing the investment in pipeline development, training and career progress.  

We know that accountable leadership for equality, an inclusive culture and relevant flexible workplace policies are all imperative to attract and retain women leaders.  

B&T: What specific industry trends or changes have you observed recently that have sparked your interest and why? 

Rowe: AI in all its forms (automated, Gen AI, machine learning, etc) is now the most significant and visible change we will see in sectors and companies since the beginning of the digital age. I am seeing the revenue and productivity benefits accelerating in the areas of customer care, product design, logistics, information intelligence and content creation using AI models. Companies and brands that differentiate themselves with the use of AI will be at a sizeable advantage over others.  

The industry trend is the rapid rise of retail media and commerce whether it is the offerings from Woolworths, Coles, Amazon, or online content shopping experiences. Ecommerce platforms are ahead in this area, but there are examples of retailers with physical stores that have built an extensive retail media network, like Carrefour in Europe. It is attractive to companies as it gets their brands closer to that moment of purchase, leveraging the value of customer data. What will be interesting to observe is whether it will be funded from different budget categories and if it boosts overall ad market revenue or will cause further disruption in the media market. 

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B&T Women in Media Awards 2024 Belinda Rowe

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