Female Leaders Have A Responsibility To Identify, Encourage & Promote The Women Who Will Come After Them, Says SMH’s Lisa Davies

Female Leaders Have A Responsibility To Identify, Encourage & Promote The Women Who Will Come After Them, Says SMH’s Lisa Davies

As the third female editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in 190 years, Lisa Davies is undoubtedly a trailblazer in the media industry.

And, while she believes the industry is making progress, she says it could definitely be moving at a faster pace, which is she why makes sure she is constantly identifying, encouraging, and promoting the women who will come after her.

During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Bauer Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.

Lisa took the time to chat with B&T about her proudest professional moment, and her thoughts on where the media industry could improve in its approach to fighting gender inequality.

What is your proudest professional moment?

Being appointed the third female editor of the SMH in almost 190 years. The previous editor was also a woman, but to have only three of us is in a 190-year history is something that will hopefully change over time. Nonetheless, it’s still a huge honour and something I will forever be really proud of.

What drives you? What keeps you going when things get tough?

I think the general overriding feeling that we have a huge responsibility to Sydney, to Australia to our readers, inform them to entertain them to challenge their thinking and just drive and inform the future of this city and nation and to really make a difference to people.

When in your career have you been bravest and most courageous?

The one that stands out for me is during the bushfire crisis last year – a polarising debate about the role of climate change was something that we really decided to take a stand on. It’s an issue that has tended to be something that many people inside the industry look at being a very left issue, but we just forever will go by science. We support the science when it comes to the changing nature of our climate and I think to put that right at the centre of our courage was potentially risky reputation-wise, but it actually paid off incredibly. There wasn’t a question our readers would be supportive but for me, we didn’t want to alienate people but in the end, it did the complete opposite. We had readers coming to us in droves to understand the issues and longer-term impact.

What’s the media industry getting right in its approach to fighting gender inequality and where could it improve?

I think the consciousness of it has hugely improved probably over the last five or 10 years. It’s no coincidence that the three women who’ve been editors at the Herald have all been put into that position in the last decade. The 180 years before that there was no one. The Australian has its first female editor at the moment, and there’s a deputy female editor at the Telegraph in Sydney. My direct reports are 50/50 male and female and my boss has an even higher – around 65 per cent of his direct reports are women. I think probably across the media, we’ve got a long way to go still but I’m really pleased with the way it’s tracking, although I wish it was faster!

What advice would you give to women who are entering the media industry or who are maybe struggling to have their voices heard?

I think it’s important to find women in your workplace who support other women. It takes other women to lift women up and it’s something I feel quite strongly about in my newsroom and my direct reports. I really want to make sure that women feel like they have equal standing in the newsroom and I think that definitely is the case at the SMH. But in terms of promotions, a couple of times I’ve promoted a woman over a man and it has not been what people expected – not because the person wasn’t right for the job but because it was assumed a male would get it. I’m glad that surprised people because it makes people think about it. But there is definitely a responsibility on women leaders currently to make sure they are identifying, encouraging and promoting the people who will come after them, and training them to be leaders.

And finally, who is the bravest or most courageous person you know and why?

Over the last six months I’ve just been completely awestruck by the dedication of some of my team. There are women who have had children at home that they’re trying to school, but at the same time, they’re dominating their rounds in the greatest crisis of the century, writing front-page stories day after day under extremely difficult circumstances. They’re some of the SMH‘s most dedicated reporters and while it’s been extremely hard during this pandemic, but I’ve been floored by the level of commitment and dedication to their jobs when they’ve got this whole other pressure outside as well. It’s been a very humbling experience for me and the rest of the media industry.

Don’t be shy, be proud of your achievements and enter B&T’s Women In Media! Submit your entry here.

You can also buy tickets to the event here, which will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).

And, if you’d like more information, head to this website.

Other key information 

On-time deadline: Friday 21 August 2020 (5pm AEST)

Late entries deadline: Friday 28 August 2020 (5pm AEST)

Shortlist announced: Wednesday 23 September 2020.

Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible! 




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lisa davies Women in Media

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