“Don’t Let Criticism Define You!” Leigh Sales Shares Her Wisdom At Our Women In Media Awards

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Leigh Sales was our keynote speaker at our empowering Women In Media Awards.

She was so captivating; you could have heard a pin drop. She spoke candidly about learning from other women, not letting other people’s criticisms define you, and that life isn’t fair.

Her comments on fairness felt particularly timely, considering the pay gap in Australia has recently widened.

Sales brought her signature warmth and wit to her speech, and it really was the talk of the night.

Who doesn’t Leigh Sales? She became the voice of reason on 7.30, and even now that she has stepped away, she remains that voice in the Australian media landscape.

Sales candidly discussed starting her career at Nine in Brisbane and how her boss pulled her aside one day and said: “He didn’t think that I had the appearance or voice to be on television. So, I left Nine and went to the ABC, and every night, I give that man a little wink and say, ‘this one for you,” Sales explained.

However, Sales reflected on the criticism and said: “In hindsight, I think I was pretty rough around the edges.

“Even though it was hard for me to hear that at the time. It was up to me whether or not I internalised and believed it or chose to leave. That is kind of an active decision you make. You don’t have to let other people’s criticism define you.”

Sales also spoke about the constant microscope female journalists, in particular, are under. During her tenure on 7.30, She said: “Not a single day went by where I didn’t get a handful of strangers telling me I was useless, a bitch, biased, ugly, racist, you know, name it.

“I’m pretty used to it, to be honest, but I know when co-workers filled in for me, they could be really shocked by the kind of attention they generate.”

Sales also shared how her career in journalism has shown her that life isn’t fair. “I’ve learnt that truisms aren’t true.

“We are told hard work pays off or what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But actually, no, I see examples all the time that proves that false. Hard work doesn’t always pay off.

“We talk a lot about talent, hard work, and ambition, but luck is one of the most overlooked things in life.

“I would not have done what I did if I wasn’t really lucky. It involves being in the right place at the right time.

“I think it’s important to know that you can be the hardest working and the most disciplined person, and things can still not work out. Life can just smack you in the face.

“Hilary Clinton is the perfect example of that, she runs for president in 2008, and it turns out she was running against a one-in-a-lifetime candidate Barack Obama, She finally secures the nomination in 2016, and Donald Trump came along.

“The one thing I have absolutely learnt through my work is that life is not fair.”

Sales also spoke about the women she’s worked alongside. “For almost all of my career, I’ve had male bosses, and they’ve all been fantastic. I’ve worked with so many awesome men, and they’ve found ways for me to work flexibly.

“But so many of the opportunities I’ve been given have often been because of the woman I work with.”

Sales gave a very warm shoutout to ABC’s Lisa Miller. She said: “Our working and personal relationship goes back decades. When we feel like firing off an angry email to someone, we send it to each other instead. She’s also the person I workshop sticky interviews with.

“My peers like Lisa and Annabelle Crabb and the female journalist generations ahead of us, plus all the women below me that I’ve learnt so much from. There are the people that have kept me going.”

Sales also shared how important it is for women to work alongside women, “Having women around who understand the challenges but who can be sounding boards but also there as a support is invaluable.”

Sales said working with women taught her “Leadership, human nature and the power of community!”

Her speech was frank, moving and honest. Somehow, Sales managed to capture the nuance of being a woman in the media who wants to be defined by more than just the fact that she is a woman. 

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