Currently NSW group head, agency sales at customer insights and measurement company Quantcast, Hannah Cooper knows a thing or two about leadership in the often-complex digital marketing space. But despite working in the world of data and analytics, it’s the powerful tool of emotion Cooper most relies on.
Even with her senior role at Quantcast, Cooper has taken one of her most significant steps in terms of leadership in the last year.
“In the last 12 months I’ve gone from having no mentors to four,” she tells B&T. “It’s been a really steep learning curve but one I would highly recommend.”
“Being able to bounce my ideas off of them and talk through my feelings gives me much more well-rounded advice than always having to burden my husband with my continued mind loops.”
Sharing ideas with her husband is just one example of the importance Cooper places on life outside of work.
She is extremely aware of how impactful external factors can be, especially from a leadership standpoint.
It is here where she relies on her emotional intelligence (EQ).
“Everybody is human, everyone is affected by factors outside of their 9-5 job and if you, as a leader, cannot pick up on those cues and be empathetic, then your team is never going to truly trust you,” she says.
“In my opinion, a true leader is someone who has a balance of being commercially-minded and people-minded.
“I place a lot of value on emotional intelligence. If they’re empathetic and I can sense that their values shine through in how they lead, I’m more inclined to trust somebody and feel a sense of authenticity. I strive to get this balance right everyday in order to be a good leader to those around me and trust me, it’s no easy feat!”
Technology: the question or the answer?
Working for a company that specialises in AI-powered advertising solutions, Cooper knows just how powerful such technology can be.
But is it powerful enough to resolve issues of gender imbalance and inequality in the industry?
“The good thing about internet-era companies being relatively new is that they’ve had the chance to address and build solutions into their foundations,” she says.
“Tech is leading the charge when it comes to rounding out people’s experiences at work, taking them more for who they are as a person rather than just who they are professionally.”
However, she also points to Amazon’s recent HR automation tool debacle, where the tech giant was forced to shut down an experimental AI recruiting tool after it realised it was discriminating against women.
“The data, unfortunately, reflected the biases that still exist in the real world, revealing we have a long way to go. We need to change if we don’t want our future to reflect the past,” said Cooper.
Female-focused vs people-focused
There is no doubt technology can power some level of change. However, to continue promoting diversity in the technology space requires the industry to look at the structures currently in place.
This is where the discussion of female-focused versus a people-focused approach comes into play.
“All decisions should be made with a people-focused approach based purely on skill, performance and emotional intelligence, regardless of gender,” Cooper says.
“But until we get to a place where we have equal representation within the talent pool, we need to be creating more opportunities to even out the scale. So this gives merit to a more female-focused approach, or as I like to call it ‘forced-diversity approach’.
“At the end of the day, it takes a leader who is conscious of the differences – the underrepresentation of females, the lack of diversity and pre-existing biases – and is willing to place these issues at the front of their agenda in order to create real change.”
Continue the conversation and hear from some of Australia’s leading female technologists at B&T’s inaugural Women Leading Tech awards gala lunch on 8 April 2020 at Linseed House, The Grounds of Alexandria, 7a/2 Huntley St, Alexandria.