“The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do Is Introduce Someone To Your Network!” B&T’s Adlander Of The Year Karla Henwood

“The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do Is Introduce Someone To Your Network!” B&T’s Adlander Of The Year Karla Henwood

Karla Henwood is an executive creative producer at Squeak E. Clean Studios Australia and is also a friend and mentor in her industry.

Here at B&T, we are big fans of Henwood’s work and kindness. This year at our Best of the Best Awards, Henwood won both our Mentor award and our Grandprix Adlander of the Year award.

Of course, our admiration for Henwood goes way back, she won the Mentor award previously in 2019 and Creative Producer Of The Year award at our 2018 Women in Media Awards. If we were still using the words ‘girl boss’, Henwood would be one.

But what makes her so special? How does she keep getting B&Ts attention year after year? Well, Henwood has a reputation as not just a friend to others in her industry but as a fearless mentor. She’s known for frank and thoughtful advice. There’s no bullshit.

She’s also highly respected as an integral part of the team at Squeak E Clean Studios and is behind the soundtrack of some incredible global campaigns, most recently the global launch of the Nintendo OLED, Coca Cola’s “Topo Chico” brand, and many Super Bowl campaigns. 

If that wasn’t impressive enough she started the networking group Chicks in Advertising (CIA). This group boasts over one thousand members on Facebook and is widely recognised in the industry as a place women can form connections for free!

When I asked Henwood what made her want to help people in such a competitive industry, her answer was unsurprisingly straightforward, she said: “In my opinion, the easiest and most powerful thing you can do for someone is to introduce them to your network.

“I worked for many years at Nylon Studios and now Squeak E Clean. Being an EP at a sound and music house meant every day I would meet and work with all of the different creatives, directors, talent, ECDs and producers from every agency.

“Almost monthly I’d be asked, do you know any great midweight agency producers, or have you worked with so and so, what did you think? Agencies were clearly siloed.

“There were in fact great women working in the industry but they were busy getting on with the job or buried under the bullshit, so it was no real surprise they didn’t know one another and some fell through the cracks.

“Sure, the industry had Award shows and networking events, but tickets were, (and still are), very expensive and only ever offered or reserved for the top of the food chain or those who might have award-winning work on the night.”

Henwood’s response to this problem is the stuff of industry folklore. She created a spreadsheet with freelancers, agencies and production people. They were women and men she’d previously worked with, she wanted to create a system where people could help themselves.

Later she made things a little more official and founded Chicks In Advertising. On paper, it all sounds incredibly noble but Henwood saw it as a practical response, “Chicks In Advertising was in no way a new or remarkable concept, but it was still met with a surprising amount of opinions and venom.

“Regardless, it has journeyed on, gaining more relevance and acceptance along the way.”

Still, despite any criticism Henwood may have copped along the way, she’s also helped a lot of women make contacts, get work and continue creating.

Of course, it’s not just about women meeting the right people, it’s also about women being paid equally in the industry, and when I ask Henwood, how we get there, once again, she’s pragmatic,”Yes, the industry needs to make changes, but women and underrepresented groups also need to make changes.

“The industry needs to try harder to ask more questions, digging a little deeper rather than just poaching like for like – is there someone else with transferable skills, is there a woman that we have overlooked that could be a candidate, can we advertise the role outside of our normal channels?

“Women need to realise it is a free market, there are no set wages, so you also need to back yourself, put your hand up, and step forward.

“Being part of a movement that calls out inequality is a good thing, but then sitting down at work and hoping you’ll be just given an extra $20k or $50k in your salary to say “sorry this will make things fair,” is not going to happen, ever.

“So it takes bravery and commitment from both sides to make real changes – and in the end, everyone will benefit.”

Henwood has the vibe of someone wiser and savvier than you, while some people’s activism consists of only posting feminist memes on social media, Henwood actually offers women tangible advice that isn’t watered down. For example, she encourages women starting out in the industry to learn quickly how to set their own boundaries, no matter how hard that can be: 

“Don’t assume people will automatically show you kindness or respect. 

“At some point, you’ll need to set your boundaries for everything – overtime, salary, conversations, nicknames, values etc. 

“It is a culturally fun and fast-moving industry but it’s the way you respect yourself that will gain the respect of others.”

Similarly, when I ask her what advice she’d give to a woman negotiating a salary she remains utterly powerful and practical, “Aside from the obvious gender pay gap that already exists, it’s pretty clear that you’re not going to get a pay rise unless you ask for one. That’s 100 per cent guaranteed. So ask yourself this – when did I last ask for or receive a pay rise? If the answer is never or more than 2 years ago – face your fears and take action!

“Think of it this way, if you don’t ask now, you are showing your employer one of two things – you either don’t think you deserve it, or that you’re not really passionate about progressing your career. 

“Where in fact you’re probably great at your job, incredibly driven but just lacking the confidence to put your hand up and know what boosts confidence, knowledge!

“So do a bit of homework. Find out from a few other people what similar jobs to yours are worth. Call a headhunter, call a friend in the industry to help find you some info, if you’re working in an agency call a production company to see what they pay and vice versa. 

“Call to see what people are paid in Syd vs Melbourne vs Singapore, and how much freelancers in your position are earning and how in-demand they are.”

 Throughout her career, Henwood has continually made an effort to help others.

Not only personal effort, but she has also created systems and platforms to uplift others. It’s why B&T always want to know what Henwood is working on, or what she might do next. Because we know it will be good and she continues to be an asset to our industry and in particular, a touchstone for women in advertising.

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Karla Henwood Squeak E. Clean Studios Australia

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