IMAA launches Female Leaders of Tomorrow

By AdNews | 1 August 2023
Cathy O'Connor and Wendy Gower.

Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA) today launched Female Leaders of Tomorrow as part of its commitment to fostering diversity and inclusivity.

The mentoring program will run in Sydney and Melbourne with senior marketing leaders and executives from major media organisations helping to guide and support emerging female media leaders.

The six-month program aims to create a support network between accomplished industry leaders and up-and-coming women in indie media agencies.

In Sydney, mentors include Cathy O’Connor (CEO at oOh!media), Lauren Joyce (Chief Strategy & Connections Officer at ARN), Nikki Rooke (Sydney Sales Director at Nine), Lara Brownlow (Head of Channel Sales APAC at LinkedIn), Mark Fairhurst (Executive General Manager at QMS), Liam Loan-Lack (Head of Marketing APAC & Canada at CMC Markets), Melinda Petrunoff (Country Manager at Pinterest) and Gaye Steel (Marketing and Content Director Consultant and Academic Lecturer at Torrens University Australia).

In Melbourne, mentors include Andrea Salmon (National Head of Audio Sales at SCA), Peter Whitehead (Chief Commercial Officer at ARN), Natalie Warren-Smith (Head of Strategic Marketing at Westpac), Emma Fulford (Head of Marketing at Smiggle), Rachel Page (Network Digital Sales Director at the Seven Network) Amanda Connors (Global Chief Marketing Officer at Total Beauty Network) and Karl Winther (Chief Marketing Officer at Kogan).

“While the media sector slowly makes headway in diversity and inclusion, there remains much to do," says Cathy O’Connor, CEO of oOh! Media.

"Women in leadership roles drive business outcomes yet remain underrepresented across most organisations. I commend the IMAA on this important initiative and look forward to sharing my experiences and accelerating the professional development for these leaders of tomorrow.”

The program  will be facilitated by Wendy Gower, the trainer and coach behind WeGrow, which specialises in mentoring for the communications industry.

“It’s so important to encourage and nurture our female leaders of tomorrow and to provide them with advice and support from leaders at the top of their game, so mentees feel encouraged and confident to grow their careers. It’s an exciting initiative from the IMAA and one I am proud to support. As facilitator I will help coach and guide the mentor and mentee sessions to ensure the programme is a success for everyone,” Gower said.

The initiative is part of the IMAA’s commitment to addressing inequality across the media landscape.

According to 2022 data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, just 22.3% of CEOS in Australian businesses are women, while only 20% of companies have boards with gender balance.

IMAA DE&I council chair Angela Smith says research shows having more women in key decision-making positions contributes to improved company performance and yet, women are still grossly under-represented in leadership roles across the media sector.

"That’s why the IMAA is committed to running this program - to nurture female talent within the independent media sector," she says.

“Ultimately, our vision is that this program will support an increase in the number of women in senior leadership roles in our industry long-term, while also helping emerging female leaders develop their skills and gain practical, real-life insights and advice that they can apply to their careers.

“This is the first step in our commitment to deepening diversity and inclusivity across the media landscape – it represents a significant investment in the future of our industry. By equipping talented individuals with the necessary tools and resources, we’re hoping to nurture a new generation of leaders who will shape the industry’s future and drive innovation.”

Program facilitator Wendy Gower says the program holds immense value as it aims to empower and cultivate the female leaders of tomorrow, granting them a unique opportunity to connect with accomplished and respected leaders across the media and marketing community.

“Our primary goal is to inspire and guide our mentees, providing them with invaluable advice and unwavering support as they progress in their careers," she says.

"Our expectation is that the mentorship offered through this programme will instil confidence, provide encouragement, and equip mentees with the necessary tools to achieve both growth and success.

“In my capacity as a facilitator, I have been intricately involved in shaping the programme to ensure its effectiveness and relevance and have prepared a number of resources and collateral, tailor-made for both mentors and mentees, to facilitate a seamless and enriching mentoring experience.”

IMAA CEO Sam Buchanan says this is the most significant initiative for the IMAA since the Diversity Council was founded in 2022.

"There is nothing like our program of Female Leaders of Tomorrow in the industry and is a fantastic opportunity for emerging female leaders in our member agencies," he says.

"I would also like to thank our amazing mentors, who will generously give their time and expertise to the lucky mentees for this program.”

The program will officially launch with networking events in Sydney on Tuesday, September 5, and Melbourne Tuesday, September 12, at oOh! offices.

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