Breaking down barriers: Women in Media Group on diversity in the industry

In the wake of New Zealand’s Women in Media (WiM) Group launching, we talk to its board about the idea behind the group and how it’s promoting diversity in the industry.

What was the idea behind Women in Media (WiM) Group?

Group: The idea came when a couple of us met at an industry event and happened to look around us and see… a room full of men. This sparked a conversation about the need for a new forum where women in our industry could come together and be themselves, learn from each other, share experiences, and have an opportunity to build relationships they may not otherwise be able to.

What was your motivation for Women in Media?

We’ve all faced challenges in our careers without an outlet or the right opportunity to discuss and process — things like gender bias, bullying, lack of role models and regular career stress. Like anything, these challenges subside, but it still took time – if WiM can help people in a similar situations deal with these challenges, those people can move forward faster and we can progress the industry for the better.

What is your background in media? (alphabetical) 

Our amazing board is made up of: Chelsea Came, account director at experiential marketing agency Brand Spanking; Daile Stephens, marketing manager at Subaru New Zealand; Kali Nadin, account director at D3; Nicky Greville, client services Director at MBM; Sarah Henry, editorial director of lifestyle, food, fashion, home and health at Bauer Media Group; Sophie Radford, business director at MediaCom. 

We have a mixture of backgrounds, from publishing media to digital and media agencies, marketing and PR for global and local brands and tech start-ups. Each of us has been working in the industry for 5-15+ years. 

What are some of the challenges women have in media?

Despite some wonderful jumps forward and some empowering female leaders, we think that women still feel the need to modify themselves to progress and get a seat at the table, from their behaviour or their language to their working approach. 

There’s still a lot of entrenched behaviours that are difficult to navigate for women, particularly mums and those with different cultural backgrounds: meetings after five, meetings over ‘beers’, the expectation of working late all the time and so on. 

These challenges are apparent across most industries to be fair and while this is rapidly improving in our industry, there is still a huge desire for open discussion and ongoing support to further breakdown these barriers.

In the announcement of WiM Group you say you hope to present the opportunity for women to remove the professional wall they put up in order to show up effectively in the workplace. What is this wall? 

The thought that you have to tough it out. The thought that emotions must be parked at the door. The thought that you should hide the ‘other’ side of your life.

It comes down to the idea of support. It’s common for women to feel like they are the only one who might be struggling while everyone else is holding it together when in reality we all have days when we’re on fire and others when the balls are definitely in a pile on the floor. Openly acknowledging that can only be a good thing.

Do you think the industry has a diversity issue?

If we looked at the industry overall the ratio of male to female would look reasonable, however, the disparity really comes to light when we look at that ratio in senior leadership positions and technology-led teams.

On a similar note, Auckland is one of the world’s most multicultural cities yet our media industry there does not seem to reflect that in their workforce, so as a result doesn’t necessarily represent those diverse views. How can we produce strategies and ideas that resonate with New Zealanders if we don’t represent them well in our workforce?

How can we help promote diversity in the media industry?

Media today is so diverse and the career track possibilities are endless, yet people don’t always think of media in that way. We’ve got a fantastic opportunity to open up some of those areas to people and help them think about media in a different and new light. Let’s not forget that this industry is fun!

We should be making sure that the next wave of brilliant young people from all genders and backgrounds know what kinds of opportunities are available to them in the media industry. Beyond that, we need to be equipping them with the information and tools they need to be able to pursue those opportunities. 

It’s important to keep the conversation going and keep these topics being discussed and developed on all levels.

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