MFA Hall of Fame 2023 inductee Belinda Rowe reflects on the honour and the importance of developing DE&I in the industry

“It’s also a great honour to be part of a very talented and successful bunch of inductees”

The Media Federation of Australia (MFA) celebrated the work and influence of industry icon Belinda Rowe at the awards evening last Thursday at the Winx Stand of Randwick Racecourse.

Her 30-year career has seen her work for Mojo, ZenithOptimedia, Publicis Media and 02. She is also an independent non-executive director for Sky News Zealand, 3P Learning and ARN Media.

Rowe spoke to Mediaweek about joining the Hall of Fame, her thoughts on the industry’s current state, how DE&I can be improved, and the year ahead.

Rowe on being inducted into the MFA Hall of Fame

Rowe said she was grateful to be inducted into the MFA Hall of Fame. “It’s also a great honour to be part of a very talented and successful bunch of inductees.”

“The best part of receiving it has been the reconnection to so many colleagues and friends that I have had the pleasure to work with over the last 30 years. There has been quite a bit of reminiscing and reflections!”

On stage at the MFA Awards, Rowe was treated to a video reel featuring tributes and messages from her industry friends and former colleagues.

“I loved seeing all those faces, colleagues and friends who are such great people – smart and highly respected leaders who have all made a big impact across the industry. It brought back so many wonderful memories,” she said.
Rowe shared that hearing their humbling words and colourful stories reminded her of their journeys and what they all did to “change, evolve and grow the industry.”
“Every one of them are game changers,” she added.

MFA - Belinda Rowe with Peter Horgan

Belinda Rowe with Peter Horgan

Reflecting on the current state of the industry and the challenges ahead

Looking back at the MFA Awards, Rowe was encouraged to see energy, vibrancy, and a passion for making an impact in the industry through their work.

“It was brilliant to observe a strong spirit of team, all supporting and recognising each other and a genuine focus on creating change for the betterment of the industry.

“This is something special, particularly when, in the background, there are continued efforts and discussions on truly valuing the impact of media to the economic benefit of agencies or the constant challenge of remaining relevant in transformational times,” she added.

While she does have a positive outlook for the industry, there are still challenges to overcome. For Rowe, a particular challenge is ensuring the industry is properly valued. She explained that this can be done by allowing people time and space to think, innovate and be creative to engage brands and customers.

“This doesn’t mean automating to speed things up, but how does it make the industry smarter and more effective,” she said.

“It’s easy to connect to people with the use of technology, but it seems harder to truly connect with people,” she added.

Rowe also highlighted the increasing debate on whether media is a force for good or bad. She explained that the industry has the opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness in uniting people through live and local events, engaging in sports and entertainment, and how brands interrelate within it.

“Being involved with media through ARN Media and Sky NZ, I see the power of localness and the importance and value of connection with people.”

MFA Belinda Rowe - 4

Continuing the development of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the industry

In her Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Rowe’s key point highlighted the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the industry.

Rowe told Mediaweek that while the industry is more diverse and equitable than before, there was still more to do to ensure it continues to evolve and develop.

“I’d like to see a continued and further focus on gender diversity, but also broader diversity by embracing cultural, ethnic, and sexual, to name a few.

“The industry needs to represent more of how Australia looks and feels.”

Rowe shared that this can be done through building programs to attract people from various cultures and capabilities. She also highlighted the industry coming together to create mentoring programs that get them out of their own agencies to experience broader knowledge and offer different experiences across the sector.

Rowe said: “To ensure there is leadership development so people are ready to be the future leaders of this sector and to be proactive on inclusion. The media industry provides a strong platform and opportunity for so many.

“The sector has much more to offer than it has ever previously, which enables different people with different skills, backgrounds, and mindsets to come together and have successful careers. And we know through evidence that diversity is good for business,” she added.

Rowe on her new portfolio career and mentoring up-and-coming leaders

Rowe is enjoying her new portfolio career as a non-executive director on ASX-listed and non-ASX-listed companies.

“It is exceptionally fulfilling to be able to provide a contribution to the future growth and transformation of companies and support their capability building of teams and leaders,” she said.

Looking ahead, Rowe said that she hopes to continue to support companies and leaders to ensure a meaningful and valuable difference is made.

“As part of this is investing time in how organisations embrace, adapt and innovate in areas of technology, AI, ESG, and, importantly, putting customers and people at the forefront of change,” she added.

Rowe also said that she is enjoying mentoring up-and-coming leaders.

“One of my exciting projects is partnering with leading Australian businesswomen within Minerva Network to ensure professional women in sport are recognised and there are more women on sporting boards,” Rowe added.

See also: Initiative Australia wins Grand Prix at the 2023 MFA Awards

Top image: Belinda Rowe

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