Sarah Melrose on International Women’s Day: Three things we can all do to drive greater female leadership

ADMATIC - Sarah Melrose

“There is more to be done across the board to elevate women into the majority of leadership positions”

By Sarah Melrose, managing partner of ADMATIC

The latest media agencies census by the MFA in February 2023, saw a pleasing result for women, in that women in leadership positions has risen to 46% up from 43% the previous year across media agencies.
This statistic is even better when comparing to the national average of females in leadership positions, which sits at 34.5%. Whilst that is clearly a positive trajectory for women in media, the number is still not in line with the volume of females employed in media agencies in Australia – who hold the majority of roles at 62%.
This gap clearly shows there is more to be done across the board to elevate women (who form the majority of the media agency workforce), into the majority of leadership positions.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways we can all help ourselves and other females push towards leadership positions and empowerment:

1. Be more assertive

For a lot of women, being assertive has connotations of being aggressive, but these are very much two different behaviours, especially when writing emails or presenting. Assertiveness isn’t being rude. A clear confident tone isn’t hard to achieve with some simple steps:

Stop apologising: instead of ‘’sorry for the delay’’, try ‘’thanks for your patience’’.
Filler words: next time you write ‘’just’’ in your sentences, just remove it ok? Using ‘just’ gives the sense you are tiptoeing on a subject, and you are not sure or confident of the request. ‘’I’m just checking in’’ becomes ‘’I am following up on this project’’
Self sabotage: women are notorious for putting themselves down or not speaking up. Instead of ‘’I’m not the expert here’’ – simply ask your question or make your point. There is no need to explain and expose that you are not a SME. You want to say something, so say it.

These are just a few examples of how to write and speak more confidently in a world where we may not feel it. For more tips and confidence boosting I can’t recommend Mavens enough.

What can you do? Change your language to drive confidence and assertiveness in your communication style.
2. Speak up
Literally – get out there, write for the trade press, speak at conferences, put your hand up to be a mentor if you are in a position to do so. If women don’t help other women by flying the flag how will we ever change the balance?
In recent years, there has been extensive coverage and highlighting of the problem with manels. After that situation put the issue into the light, and an all-male-panel tumbr account was created to showcase the worst offenders, the industry has made good progress to address the speaker balance across many conferences. If the majority of the workforce in media agencies are female, why does it make sense to have the minority speak as the subject matter experts?
A great example of this to see, is the programmatic summit ran by Ashton Media. At first glance a few weeks ago, most of the speakers were male at 72%. Upon highlighting this to the producers, the team at Ashton media have worked proactively and effectively to address this so that the conference now sits at a gender balanced 50:50 between male and female speakers.
What can you do?
Volunteer to speak at the next conference. If this seems daunting, have a look at previous female speakers, get in touch and see if they will help coach you into your first speaking slot. I personally, am happy to do that for anyone that would like to get up there and change the ratio.
Secondly, if you see an all star manel – call it out! Email the conference producers highlighting the lack of gender balance, even better if you can offer a name for a female alternative speaker.
*manel definition: panel made up of entirely male spokespeople.
3. Be a champion for other women
No matter what your gender, you can be a champion for other women. Do you have great female talent in your team? Put them forwards for opportunities, and champion them into positions of leadership.
If you’re speaking at a conference, or have been asked to contribute to trade press or other publications – consider giving up your spot to an esteemed female colleague, in order to change the ratio.
If you’re in a position to do so, offer up yourself as a mentor to women.
If you’re female and reading this, join a network to support yourself and develop your skills. There are many out there specifically designed to empower women but here are two of my favourites:
Join the women in programmatic network
Join SheSays who offer free mentorship and networking
See also:
ADMATIC managing partner Sarah Melrose on expanded role with her team and their clients

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