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Women in Media - Cathy O'Connor

Welcome to MediaScope's profile series where we ask 'Women in Media' about their career and experiences in our industry.

This time I'm pleased to present arguably the most senior woman in our industry - CEO of dmg Radio - Cathy O'Connor.

Thanks to Cathy for taking the time to get involved.

Name:    Cathy O'ConnorWomen in Media - Cathy O'Connor
Company:  dmg Radio (broadcasters of Nova, SmoothFM, Fiveaa, Koffee, Novanation)
Role:     CEO

Tell us about your industry background?

I've been in radio for 27 years.  I commenced in sales roles, then moved to Sales Manager, General Manager and Managing Director.  I was appointed CEO of dmg Radio Australia in October 2008.

What is your role and what do you do?

As CEO of dmg Radio I oversee the development and implementation of company strategy.  I'm accountable to shareholders for delivering profit growth and future plans for evolution of the business in a changing world.

How do you personally manage your work/life balance?

While I have a busy life, I exercise most days, so ensure I stay fit which I think allows me to fit more in to life.  A good Executive Assistant (EA), supportive partner, lots of help around the home and an ability to survive on limited sleep all help!  I’m a morning person essentially but also happy to multi task at nights and get the work done.

Please outline your views on the general media market & the position of women?

The more women in leadership positions we see, the more role models we have.  It takes supportive CEO’s, both male and female, to help shape a flexible culture around women’s needs in their careers.

On the content side, women make a valuable contribution across the board but in commercial talk radio, they are under represented on the air as principal hosts of big shows.  Companies need proactive strategies to ensure a gender balance in content creation.  Many programmers hide behind the excuse that “people don’t like hearing women on the radio.” I think that this dynamic is created by the industry as we don’t put the same effort and belief into promoting female talent, particularly in talk radio.  Our talk radio station Fiveaa in Adelaide would be the exception to this with a history of females across daytime shifts, such as afternoons.  More broadly, commercial FM radio creates more opportunities for women.

The position of women is directly related to the senior executives of any media company and the culture they build.  Proactive strategies about working conditions that support women (and men) in managing for flexible work /life conditions will shift the number of women in senior roles.  This is a leadership issue and requires belief and commitment at the top.

What advice can you offer to women who are considering a long-term career in our industry?

My advice would be to see it as that, a long term pursuit.  Ideally create a career plan for yourself that allows you to maintain skills as the media industry progresses.  That doesn’t mean that career breaks aren’t possible, but staying connected and continuing to learn is essential to ensure the opportunities are there in future.

What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

There are always the challenges of strategies and plans that don’t always deliver.  It’s important to measure what you expect and have the courage to change direction when it’s required.  And use the learnings to inform future moves.  Again, in an industry like media where things happen increasingly quickly, thus the ability to adapt and change strategy as the situation requires is a very important skill.

Most of my biggest professional challenges have come by not having the right people in key roles.  Develop a good network of talent and manage performance of existing staff consistently.

What can our industry do right now to better recognise & support women & families?

It’s all about supporting flexible work environments and conditions, and holding senior executives responsible for retaining good talent through a customised approach to their wellbeing and satisfaction in the role.

What’s your favourite business and personal magazine, site or program?

My consumption is pretty broad and I look at a quite a few different types of media. In terms of media more related to business Harvard Business Review is always good for recent research and thought into various disciplines around business and leadership.

I also like Smart Company, Business Spectator, Mediaweek Morning Report and Mediaweek TV, Mumbrella and The Hoopla.

If you know a 'Woman in Media' you'd like to see profiled please get in touch with your suggestion.


Further Resources

 - Digital People Profiles - over the past 3 and a half years we've profiled 100 of the most well-known and experienced people in the Australian digital media industry through trade site - Digital Ministry

 - Media Owner Profiles - we ask some of Australia's most successful media owners about running their business and ask them to offer advice to other media owners


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