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Women in Media - Karen Halligan - Slingshot Media

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

This time I'm pleased to present Karen Halligan - General Manager of Slingshot Media.

Thanks to Karen for getting involved.

Name:           Karen Halligan
Company:     Slingshot Media
Role:             General Manager

Tell us about your industry background?Women in Media - Karen Halligan - Slingshot Media

I started in advertising in a small creative agency as a receptionist, within 6 months I was off reception and very involved in both media and production, after doing both I decided that media was definitely my preference.  

I have worked in various media agencies mainly running large clients like P&G, Coles Myer and Yum Restaurants.  In 2000 I was approached by Coke for a role in the Media and Sponsorship team. This experience gave me two things - clarity over how an agency can help clients by truly focussing on outcomes and an unforgettable experience over the Sydney Olympics….!

Four years ago after my second child I was lucky enough to run into Simon Rutherford, he had just started an independent media agency and he asked me to join - I have never looked back. I now get to do the work I love, with people I love and without the politics.

What is your role and what do you do?

I am the General Manager at Slingshot and one of the partners, the main thing I enjoy is that every day is different as my role is quite diverse. I work closely with our clients on their marketing goals, work with the media owners on negotiations, contribute to our new business plans and manage our fast growing team.

I really enjoy interacting with our clients and I love new business - I find it challenging, fun and really invigorating.

What are your family circumstances and how do you manage your work/life balance?

I have three beautiful girls who are 3, 4 and 7 so life can be crazy at times. I am lucky to have a hands-on husband and to work in a business that offers flexibility. I suspect I am one of the few GM's who works a four day week, this allows me time to be involved in school, get the housework done and enjoy family time.

I used to feel guilty about where my focus was - potentially too focussed on work and not enough time for family or me but a while back I decided to drop the guilt.  Now I just enjoy what I am doing at the time instead of thinking about what else I should be doing.  I also surround myself with people who do not judge and have stepped back from those who do.

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

It is a really fun and interesting time to be a part of the media industry, the rate of change and the opportunities this offers us all to learn and grow are fabulous.  I still really love what we do and navigating ways for clients to grow through new and emerging channels makes this all the more interesting. 

I am however concerned at the lack of senior women in the industry, in particular those with families. We need successful role models and a supportive industry so that women can see that it is possible to have a family and maintain a career in media.

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

My advice on having a successful career in this industry is the same for men and women and it falls under 3 buckets:-

  • Keep current - the industry is changing if you don't embrace it you will become irrelevant
  • Be nice - this is and always will be an industry based on relationships
  • Find a role you love - you just do a better job when you do

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

I think that being honest with myself and others has been the best way to overcome challenges as they come up.   I have at times found myself in roles that I didn't enjoy, with bosses I didn't like, being unfairly treated when I had a family, with staff that were hard to manage and with clients that perhaps might not see things the way I did.  Honesty in all of these cases has helped me navigate through challenging circumstances.

I also think that every problem has a solution so I take time to stop and think through all options on what solutions exist.

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

The only way for change to happen is to drive awareness of where there are issues, acknowledge that something needs to be done and then bring together senior people who can implement change.

One step would be to collect and publish statistics to highlight what is actually happening and then focus on improving them.  I personally would like to know male/female salary averages for the same levels, entry level salaries by gender, number of part time women, why people are leaving the industry etc.

The reality is there is a lot that we could do we just need to make it a focus at an industry and company level.

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

Favourite for work is probably mumbrella or Women’s Agenda.

Favourite sites for personal is usually any site that offers free delivery or can save me time – online shopping is a godsend!


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 years we've profiled over 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


Other Pages of Interest