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Women in Media - Leah Whitford - iOM



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

This time we hear from Leah Whitford - Managing Director of family owned outdoor media business - iOM - and board member with the OMA (Outdoor Media Association)

Thanks to Leah for getting involved.

Name: Leah Whitford
Company: iOM Pty Ltd
Role: Managing Director

Tell us about your industry background?Women in Media - Leah Whitford - iOM

Billboards are a family business. My father started in the golden age of outdoor advertising in the 70’s and I guess that exposure sparked my interest and belief in the medium. When I finished my university degrees I took the well-worn road to London and spent some time in the online space. I was offered an opportunity whilst in London to work with a company constructing signage and neon in Hong Kong. I jumped at the opportunity to work in Asia. It was this launching pad that saw me spend 5 years working in Asia and the Sub-Continent. And here I am 15 years later.

What is your role and what do you do?

Officially Managing Director however running a family company means that it is difficult to pigeon hole yourself in to one role. A big part of my job is being able to helicopter across the whole business whilst still also concentrating on the details - I could be lecturing my team about how to pack the dishwasher whilst reading OMA board papers

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

I am married without kids which certainly gives me a lot more freedom and flexibility than if I had kids. I do believe it is always a challenge to find the right balance between work and life, and particularly when it is a family run and owned business, and it takes the constant resetting of the compass and remembering what is important.

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

The stats show that there are not enough women in senior roles in the media industry and this is probably attributed to the female brain drain that happens at around the 35-40 mark when women make a decision to take an active role in their children’s lives. There is no silver bullet but we need to explore and foster ways for women to be reintroduced to the workforce whilst still balancing their home lives.

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

Maintain some perspective and try not to get caught up in the politics. Give it a go. Media is a dynamic and fun place to work but it also can be ruthless and unrelenting so you need to move through it and get your hands dirty along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take advice from those who have been doing it for a long time, whether they are male or female. And most importantly don’t forget to have a sense of humour.

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

Over the years there have been many challenges from managing difficult personalities both staff and clients, managing conflicting expectations, working in different parts of the world and working with in a male dominated industry. And just when you think you have seen everything a new challenge presents itself.

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

The key word is flexibility and embracing and nurturing different work forces in your organisation. Women of 40 with home commitments are petted against 24 year olds at the start of their career, which is unreasonable and unfair. Leaving for home at 5 should be applauded and not frowned upon if productivity is promoted and the hours spent in the workplace maximised.

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

For business I read AFR and the trade mags (eg. Adnews, Mumbrella) and for fun I love the online Lonny mag and Delicious magazine .

Thank you!

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

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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

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