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Women in Media - Janice Williams



Welcome to MediaScope's new series where we ask inspirational 'Women in Media' about their career and experiences in our industry.  Our aim is to create awareness of the opportunities and ongoing challenges for women in the media, marketing, advertising and publishing industry - and hopefully generate some level of conversation within companies and employers of our capabilities and needs. 

Name:      Janice Williams
Company: Universal Magazines
Role:        Publisher

Tell us about your industry background?Janice Williams - Universal Magazines - Women in Media

I started out doing something nobody does in publishing any more – typesetting.  I was producing a bunch of Industry Association journals at the time I met Prema Perera who was looking for staff to set up Universal Magazines.  There were 6 of us then, and 140 now; a few years passed in between.  This is an unusual trajectory but there’s pleasure in taking ownership and being highly accountable.  Being in a small business that grew has been interesting – granted, tough at times – but there’s a real satisfaction for all of our team at Universal in growing something from small beginnings. 

What is your role and what do you do?

As Publisher I am responsible for the P&L and overall performance of a number of publications and departments.  Depending on the team members involved, I function as advisor or director.  This boils down to providing structure and challenge for people with commercial or creative talents.

How do you personally manage your work/life balance?

Like a lot of media folk I am always seeing ideas and opportunities and never really switch off, but to balance all that I do keep fit.  I got in to fitness in my 30’s because I needed to, but now run, boot camp and occasionally head for the hills with a backpack on my back.  The mental benefits have been enormous – I work hard but just don’t feel the stress. I used to mediate, but boxing just suits me better – if you work in an office you need to mix in a bit of intense exercise to stay clear and energised.

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

Media is an industry where women can get ahead and frequently do.  All media roles are creative and multidisciplinary, so anyone with a nouse and imagination can do well. We really try to keep an open opportunity here at Universal – we want smart people with application – and go out of our way to say we don’t care if you are gay, straight, male, female, worship a god or a game, or were born and raised in Timbuktu.  In my experience, the prejudices that exist in modern business are rarely on male/female lines and are far more subtle.  If a business makes it clear that it expressly values good work and imagination over some of the other stuff that people get caught up with then subtle prejudices can be challenged, and the business benefits.

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

Media is a great career for women – so see the bigger picture for your organisation and how your role fits in within that.  If the things you do are aligned with overall company objectives then you will forever be positioned as a useful person who gets in and sorts out what needs to be done no matter what the role is.  People who solve problems, improve things around them and work creatively get promoted. 

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

How you respond to things that are beyond your control is crucial. You may have Universal Magazines Logospent the last 3 years building something that looked safe with the old assumptions and risky post-GFC.  So either you bring about an end to the GFC yourself or respond to it as best you can within your own organisation.  This has been difficult for all of us in media, but I feel incredibly positive about who media people have become.  When I talk to people around me there is a much keener sense of what we are doing, far less distraction, and more creativity.  Here at Universal we have quite new staff suggesting ways we can do things smarter/better – everyone has their eyes open and a keener sense of what needs to happen.  As long as you aren’t in some kind of haze of denial about the market around you, this is and incredibly rewarding and fun time to be in media. 

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

Where possible we try to be family-friendly.  This is an industry that isn’t afraid to subcontract creative work out to freelancers, and that is incredibly useful if you are balancing child-raising with career. We’re pretty good at chatting to people about their needs, and assessing how they can be accommodated with the needs of their colleagues and the business.  Work-from-home isn’t for everyone... some people give it a go and get stellar results; others find it remote and disorientating.  Good direct communication is the key.

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

Gruen Transfer on ABC TV makes entertainment of the messages around us – it is fun and thought-provoking.  I find my own media consumption habits shifting and changing – I do more social media than 5 years ago and subscribe to many more International feeds.  That said, rarely does a weekend go by without dipping in to the Sydney Morning Herald – the content is good quality and yes I would pay more for it. 

For business I read more books than magazines. I could never bring myself to look at the business section of the bookstore  - perhaps something to do with all of those shouty headings and primary colours – but now it’s all at my finger tips on the Kindle I’ve become voracious.  I love reading some of our own magazines – WellBeing, Grand Designs and even Road Rider – they get taken home for private consumption – I want to know what they have to say, and it just doesn’t feel like work.  Monocle has also grabbed my attention in recent years; even some of the more esoteric mags like Project (If I can suffer the download time), idN, Wired, etc. I read more now than ever before and am far less loyal – willing to pay $10-20 for anything that seems new or creative. Really - it’s a great time to browse... and a great time to be in media.

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

Any comments? - please go to MediaScope's Facebook page and don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to meet other Women in Media.

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Other Profile Articles

 - Women in Media - introducing this new profile series

 - Digital People - over the past 2 and a half years we've profiled over 95 of the most well-known and experienced people in the Australian digital media industry through trade site - Digital Ministry

 - Media Owners - 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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