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Women in Media - Sophie Madden

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 CEO of The Media Federation of Australia (MFA) - Sophie Madden.

Thanks to Sophie for getting involved.

Name:  Sophie Madden   
Company: The Media Federation of Australia
Role: CEO

Tell us about your industry background?Women in Media - Sophie Madden - Media Federation of Australia

I moved to Sydney when I was 17 and started as a ‘Typist’ (a job that no longer exists anymore!), at one of the first Independent Media Agencies - ‘Shipley, Webster, Farr and Partners’.  

More than 25 years on in the Media Industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work at Full service agencies, Independent Media Agencies and in Client roles at a local, regional and global level.   I joined the MFA as CEO in February of this year.

What is your role and what do you do?

I was thrilled to take on the first CEO role of the MFA, as I felt it gave me a real opportunity to play a significant role in shaping and influencing this Industry for the future. 

My role is to grow the value of our industry to our clients, our members and our partner media organisations through our core focus areas of People, Process and Performance.

On a day to day basis, this involves things like running committees, being a spokesperson for the Industry, developing initiatives with our team and committees, working closely with the other Industry bodies and keeping everyone focussed on our core purpose and strategy.

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

I’m not sure I like the term work/life balance, because I find it hard to separate the two.   I’m married and have 3 busy kids aged 5, 11 and 15.  I’m really fortunate to have a great husband who manages everything at home.  There came a point a number of years ago where we made the decision that both of us working in high demand jobs, just wasn’t right for us.  So we gave up the nanny and the childcare and my husband quit his full time job and took over at home.

For me, I’ve learnt that flexibility is key and that what works for me and my husband, might not be the right solution for us tomorrow and is not the right solution for everyone. 

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

I’ve worked in this industry for over half my life and I love it.  It’s dynamic, exciting and full of really smart, passionate people.  Working outside of Agencies, has given me a broad perspective across other Industries and types of businesses.  I believe that I am lucky to be part of the media industry and working with so many great people.

There are a lot of amazing women working in this industry.  Sure I would like to see more in the top senior leadership roles, but I’m fairly confident that this will happen over time.  I don’t support employing people for genders sake only, as I would hate to have a role feeling that I wasn’t the best candidate for the job. 

I also believe that women’s choices are a factor in the number of women in senior leadership roles.  I have a lot of female friends who are more than capable of being senior leaders, but have chosen to take a different path because that was right for them.  You have to respect people’s choices.

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

To go for it, aim high and find a good mentor (male or female).

Male or female, I think being flexible and open minded to different opportunities is really important.  A diversified skill set is critical nowadays and this may mean some sideways moves along the way. 

I’ve never been very good at setting career goals and development plans to get there, looking back I wish I had been better at that.  This includes things like not being shy about putting your hand up for challenges that help get you noticed and learning about and taking some P&L/commercial accountability.

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

I am my worst critic, so I think my biggest challenge has been to overcome ‘that little voice in my head’ to trust myself and push myself out there.   I’m still working on it!

I’m fortunate to have worked with some great leaders and co-workers who have supported me and pushed me along the way. 

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

One of the most important things I learnt when I had children is that everyone is different and has different needs.  There is no one solution for everyone and therefore flexibility is so important. 

One of the hardest things I found was how to return to work, particularly for those people that have taken a long break.  We work in such a fast paced industry that it can be particularly daunting to get up to speed when you’ve been out of it for a while.  Transitioning people (not just women) back to work after they have had a career break is an area that I think we could do more in.

I also think we could do more working with Clients on how to provide flexible working solutions.

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

I try to keep up with all the trade press through the online bulletins.

I’m a junkie for consumer mags, lifestyle, food, gossip, Women’s, as many of them I can get my hands on!

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