Wayman: ‘Angela Jolie Award’ for staffer who benefitted from colleague being on maternity leave
Australia’s largest radio company Southern Cross Austereo gives condoms to its staff in Perth to discourage them from having babies, an executive has revealed.
Speaking at the Mumbrella Perth conference, Linda Wayman, who is boss of SCA’s two Perth stations Mix 94.9 and Hit 929, told the debate on recruitment and culture that of her 100 staff, a third are either on maternity leave or covering a position for someone who is. She said: “Thirty five per cent of my staff at the moment are on a maternity leave contract or maternity leave and that’s significant.”
And she revealed: “We do have a big jar of condoms at work. I’m not lying, I’m not exaggerating. I do encourage people regularly, to have sex with condoms. That is a big area of focus for me, encouraging people to have sex with condoms.”
Wayman’s comments come ahead of International Women’s Day, which takes place this Sunday. Southern Cross Austereo is one of Australia’s biggest broadcasting companies, with radio interests including rock network Triple M and Today’s Hit network, which rebranded from the Today Network late last year.
Wayman told the audience she tried to support staff who were new mothers but was opposed to any legislation entitling them to come back in part time roles. She warned: “I don’t agree with the union push at the moment that women coming back to work, automatically should be allowed to come back part time. I’d love to, but I’d be lying if I said that was wonderful. It’s an idealistic and anti-commercial stance.”
The audio from the session. Wayman’s comments can be heard from 33 minutes in.
She warned that in an industry as demanding as radio staff did not always get to work normal hours. She said: “We try very hard to do that in our organisation but we’re a 24-7 organisation and with the turnaround times with clients it becomes very difficult from a customer service point of view.”
However, Wayman said that staff could benefit when a colleague took a career break while away on maternity leave.
Referring to celebrity Angelina Jolie, who has adopted three children, Wayman said: “Our acting brand director for Hit 929 at our Christmas party last year received the Angelina Jolie Award, for the person who has benefitted most for other people’s pregnancies. Her substantive position is as integration coordinator. If women weren’t pregnant then she would not have got this turbo-charged career opportunity.”
Wayman said parents who continue to work must face the fact that they will be under pressure, and that the idea that work-life balance could easily be achieved was “bullshit”.
She said: “We do try to be flexible. We have all sorts of arrangements at our work place. In some industries it’s a very difficult thing.
“I’ve been in the same position myself twice. It is very very tough. You have to make a decision, ‘I’m going to have a baby and then I’m just going to go for it’.
“There’s no such thing as work-life balance, it’s bullshit, you just do it. Make the decision to do the best you can.”
She told the conference that it was also up to spouses to do more to support working women. She said: “As a leader I do my best to help women and men who make those decisions.
“We had a breakfast host who had a huge work ethic. She had a baby, then another one. She used to do breakfast, then the house cleaning because her husband wanted to go surfing. I offered to go and shove a vacuum cleaner up his arse because that’s how supportive I am of our female staff.”
Ray: Agency let her work from home
However, fellow panelist Alison Ray, head of strategy at The Brand Agency in Perth, said it was possible for women to gradually come back to big roles in the media and marketing industry through a part time return.
She said: “It’s a very hard thing to manage. I had this idea by the time I had kids I would be out of this industry. But The Brand Agency has been extremely supportive for me.
“Initially, I worked part time from home. By six months I was in three days a week, by eight months four days a week. They’ve been very good to me. I realised I’m much better at advertising than I am at staying at home.”
She said she agreed with Wayman’s view on unrealistic expectations about work-life balance, saying: “It’s hard, there is no work-life balance.”
Ray added: “It’s not easy, it’s quite tiring but it definitely can be done.
“I don’t think this industry has always been nice to women. As a manager the first thing they go is ‘oh crap’ You know they are a resource to lose who will spend next 12 weeks throwing up under your desk.
“I feel guilty all the time that I’m not working hard enough. I go home, put my little boy to bed then work for another four hours.”
Chris O’Keefe, managing director of media agency Initiative Perth, said that the situation was slightly better than in other states.
He said: “The four hour work week is not true and probably not possible. But I do feel like I’ve got a work-life balance. The balance works in Perth. In Sydney it’s a lot more difficult.
“In Sydney no way I could do the kids’ pickup by the time clients stop calling, and then you can’t get through the traffic. Perth clients are fantastic. If you get big problems or small problems you very rarely get a call after 5pm.”