International Women’s Day: careers, challenges and changes

Ahead of International Women's Day 2021, Mumbrella asked four influential women to share their career journeys and industry thoughts.

Pia Chaudhuri, creative director, BMF Group

  1. What was the best piece of advice you have been given in your career and who was it from? Why has it been invaluable?

Pia Chaudhuri, creative director, BMF Group: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’m slightly cheating here as this quote is from Maya Angelou. It’s something I heard quite early on in my career but it had a huge impact on me. It changed both my style of work, and my ways of working. And in a way, it’s still something that drives me today. I’m hugely passionate about ideas people care about, work that makes a difference to people’s lives, and helping the people in my team be the best they can be.

Fiona Chilcott, chief people officer, Enero: One of the best pieces of advice I received in my career was to spend more time exploring and understanding a problem, rather than jumping straight to solution mode. By spending more time in the explore phase, we avoid making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, and can more accurately understand the problem or issue we are trying to solve. This came from a fantastic leadership development coach I worked with, her name is Shelley McLean.

Jaime Nelson, managing director for Australia, Hotwire: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is about the importance of being an authentic and vulnerable leader. For many leaders, including myself, this somewhat goes against what we think we should be doing. While much of being a leader is leading by example, I’ve learnt the importance of admitting that, in reality, no one person knows everything. This has allowed me to lean into my strengths, and engage with the strengths of others.

Nickie Scriven, CEO, Zenith Australia: I can’t really recall the best piece of advice per say, however I can say that my greatest learnings throughout my career have been to loosen the grip of ambition at times. I liken this to holding on to a bar of soap – if you hold too tight, it can slip through your fingers. But if you relax your grip, it’s often safely in the palm of your hands. I’m one who tends to strive pretty ambitiously towards goals and I certainly did this early in my career. Yet success, progression and opportunity have come when I have been the most content and deeply engaged in the ‘now’, rather than striving towards the next thing.

Fiona Chilcott, chief people officer, Enero

  1. On taking up your current role, what was the biggest adjustment or challenge you faced?

Pia Chaudhuri, creative director, BMF Group: I took up my current role about two months before we went into lockdown. Not only was it my first full-time position following maternity leave, I suddenly found myself having to settle into a new job in the midst of a disaster movie. Learning about new clients, getting to know my new team, and adjusting to WFH around a one-year-old was challenging to say the least. We’ve recently gone back into the office 3 days a week and I’m really enjoying the buzz of being inside the agency again.

Fiona Chilcott, chief people officer, Enero: One of the biggest challenges for me was the complete change in industry type and also size of organisation. I had worked for large organisations prior to joining Enero in both Energy and Finance. Moving into the creative, marketing services industry was so different from what I was used to and required me to do a lot of listening and learning about this dynamic industry. I was also very blessed to work with fantastic female leaders from our agencies such as Christina Aventi, BMF and Barbara Bates, Hotwire’s CEO, who were so generous with their time and in sharing their extensive industry knowledge. Nearly four years on, I can’t imagine working in any other industry.

Jaime Nelson, managing director for Australia, Hotwire: When stepping up into the role of Managing Director of Australia at Hotwire, I was challenged to push myself outside of my comfort zone and come to the practical realisation that it’s not possible to be perfect in all areas of business. I often see fellow women in the industry hesitate when committing to a role or project they don’t fulfil 100% of the criteria for. I’ve learned that leaning into this discomfort and welcoming such challenges provides the best opportunity for growth.

Nickie Scriven, CEO, Zenith Australia: Trying to find balance. Not just work/life balance, but balance with feeling like I am giving enough focus and attention to each market (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane). In the early days, I really struggled with the frequency of travel, having enough quality time with my family, and getting some ‘me time’ to decompress. In this role you get pulled from pillar to post, you’re always juggling multiple priorities and you just have to keep going. The intensity of ongoing new business pitches on top of the day job is also relentless.

What I have learned along the way is that no one is ever going to give you time back. Any gap you have will be filled so you have to take time for the things that are important to you. For me, that’s exercise and I try to always start the day with a run, ride or swim. It helps me to feel energised, prepared, release any pent-up stress, get a great endorphin fix, and hit the ground running each day.

Jaime Nelson, managing director for Australia, Hotwire

  1. When you look around your organisation and the broader industry, how do you think it is tracking in terms of diversity and inclusion?

Pia Chaudhuri, creative director, BMF Group: BMF is actually pretty good in terms of gender equality. Our leadership team is 50/50 and we probably even over-index on women in some departments. I know this isn’t necessarily the case in a lot of agencies. I’ve experienced many a ‘sausage factory’ environment elsewhere, especially in creative departments. I think things are definitely improving though. In my experience, it’s probably the best time it’s ever been to be a female creative.

Fiona Chilcott, chief people officer, Enero: I think we continue to have a long way to go. Enero is in good shape from a gender diversity perspective, we have 50/50 gender balance at the leadership team level. However, like many others in our industry, we still struggle to have a workforce that reflects our society. However, we are all very committed to creating a safe, welcoming and inclusive culture for everyone in our Group. We have global diversity strategies designed to create meaningful change in all of our markets, starting with our recruitment practices and how we can avoid unconscious bias in bringing people into our business.

Jaime Nelson, managing director for Australia, Hotwire: Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a work in progress in the Australian marketing and advertising industry, and something we all need to consciously work at, day in and day out.

I’m proud to see organisations including the Enero Group make commitments and launch initiatives from a place of wanting genuine progress. This year, Hotwire announced it will be supporting marginalised groups with a $1M commitment in services over three years to help advance diversity equity and inclusion in the technology and innovation sector. This is something Hotwire Australia will be opening grant entries for in 2021.

Nickie Scriven, CEO, Zenith Australia: At Zenith and within Publicis Groupe, we’ve made great leaps in terms of having more women in leadership roles. At Zenith, 73% of our leadership team is made up of women, and at a Publicis Groupe level, 63% of our CEO/MDs are women.

I do also genuinely think the media industry as a whole has really embraced this, but there is still a way to go here. I believe men need to embrace this and be champions for this change. When I look at the men in Zenith’s executive team (Jonny Cordony, Warwick Taylor and Josh Lee) I am so enormously proud, as they are all champions for women in leadership, and they genuinely embrace inclusion and diversity.

Across the industry, I think that there is a much bigger opportunity to increase our diversity and inclusion from a multi-cultural perspective, and in particular creating pathways for our First Nations people. This is a key area of focus for me within Zenith and Publicis Groupe. We are actively developing an internship program for First Nations people to create genuine employment pathways. The early stages of this initiative have commenced with education and understanding across our organisation; and I have personally realised how much I didn’t know about Indigenous culture. It’s both humbling and horrifying, and I’m really driven to ensure that even the small steps we take make a genuine difference and start to correct the imbalance of Indigenous representation across our organisation in the future.

Nickie Scriven, CEO, Zenith Australia


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