Q&A with Lisa Squillace: Why we still need International Women’s Day

Ten's national sales director Lisa Squillace has seen a lot in her media career.

Her experience has led her to believe four things, she tells Mumbrella's Vivienne Kelly: We still need International Women's Day, men have a key role to play in championing diversity, you should work for organisations which make you feel human, and you should never, ever read the comments.


Lisa Squillace, national sales director, Network Ten (LS)
Vivienne Kelly, editor, Mumbrella (VK)

VK: Starting off, Lisa, do you think we still need an International Women’s Day?

LS: Yes I do.

I think it’s nice to be able to stop and take note of women and the way that they’re able to continue not only their careers but have a nice work/ life balance, which is very hard by the way.

I also think that as much as everyone says that gender diversity is top of mind, it’s not. The more we can have people stop and think before they act [the better]. And I think this day has a nice ability for people to just stop and think a little bit broader.

VK: So what more do you think needs to be done to put gender diversity top of mind? You mentioned people pretend it is, but it’s not really?

LS: Well I didn’t say that [laughs].

Ten champions diversity: Squillace

VK: Okay, well let me rephrase the question then: What do you think we need to do to get it actually top of mind?

LS: Look I think there’s good steps that have ben made. Having this on the agenda is one of them. And I think it’s not necessarily around quotas and making sure that there’s diversity across boards and levels and all parts of the business, I think it’s more around the obsession with the hierarchies and the titles that we have as an industry versus if that person is male or female.

And really, I think that all comes down to all of those [holding group] CEOs are still male, most of the CSOs are still male within our industry, so I think that just because you have that title doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be the mouthpiece for certain topics.

VK: So what can we do to have more to do women at the top? If it’s dominated by men now, we probably need to start the process – we can’t just expect that when a [male] CEO next leaves, the person to succeed them will be a woman. What extra support and training or facilities or structures do women need?

LS: Absolutely.

I think giving the flexibility at that middle-management level for women will start to propel people into these roles. And I do think there have been huge inroads with that – I know at Ten, absolutely. And that’s a lot of Ten’s superpower and was a huge drawcard for me to want to work here, was the champion of change that the business does within that. All roles are fully flexible. Leadership teams are 60% female, 40% male – from the executive leadership team to the sales leadership team. Paid parental leave has been extended to include fathers, not just mothers.

So for me, being part of such a progressive organisation, we just need to continue to allow all of those things to happen, and make sure that we’re also leading from the front. It’s okay to leave work to go pick up your children without judgement.

VK: And what role do men need to play here? How can they help fix the situation?

LS: I think there needs to be an awareness that women need a little bit more flexibility in regards to travel, time of day of meetings – being aware not to schedule a 5pm meeting with five working mothers in your team would be a start.

Ensuring that we have different voices being heard at all levels within our organisation, making sure that just because you have the title doesn’t mean you are the person that should be speaking on behalf of something, is really important. Because our people want to be nurtured and they want to be thought of as humans. And when you have that rigour around start times, end times, ‘You need to be available when I say you need to be available’, will not foster women in their serious career roles.

VK: What is the best and worst moment of your career so far?

LS: [Laughs] Alright!

I would say the best moment of my career was starting in this industry as a bright-eyed bushy-tailed sales assistant at Network Ten in 2001.

And I think, the worst moment of my career was realising that I was just a number, and not a person that had given my all.

VK: And do you feel like a person again?

LS: Absolutely! Absolutely. I definitely feel like a person again.

I feel like I’m within an organisation and surrounded by people who do put humans first. And do put people and their needs and their compassions and their flexibility first, and that brings out the best outcomes in our team.

We’re 12 months old, and we have been kicking so many goals. We’re winning so many awards, which we’re so humbled and proud of to win.

As of [Tuesday] we won Universal McCann’s Better Partner Sales Team of the Year Award. Two weeks ago we won Mediacom Best Sales Team of the Year Award. All of those outcomes come through treating your people as humans.

Michael Standford, Lisa Squillace, Tamar Hovagimian and Rod Prosser at Ten’s recent Masterchef launch

VK: You have children. What kind of world do you want them to be working in when it comes to gender diversity. How quickly would you like the world to evolve?

LS: It’s a funny one, because when I had only my son, I didn’t think too much about it. All I thought of was ‘He can do whatever he wants to do. If he wants to be in a male-dominated field, he can. If he wants to be in a female-dominated field, he can.’ I’ve never given him any gender role.

However, when I had my daughter, I was going through a really tough period in my career, and there were times where I thought it was easier to give up. But I would look at her and I would think ‘No. It’s not about me, it’s about you.’ And I feel as though if women were able to pioneer the way that we are, that our children would be given equal opportunity regardless of their gender. We just need to lead.

VK: And when it comes to your job in sales. What do you think is your key strength there?

LS: As a female or in general?

VK: Why not both?

LS: Okay.

I think my key strengths are the ability to influence people en masse to get to an outcome. I think another key strength is my ability to go through operational rhythm and sales processes to get us to optimal performance. As well as, I have been able to build over a near 20-year career, amazing relationships in this industry that are based on trust and delivery.

VK: What will success look like for you at the end of this year? You mentioned that you’ve already had a string of award wins, and that your team is kicking goals, but by the 31st of December, 2020, what will make you think that it’s been a success?

LS: I think there’a number of factors. Obviously we’re a commercial business, and we are driven by outcomes. So I think that those boxes will need to be ticked for me to feel like we’ve had a success.

Staff retention. If we can keep the amazing people we have, I see that as a huge success.

And another big factor of success for me, is that all of our state sales teams are feeling autonomous enough to get what they ned to get done, but part of the network enough to know that they’re supported.

[And], I think around the Ten stuff, and all those thing that I spoke about in regards to Ten’s culture being such a superpower, is around why it was such a drawcard for me to come there because of that -for all of those reasons. I’ve [also] been given the opportunity, I’ve got a recent appointment on the Think TV Board. I’m also given full flexibility to work at home, whenever or however long I so wish to or need to, which is super important.

VK: What lessons have you learned along the way?

LS: Oh, plenty, but I’ve got three.

Back your people by giving them the opportunities that skew to their skills, regardless of their title and position, I think is a really important lesson that I’ve learned.

Always remember your team are humans first who need nurturing, compassion and flexibility to get the best outcomes from their work.

And my last one, is don’t read the comments. [Laughs].

VK: Great, okay, I can’t wait to post that on my website and have people comment on it. [Laughs].

LS: That was a huge lesson.

Given the things that I’ve been through which we’ve all read about, and you’ve all written about, that was one that I kept drawing back to – reading the comments, and some of those things are pretty hurtful, but at other times they’re pretty empowering as well.

VK: You did mention the Think TV board earlier, and one of the things that the Premium Content Alliance was slammed for, in the comments indeed, was it not having enough women on its board. So how do you feel about that, given that you are on the Think TV board?

LS: I think that it’s a by-product of where our industry currently is. Those people on that board are extremely successful and are very influential and are decision makers.

I think that’s important that we remember that they’re decision makers.

Why there’s no women in those decision-making roles, really comes down to 10 years ago, none of these companies had been allowing the flexibility for these women to continue their career paths and [step up] like these other people have been given.

Ten years ago, those people in these roles – as I said, they absolutely deserve them – [but] they had female colleagues who weren’t given the flexibility that we are allowing now to continue their career trajectory. If they had, I would assume, and I can’t talk about it [for sure], but I’m just assuming that there would be more females in those influencing decision-making roles at that level.

VK: And what about the characterisation that television is still run by cowboys?

LS: I feel that there are a lot of people in television regardless of gender, who are really smart, and have been really challenged over the last five to 10 years in trying to evolve television.

Again, being part of Ten gives me such comfort.

Ten’s McGarvey (centre) at the Future of TV Advertising event

Last week, there was the Future of TV conference, and we had Beverley McGarvey as our representative. And not only was she the right person to be there, her point of view is so refreshing and factual, that the show was hers.

There’s a lot of women [in television], and they are super successful, but again, it comes back to the hierarchy and titles. Just because you’ve got the title, are you the right person to be talking about certain things? You might be. You might not be. I think that’s something everyone needs to look at – from media, from television, from every other publisher and agency.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.