Q&A with the 2023 Women in Digital Awards Employer of the Year: Private Media, powered by Hunt & Co.

Hunt & Co. was so proud to be an awards partner for the 2023 Women in Digital Awards powering the Employer of the Year category for the second year in a row. This award recognises the importance of diversity in developing more innovative and inclusive companies to support the future pipeline of women in technology. This year, the Employer of the Year trophy was awarded to… Private Media!

If you haven’t heard of the Women in Digital Awards, let us tell you more! The Women in Digital Awards is one of Australia’s leading national industry awards celebrating women within the digital and technology industries and the organisations that support them. Created from the idea that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, the WID Awards provides a platform for women to celebrate their achievements. It is also an opportunity for the community to together to recognise the individuals and organisations making outstanding contributions to the industry and improving diversity in digital.

In 2023, the Women in Digital Awards celebrated its 6th anniversary with over 900 attendees, 75 finalists and 15 winners in Brisbane. Click here to learn more about Women in Digital.

While the judges acknowledged all the 2023 Employer of the Year Finalists as making outstanding contributions, they were particularly impressed by the impact of Private Media’s strategic initiatives, guided by new female leadership driving change from the very top.

From their strategic focus on inclusion, well-being, diversity, and psychological safety, to their efforts in improving parental leave policies, editorial workflows, partnerships with Indigenous communities, and recruitment processes, Private Media is proving to be an excellent role model both within and beyond their organisation.

We were thrilled to catch up with Chief Operating Officer, Ai Mawdsley to talk about their incredible achievement!

Click here to meet all the 2023 Women in Digital Award Winners.

Firstly, Congratulations on Private Media taking home the win for Employer of the Year! We are so excited to be chatting with you! Could you tell us a bit about Private Media as an organisation?

Thank you! It has been an honour to be recognised for all the work we’ve been busy with behind the scenes.

Private Media is essentially a digital-first journalism business. We publish Crikey, The Mandarin, SmartCompany and Inc. Australia, and our mission is to maximise the sustainable impact of our journalism.

In your nomination, Private Media have achieved some super impressive diversity goals in the last two years. Why does diversity matter to Private Media?

I think diversity can be seen as a buzzword or just a checkbox to tick off. But we fundamentally believe we make better decisions and do our best work with a diverse workforce. We don’t see it as a discretionary side thing, we’ve made it central to our goals because we see it as essential to achieving our mission.

How does diversity align with your business/corporate strategy?

We summarise our strategies via plans-on-a-page, and a core objective in our group-level strategy is to “Champion inclusivity and wellbeing by working on diversity blind spots, managing overload, setting up safeguards and promoting psychological safety”. Including this in our strategy brings it to the forefront of our planning and decision-making.

We also have an Employee Value Proposition strategy based on two years of survey data, which has been key to our efforts to attract amazing talent and improve staff retention. Our EVP centres on preserving our flexible-first approach, fostering equitable annual review process, nurturing a healthy feedback culture and delivering inclusion-friendly perks.

What are some of the targets or objectives you have in place for DEI within Private Media? Do you have an achievement/s or results you are particularly proud of?

Our objective over the last two years has been to establish our DEI fundamentals as we were at the starting line of our journey. We recognised that Private Media’s transformation needed to start with:

1) addressing gender imbalances in leadership and management,
2) educating and growing the company’s awareness and understanding of DEI, and
3) levelling up on inclusion hygiene factors for core operations across publishing/editorial, recruitment and performance appraisals.

One result I’m particularly proud of is that women used to make up 36% of management, which we increased to 60% over a 2 year period (whilst women consistently represented 56-57% of the workforce).

That’s incredible! How has this had a positive impact on the organisation?

Having a majority female management team has had a positive impact on team morale, with staff engagement measures lifting and manager ratings increasing from 3.8 to 4.2 (the greatest year-on-year increase in our EVP survey data).

In addition, over this 2 year period, employee voluntary churn reduced from 31% to 18%. Whilst we know there is still much work to be done, we’re happy to see this progress.

Can you tell us a bit more about Juniversaries? What is it and where did you get the name from?

Haha yes, we were trying to be a bit cute with the name. We created the “Juniversary” in early 2022 (a combination of June and anniversary) which is our performance review program. Our goal was to ensure that progression is not driven by who agitates the most or has the strongest profile or relationships, but by a standardised process to ensure decisions are based on merit and are considered across the group simultaneously.

Through formalising this, we promoted 18 staff over 24 months, 13 of whom identify as women, 2 as non-binary. This helped us to not only transform our management team but also ensure salary equity.

The Juniversary also includes quarterly check-ins with your manager, which importantly includes a 2-way feedback moment. Giving upwards feedback can be hard to do and often overlooked – so we wanted to create a regular cadence for when this is supposed to happen. We believe doing this (and training our managers on healthy feedback culture) helps us grow psychological safety within our team.

We know a lot of organisations who want to improve DEI within their teams but aren’t sure where to start. What advice do you have for them?

Great question! My sweet spot is working in small/ medium-sized businesses where unfortunately DEI can be perceived as a luxury for the big corporates. But DEI isn’t about flashy initiatives – it’s about fundamental business practices.

I’m not an HR person, so I have very much approached it from an opsy / pragmatic brain. I considered:

1) how do we hire,
2) how do we promote, and
3) how do we make decisions as a leadership team.

Humans have unconscious biases – it’s hard to avoid as it’s how the brain works! So you need to step through each of these 3 areas and interrogate whether your business has the right safeguards (processes or principles) in place to reduce the impact of bias.

If you can implement safeguards for these 3, you’re most of the way there in terms of moving diverse representation towards the direction you want.

What challenges have you faced in improving DEI?

I think staff can be sceptical of DEI. Maybe even more so when most of your staff are journalists! They will see through checkbox initiatives or vanity metrics.

Instead, what makes a genuine impact on DEI is a clearly articulated plan and a dogged, consistent execution of that plan over a long period of time.

What did winning this award mean to you?

Personally, I’ve been going through a mid-life crisis. Haha.

I’m an Asian, religious, female, part-time working mum that has come through traditionally male-dominated sectors. I’m often not only the only female in the room… but also the youngest and non-white person. I used to hate the minority label and felt no connection to it – as I got to where I got to through bloody hard work, right? Not through quotas. I didn’t used to buy in to the need for women’s empowerment. But in my fortieth year, I have been on a journey of recognising my identity in a new light – and understanding how sitting in these minority intersections has impacted my life over the years. I’ve been realising more and more that there are genuine, systemic reasons why minorities are underrepresented in the workplace.

So championing diversity has become something deeply personal to me. And it’s a privilege to be able to positively impact an organisation through something that I am passionate about.

Then to get recognised for it by WID?! Icing on the cake.

Absolutely! We’re so pleased to be able to showcase Private Media. Is there anything else you would like to add? Any final words of wisdom?

Not really, other than a thank you to the WID team for organising these awards. The entire experience has been very professional and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn from many inspiring women!

Thank you Ai and another huge congratulations to Private Media! Make sure to also check all of the Women in Digital 2023 Winners here.

If you think it’s time for a chat about your organisation’s diversity hiring plans, then get in touch with the Hunt & Co. team today. We would love to chat with you! Email us at hi@huntandco.io, or contact us here!

Diversity & Inclusion, Q&As