Instead of profiling women at the helm in this industry, as we would normally do for Women in The Media Awards, we have asked top women in the different sectors their opinions and we are giving it to you straight. Today, Continental Outdoor Media’s rest of Africa managing director, Adelaide McKelvey gives her perspective on the out of home media industry, reputed to be very much a man’s world.
What is it about out of home (OOH) media that appeals to you?
Our industry is an exciting one. The medium has the ability to reinvent itself over and over again. Despite regulation challenges, I believe we have a lot more flexibility in our offering to clients than most above-the-line media.
Outdoor is a traditional medium. Its reputation to build big brands dates back to 18th century.
This is clearly a very male oriented and dominated sector. How does that impact on the sector and the way things are done?
I think OOH has historically been very much male oriented, but that is changing quite rapidly. Both internationally and locally we see more females in key positions; for example, Annie Ricard, who is the president of Posterscope Worldwide, and Nancy Fletcher, the president and CEO of Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
I don’t believe gender has any influence on the way things are done. This sector has often been referred to as the ‘cowboy industry’, yet gone are the days where the guys spend their afternoons at long lunches and on the golf course. Well, maybe not so much the golf course. The reality is that this sector has cleaned up its act and has become very professional and very competitive.
Why are there only a few women in positions of power in the OOH media environment?
This is changing. Perhaps the manner in which OOH was previously sold and marketed had bearing on the skew towards male employment and advancement into higher positions. Buying outdoor meant getting in a car and selecting sites in the field with your client – not a very attractive job for a female. If you look at the OOH industry, it is largely made up of a consolidation of independent businesses historically run by private male individuals.
Running a successful OOH business today requires a different set of skills. Today we compete against all media in selling audiences. New sales methods and technology have changed the way we market our product.
Business has changed, driven by business best practices and global influences. Women who get ahead often have better communications skills and are more likely to take initiative and have a higher degree of emotional intelligence. These qualities transcend our industry and bode well for women in general.
What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in your industry?
Our industry is a challenging industry, irrespective of gender.
I can honestly say that I have never really felt compromised or faced with issues that I am unable to deal with because I am female. If anything I think being female is an advantage. With no disrespect to my male colleagues, women in general are better at building relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
Continental has been one of Miss SA’s main sponsors. Why? How does that play into the way the company feels about women?
Continental’s sponsorship of Miss SA has sadly got very little to do with how the company feels about women. We don’t think in terms of gender. Our sponsorship is based on a relationship with Sun International that spans a number of events. Having said that, the Miss SA pageant is usually a highlight of our event calendar and is very well supported by our clients.
What do you do to help nurture young women in the industry?
Strength of character goes a long way. I have very little patience or tolerance for subservient females. On the other hand women who have gravitas are easy to nurture. Throw them in the deep end… the rest is history.
Do you believe considering gender in business is old school? Please justify your answer.
Yes and no. There are no limitations to what any individual can and can’t do. However some job profiles are better suited to a specific characteristic, which may be weighted to particular gender. There are also certain cultures that deal with male /female interaction differently and one needs to remain aware of this. One can also argue that a good looking sales lady has a better chance of success when dealing with male clients and vice versa.
As a role model in the industry, what would you like young women to learn from you?
I’ve never really thought of myself as a role model. I do, however, take great pride in mentoring. I love young people and I love working with them.
My advice would be to not compromise your career because you’re a woman. You can absolutely have it all.
You can be a good wife, great mom and run a successful business. The ability to multi-task is a definite plus for women. But none of the above will materialise without hard work and commitment.