With digital media being the media of the future, Melina Meletakos asks if the young women moving and shaking in this area will be the media leaders of tomorrow.
An overwhelming number of women have quietly crept into the driver’s seat of several digital media platforms in South Africa.
As the platform hailed as the way of the future, are these women likely to become the next generation of media leaders?
City Press editor Ferial Haffajee believes so. “There is a generation of young women working in digital who are diverse and sharp,” says Haffajee. “I feels as if digital has been easier for women to get to the top. They also stand out because the medium requires them to be multi-talented – they can write, code and produce multimedia.”
Gustav Goosen, CEO of The SpaceStation, agrees, saying that there are many women in the digital market who play a pivotal role in shaping the local industry. “I think it’s the dynamic nature of digital and the type of people it attracts. If you’re not constantly seeking new and better ways of doing things, then you’ll struggle in the digital market. For that reason, perhaps, the industry is eager to find solutions, innovation and success from whoever is able to provide it or play a part in achieving it, irrespective of gender, colour or creed,” says Goosen. “There isn’t any baggage or preconceived ideas of who can or who can’t, who should and who shouldn’t.”
Cherilyn Ireton, World Editors Forum executive director says, “As a new field, without barriers to entry, women have been able to advance quickly if they are good – simply because there is no one in the way.“
However, last year when The Media asked who were the women making waves in digital media, no names were forthcoming. We have since found a number of inspiring and innovative women in this arena. Here is a selection of them.
“Digital is about empowering alternative voices and alternative structures. It’s appealing to women in the same way that it is appealing to younger people – because it’s unconventional,” says Emma O’Shaughnessy, Media24’s editorial production manager.
Her job centres around the strategic development of news content, with a particular focus on driving special projects that have a strong digital angle. O’Shaughnessy says that one of the reasons she accepted her current position is that she knew that she would be able to have a voice within the organisation.
“Digital is flexible and has value systems that are not based on a typical hierarchical structure,” says O’Shaughnessy. This is because newsrooms producing digital products are increasingly ditching a top-down formation in favour of a horizontal structure where collaboration is key and the most engaging and interactive journalism is created by teams.
…Multi-platform content marketing agency New Media Publishing produces lifestyle titles like Taste, VISI, Eat Out and recently secured the contract to publish Quench, a communications vehicle for Amalgamated Beverage Industries. Steering the company’s digital division is Kerry Littlewood, who says that her diverse role means there is never a chance to get bored. She manages internal digital teams and digital partnerships, and works with clients to implement the best solutions for them. A key focus for her is to be one step ahead and know what’s coming next, digitally.
“Men and women who choose to work in digital recognise that there are far more opportunities in this industry because it is still growing and diversifying. When you ‘work in digital’ you’ll never find yourself working in only one particular element of the industry. Digital provides a challenging environment with so much possibility,” explains Littlewood.