Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Digital Women: industry veteran Sue Hunt. “There’s still a lot of lip service on gender equality”

NDA’s Digital Women series is talking to leaders from across our industry to understand the particular challenges, and opportunities faced by women. Next up is Sue Hunt. After a two-decade industry career, she is now a qualified coach, providing training and coaching services whether subject matter, core or soft skill; with unique experience across all media divisions, digital, print, OOH and TV, and with specialism in mental health awareness.

When did you make the move into coaching and why did you do it?

I trained through those dark winter months of lockdown, qualifying in spring 2021, perfect timing stuck at home to study hard!

The circumstances of the first lockdown were also one influence in making the move, with so much instability, and loss of control in our lives, I focused on finding a positive from the events, and emerging with a new skill and focus.

I’d enjoyed delivering many hours of training in recent years, particularly in marrying the worlds of traditional out of home, print and TV with digital and the programmatic newcomer, and wanted to re-focus in this area. Speaking to some former colleagues and industry friends, coaching felt like the best qualification to professionalise those skills, and the coaching discipline itself a whole new perspective.

On the backdrop of all of this, and relating to both motivators, I have long worked front line supporting survivors of domestic abuse, which rapidly became an epidemic beneath the pandemic, in dire need of investment. I continue front line for the major charities in the space and am also providing services to raise awareness of domestic abuse within organisations.

What are the biggest challenges, and opportunities for women in the industry today?  

This industry is great partly because it constantly adapts and evolves, but despite being so relatively young, I feel there is still a lot of lip service paid to gender equality. Projects and initiatives around D&I, the gender pay gap, ageism and menopause in the workplace are important, but fundamentally if we didn’t still have an underpinning problem of patriarchy (dare we say, misogyny) in society, inevitably paralleled in the industry, these initiatives wouldn’t be needed.

Therein also lies the opportunity, as companies have been forced to face the issue, respond to the challenge, and are more actively seeking to change their gender diversity, to support, and champion women.

To the earlier theme of finding the positives of lockdown, working from home has provided the flexibility many working women and mums need to have successful careers without such a compromise in their home lives, and the best of those changes need to be embraced and continued.

What does the industry need to do to better champion women?  

Groups like Digital Women are exactly those champions!

I’m a proud member of Bloom for the invaluable role that plays in mentoring women starting out in the industry and creating specialist sessions and groups around the topics that matter to them. More individual champions are really shining through too, and we need to keep promoting their success.

I’m an avid follower of Alex Mahon at Channel 4 and her myriad cultural and commercial initiatives, proudly applaud rising stars like Rebecca Ackers at Magnite, a burgeoning career and industry profile, with so much success still to come. Somewhat ironically, I consider my own personal champion as my employment lawyer, an impressive career herself, she has salvaged me, and many former colleagues, from some pretty dire (male) bosses, to flourish on the other side!

We need to keep supporting and promoting each other, aiming for the day when these groups’ objectives become the norm such that they don’t need to exist.

You work with companies across the digital ecosystem – what are the biggest challenges, and opportunities overall for digital advertising this year?  

We’re emerging from the most surreal 2 years in our lifetime, into a cost-of-living crisis, so the challenges are aplenty from the macro to the micro.

I’m seeing investment in people coming back to the fore as organisations re-assemble their offices and cultures, provide subject matter and transformation training, which is great. I’d love to see companies investing more in management support, and employee well-being from a mental health and resilience perspective, beyond just providing an employee assistance helpline. In economically challenging times there will be dips and casualties, but also opportunities to shine, survive and thrive if we invest in the right things.

With my sales hat on, the big digital advertising opportunity this year must be the wonderful old world of out of home, bouncing back from screens in empty airports and shopping malls, to take a fair share of spend from the social giants, embracing programmatic technology and automation, engaging digital brands, and just maybe, adding a few more of us women to their absurdly male dominated leadership teams!

What is your biggest achievement in digital to date?  

The big question! The achievement I am most proud of, leading successful business units throughout my career but having to rebound from a best forgotten 2019, is the successful transition to independent freelancing, now enjoying a different discipline with new energy and focus.

An overall sense of achievement comes from the many challenges and opportunities I’ve experienced through a 22-year career in digital, personal, and business growth and successes, but perhaps most of all, the amazing people, colleagues and clients, now friends, I’ve had the pleasure to work, and lunch with along the way!