Lorraine Woods is no stranger to the media industry, having had her first taste back in 2004 when she started working as a TV trader at OMD. Over the years, she has moved up the rankings, working in various roles across Carat, Zenith, EssenceMediaCom and since 2016 has been the national head of trading at Atomic 212º.

Skilled in the media buying, television, sponsorship and media planning space, Woods was a perfect candidate for the B&T Women In Media Power List long list.

Woods sat down with B&T to discuss how her own experiences have taught her just how important believing in yourself and charting your own path are when it comes to making a name for yourself in the industry.

B&T: What inspired you to pursue a career in media?

Woods: After finishing my HSC, my mum convinced me to travel overseas before going to university, so I applied for an office assistant job at OMD and Total Advertising, not knowing what the industry entailed to be able to fund my overseas adventure. Colleagues convinced me there were more exciting opportunities than just assisting. After about a year of fetching coffee and organising meetings, I was promoted into a planning and buying role. It was there that I really got exposed to the fast-paced world of media planning and buying. I loved the challenge of analysing data and strategising the best ways to reach audiences. Barry O’Brien mentored and coached me in trading and business relationships, and I found my strength in this discipline and have never looked back.

B&T: What do you think are the benefits of having women in leadership positions?

Woods: Representation is so, so important. Having role models helps show younger women what’s possible if they stick with the industry. It’s important for leaders to understand challenges like effectively juggling high pressure work responsibilities with family commitments, as I’ve experienced first-hand as a working mum of two young kids. In my current role, I appreciate that my boss, Claire Fenner, leads with empathy and advocates for flexible work policies that support employees’ well-being and work-life balance. This type of supportive leadership is so important for retaining female talent long-term in the media sector.

B&T: Could you share a specific instance where your leadership style has made a significant impact?

Woods: References from people I’ve mentored, people who have taken risks and moved agencies alongside me to continue working with me; these people now lead their own media teams, and they attest to the impact I’ve had in helping others realise their potential. I try to create a safe, supportive environment where individuals feel empowered to take risks, learn from mistakes, and coach themselves to success over time.

B&T: How does your approach differ from that of your male counterparts?

Woods: Every individual brings a unique approach shaped by their diverse experiences. We shouldn’t keep highlighting our differences as much as focus on equal opportunity and getting the best possible job done.

What’s most important is creating an environment where all team members feel respected, supported to develop their skills, and comfortable bringing their full selves to work. This allows for the best outcomes, regardless of gender. My focus is on empowering others through clear expectations, regular check-ins on progress, and advocating for flexible work/life integration. When people feel trusted to do their job well and given support to balance various priorities, they will thrive.

B&T: If I were to ask what pivotal moment in your career pushed you to where you are now, what would it be and why?

Woods: The most pivotal moment was making the move to Atomic 212°. Leaving Sydney and a different agency to join Atomic 212° and lead investment out of the Melbourne media market in our very early days. We had to start from scratch in a market where we had no real relationships or credibility. Being a part of contributing to the growth of Atomic 212° over the past eight years, I feel proud of myself and all the other people who pushed through those challenging but very exciting times and built the foundations to make the company what it is today.

B&T: What advice would you give women entering media?

Woods: Know who you are and what you are capable of, and be mindful of your limitations, but don’t let them stop you or take up too much of your headspace. Lean into what you are good at. Decide what success looks like for you; don’t let anyone else decide it for you or look to them for validation, as you will never achieve someone else’s idea of success; it has to be yours. Be confident in your abilities. We need to empower each other and make space for one another. Focus on doing excellent work and developing strong relationships with others who will champion your growth. Most importantly, bring your authentic self to the role each day. Confidence comes from within, not from outside validation. If you stay true to who you are while continuously learning, you will achieve great success and help pave the way for others.

B&T: How do we retain more women leaders long-term?

Woods: Retaining female leaders long-term requires addressing systemic barriers that disproportionately impact women’s careers. Flexible work arrangements are key to balancing professional and personal responsibilities. Many highly skilled women leave the workforce due to a lack of family-friendly policies and the stigma around utilising flexibility. Employers must normalise remote work and support compressed schedules or job shares for caregivers.

Mentorship programs help retain talent. When women see role models succeeding while empowering others, they are motivated to remain in an environment with strong support systems. An inclusive culture where all gender identities feel respected and able to bring their full selves to work each day is most conducive to retaining top female leadership over the long term.

Article originally published on B&T.