This year’s MAD//fest theme was “Riders of the Storm”, and to say the least, the summer event of the year delivered on their promise. Filled with amazing speakers, brand new content, and the funkiest and freshest takes on this year’s industry buzzwords, the week was wholeheartedly amazing and electric.

But, electricity needs a spark. And this year, that’s where the first ever Female Leaders Beach Bar came in – and it arrived with a bang. 

3 days of interviews, talks, panels and non-stop inspiration had this year’s audience energised and ready (as one audience member put it) to “take on the world”. Some of the most successful women in the industry arrived at the Female Leaders Bar to impart their knowledge, their do’s and don’ts, their “f**k that’s”, and share their personal journeys to becoming a leader and disruptor in 2023. 

We heard from female leaders at Boots, Nectar360, Responsible Marketing Agency, ESB Connect, Street Agency, Multilocal, and many more, not to mention the phenomenal female leaders who hosted the bar: Julia Linehan, Ellie Edwards-Scott, Lisa Menaldo and Katie Street.

Here are some of our favourite moments from the talks and discussions last week, with so many more that we couldn’t even fit on the page. Feel free to stick these on a post-it note above your desk, read them as daily affirmations – they’d even make great poster content to stick on your wall. Get ready to be inspired!

Being a leader:

  • “Three things to do before becoming a leader: think about financing, recognising what you don’t know and finding someone who can help you with it, and balance your skills,” Hannah Mirza, Responsible Marketing Agency
  • “Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do because you can absolutely make it,” Holly McLellan, Boots
  • “I didn’t want to be in a box, I wanted to create something and grow it,” Suzanna Chaplin, ESB Connect

Confidence, perfection, and getting the job:

Did you know that when applying for a job, if a man has 20% of the desired qualities within the job description, he will apply (good for him, right?). However, on average a woman will only apply for a job if she believes she has 80% of the qualifications set out in that same description. 80%?!? That was a particularly mind-blowing fact for many in the audience, and it was addressed by many of our speakers. 

  • “Someone has to get that role, it might as well be me… A lot of time we’re looking for perfection, we’re our own worst enemies,” Lianre Robinson, + WACL
  • “Be your own believer; back yourself,” Holly McLellan, Boots
  • “As a woman, you focus on a big title, what you can’t do, what you can’t bring to the table – but switching that to know your worth and what you CAN bring to the table is so important,” Tanwa Edu, Lumen

Promoting yourself:

  • “There will be plenty of people who don’t support you on your journey, so don’t be one of them,” Lianre Robinson, + WACL
  • “I’m the only one that’s going to stand up for me and promote me, no one else will do it,” Hannah Dempsey, Jellyfish
  • “I don’t care if people judge me for talking about my achievements. It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts,” Hannah Dempsey, Jellyfish
  • “Be your OWN PR! Don’t be embarrassed about it” Holly McLellan, Boots

Being a woman in work:

  • “(We need to) Focus on menopause and women’s health for the symptoms, financial support for hormone replacement therapy, training and guidance for those going through it, and a support network for people going through it. One thing underserved is women’s health in the workplace” Holly McLellan, Boots
  • “There’s still a bit of a cultural shift to happen to recognise that slacking off doesn’t equate to childcare incidents or needs. It’s essential to lead by example and be inclusive to anyone going through a situation. It’s working PARENTS, not just working mothers.” Melissa Desmond, Nectar360 

Your voice: 

  • “You don’t have to be loud at the table all the time. You can be loud at certain points and if you don’t feel you’re being heard, try a different direction. Find your own way but be mindful of what’s working and not working.” Tanwa Edu, Lumen
  • Julia Linehan asked Melissa Desmond at Nectar360 to finish this sentence: ”I’m going to become a great leader by”, and she replied: “speaking my mind” 

Being an Ally:

The Female Leaders Bar was a fantastic space for female leaders and aspirational professionals looking to soak up a tonne of inspiration. Men were and are also an essential part of the space, so in every session we ensured we scouted out our male listeners to give them a round of applause - we loved to see the support and allyship! 

  • “The more we bring men into the conversation, the more we discuss what’s happening, the more comfortable we make men to be part of the conversation, the better,” Hannah Dempsey, Jellyfish
  • “Step up, lean in and let’s  even up the balance; we can do this if everyone buys into that,” Julia Linehan, The Digital Voice™
  • “Men are not the enemy, but there is a job to be open to engaging with women and being more open to mentoring,” Holly McLellan, Boots 
  • “This stage is like a warm hug,” Julia Linehan, The Digital Voice™

With hours more of incredible content it would be impossible to fit it all in, however the FLB will be back and better than ever, so keep a look out for the rise of this amazing space again – sooner than you think. 

Thank you to all of the amazing speakers and leaders that joined the Female Leaders Bar, creating ripples and waves to create positive change for women in the industry. It’s time to step up, step in, and even the balance. Oh, and one last thing:

 “Be loud, be brave, be bold, be you” - Julia Linehan, Founder and CEO of The Digital Voice™.