Women In Leadership | An Interview with Karen Lewis
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
An advocate for women, a passionate leader and an expert in Digital, we caught up with Karen Lewis about all she has overcome to reach Head of Digital & Performance Marketing at Salmat.
Karen, originally from the UK, studied in Multimedia, trying to combine computing with her creative flair. Seeing the evolution of UX has been an exciting journey for Karen and has definitely given her the ambition to push the boundaries.
After moving to Australia in 2011, her main aim has always been to make a difference, whether that is to the end user or to her team. In her 15-year career, Karen has worked up from an Account Manager to leading digital marketing divisions and worked across Retail, Financial Services and Travel.
Karen’s journey hasn’t been an easy one and she has overcome her fair share of challenges. Karen is a direct person and doesn’t know how to be anything but honest. As an opinionated and outspoken woman, she believes this has put a ceiling in her way, as sometimes it hasn’t been perceived well in the corporate world.
Karen has experienced Unconscious Bias first hand. Throughout Karen’s career, she has received feedback that she makes herself too “emotionally vulnerable”, however, similar behaviour that she recognised in her peers was congratulated for being “passionate.” Karen has remained adamant that she will not conform to these biases and instead recognises that an organisation that does not like opinionated women is not the right organisation for her.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” was a pivotal turning point for Karen. It encourages women to ask for a seat at the table, or in Karen’s case: “I didn’t ask for a seat, I just sat down.”
For Karen, seeing her team thrive and develop has been far more rewarding than any other aspect of her career. She enjoys taking people on a journey with her and she finds it not always about the technical capabilities but growing them as people.
Leadership Qualities she looks for:
Don’t lead from the front, lead from the side
Karen doesn’t know how to be anything but honest and she thinks authenticity is the greatest quality in a good leader. These are the types of people she will gravitate towards. She wants to be the leader that she would have liked to have in her career, and although she has had managers that she looked up to, she has never really had a mentor. It’s important for her now to offer that mentorship to the people in her team to see them excel.
Karen has found it difficult to build diverse teams. In her current team, she has found that her SEO team is mostly male and the SEM team is mostly female. When she looks at her team based just on attributions it makes complete sense and the teams work. However, she does think it is the responsibility of the hiring manager to be aware of the biases. Karen would always hire on attitude - in her team she wants to be surrounded by ambitious, hungry and driven people.
However, Karen does believe in putting mechanisms in place to see more women around the board room table.
Have tenacity and resilience – always push for what you want and don’t be afraid to ask.
Seek out a mentor – someone to help you navigate your way through the corporate world.
Karen’s determination to see her team succeed was evident from our meeting. An incredibly passionate leader with a wealth of experience, who is determined to keep fighting to see more women around the board room table.
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