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Women in Business: Interview with Justine Powell

30, November, 2018
Opinion and Features

 

To celebrate the launch of our new London campus, we hosted an executive education course entitled “Accelerating Women’s Careers”. The two-day event attracted guests from around the UK and Germany and from organisations including Facebook and Veolia. The workshop was conducted by IMPACT US, well known in the international training arena. GISMA received excellent feedback from the workshop participants.

 

To emphasise the importance of the workshop´s topic on women in leadership, GISMA started a new interview series with successful female leaders.

 

The first interview of this kind was conducted with Justine Powell, Managing Director of Handelsblatt Global. Justine Powell has 25 years of experience in the fields of media and technology and has previously worked for BBC, CNBC, and Viacom.

 

Sharing her advice, Justine believes good leaders must have strong vision which they can turn into reality. But her advice, particularly for women, is to not hold back with your ideas, if you have a big, bold idea, make sure you get it out there.

 

She believes gender balance in the workplace, especially among senior management is important in order for a firm to do well and produce its best ideas/products. Although she remarks that the media industry in Germany is male-dominated.

 

One piece of advice she wants to impart to women is that you work to live and not the other way around. It’s fine to work hard when you’re in the office, but also make time for family and friends.

 

Discussing how much executive education course have impacted her career, Justine notes that for the executive education gave her a lot of value as she took the Advanced Management Programme at Said Business School, Oxford University.  Justine credits the course with giving her relevant leadership skills and financial knowledge, helping her gain her senior work position.

 

GISMA: Would you like to give us a brief introduction about yourself?

 

Powell: I am a senior leader with 25 years' commercial and operational experience in media and technology internationally. I started my career as a journalist and then moved into commercial roles mid-career. I’ve held senior positions at both corporates (Associated Press, CNBC, Viacom and BBC) and start-ups (Handelsblatt Global, IROKO).


GISMA: What have been some make or break moments in your career so far?

 

Powell: Looking back on my career, I realise that I was lucky to have landed my first job at a magazine straight after graduating. I joined Student Pages in Bristol, which was my university town, as a marketing and sales intern where my role was to persuade local business, whether bars, clubs or launderettes, to give discounts to students. That experience enabled me to get other roles in the media industry when I moved to London.

 

GISMA: Currently you are the Managing Director of Handelsblatt Global. What do you consider to be the most important things for progress as the head of a business?

 

Powell: I am Managing Director of Handelsblatt Global, which was set up as a stand-alone start-up funded by Handelsblatt Media Group about four years ago. Part of my responsibility since joining is to integrate Global within Handelsblatt Media Group.

As head of a business, you need to have a good strategic mind, be able to translate a vision into reality and be able to tightly manage P&Ls.


GISMA: For you, what makes a great leader? What are some traits you think great leaders possess - which traits do male and female leaders have in common; which ones are specifically important for men and which for women in leadership?

 

Powell: There are no differences between male and female leaders. A good leader is someone who has a vision and who can then translate that into reality by managing projects through a business. Truly great leaders and CEO’s are hard to find – someone who is entrepreneurial and able to manage teams; a great leader is a bit like a conductor of an orchestra. When it all comes together, the outcome is beautiful; when it doesn’t, it’s a disaster.

 

GISMA: What is one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career that you could share?

 

Powell: The one lesson I’ve learned is not to be shy about your ideas or achievements. The significant difference between men and women in the workplace, and especially within large corporations which are brutal places to work, is that men are better at promoting their ideas and themselves than women.

 

GISMA: Why is gender balance and having a more diverse workforce important, especially in senior management teams?

 

Powell: If you have a diverse team you have a better chance as an organisation of coming up with innovative products or ways of doing things. This will mark your company out against the competition. Too many senior management teams and boards are made up of white, middle aged, middle class and mediocre men.

 

GISMA: Have you experienced any challenges as a women in business during your overall career – if so, could you share them?

 

Powell: I have experienced many challenges during my career. The most significant was being made redundant during my maternity leave. What was more shocking was to then discover the number of women, both in the organisation I was working in, and those I met locally who had also been pushed out of their jobs just as they were returning to work from maternity leave.

The other significant challenge is the constant feeling that less able and intelligent men are being promoted to board and management team levels whilst women are left behind in middle management.

 

GISMA: Could you give our students a piece of advice on how you manage a good life work balance?

 

Powell: You need to remember that you work to live and not the other way around. You can work hard during your working hours but make sure you leave on time to enjoy life, whether that is spending time with your partner, children, friends or enjoying sport.

If you want children, you need to be in a relationship with someone who wants to co-parent. For us that meant that when I returned to work after maternity leave with both my first and second child and my husband took over caring for the children, by taking two months off work to be a full-time stay-at-home father.

 

GISMA: What are the benefits of being a woman in a senior management role?

 

Powell: I honestly think that in Germany it is though being a woman in a senior management role. There are no women on the board of Handelsblatt Media Group; in fact, the media industry in Germany is solidly male dominated.

 

GISMA: Did Executive Education have an impact on you career?

 

Powell: I took part in a course called the Advanced Management Programme at Said Business School at Oxford University; it gave me some of the tools that have helped me get to a senior position, such as leadership skills, managing finances etc.

 

GISMA: What advice would you give any aspiring female business leaders entering a male-dominated profession?

 

Powell: My honest advice is you can join a male-dominated profession for your early and middle career to get the experience you need. You should then seriously consider leaving and starting your own business – that is the only way you will fulfill both your potential and ambition

At GISMA, we also believe executive education courses can be a real boost to your career so if you’re interested in taking up a course in London, visit our page here.

 

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