IMAA announces next Female Leaders of Tomorrow programme

The IMAA is celebrating the success of its inaugural Female Leaders of Tomorrow programme for providing a real-world solution to address the gender pay gap at senior levels* with events in Sydney and Melbourne. It has also announced its new 2024-25 programme.

The 2023-24 programme’s 16 mentees and mentors, along with mentee leaders, IMAA directors and the IMAA leadership team, came together at oOh!media’s offices in Sydney on April 29, and Melbourne on May 2, to mark the overwhelming success of the programme and its graduates.

(Main image left to right – Gaye Steele, Lauren Joyce, Nikki Rooke, Melinda Petrunoff, Cathy O’Connor and Mark Fairhurst).

Spearheaded by IMAA DE&I Chair and AFFINITY CEO, Angela Smith, and Wendy Gower, executive trainer and coach from We Grow, the initiative saw 16 selected mentees benefit from a structured six month mentoring programme, including online and face-to-face sessions, training and meet ups with mentors.

The purpose was for participants to gain valuable industry and personal insights and lessons, skills, and professional networking opportunities from their mentors to set them up for future success in the industry.

The second Female Leaders of Tomorrow programme was also announced, offering IMAA members the opportunity to be paired with some of the industry’s top leaders.

The inaugural programme, which launched in August last year, matched media industry leaders with up-and-coming talent for coaching, mentoring and advice. The six-month programme aimed to create a support network between senior media staff and their mentees, matching mentors with future talent from the nation’s indie media agencies for online and face-to-face sessions.

Feedback from the pilot programme was resoundingly positive – 100 per cent of mentees recorded an uplift in their leadership ability and 100 per cent recorded improvement in their ability to actively applying their new leadership capabilities to their roles, while all the participants also described the programme as “life-changing” and had acquired new leadership skills. In addition, 86 per cent felt more confident to use their leadership skills in more difficult situations and “put themselves out there”.

The survey among mentees also found that there was an increased level of understanding and skills in leadership, which has led to increased confidence in their leadership abilities and taking a more proactive approach to managing issues.

A programme mentee commented: “The dedicated time spent with my mentor has been transformative for my leadership journey, significantly enhancing my ability to navigate challenging situations and foster a team environment.”

IMAA DE&I Chair, Angela Smith, said: “The outcomes of this programme exceeded our expectations. It was important to us to ensure this programme was so much more than feel-good rhetoric and had some baseline measures to determine its impact on the mentees. Based on their responses, every participant told us the programme had helped them move into a more proactive phase of leadership, and they were already applying new skills and perspectives in their day-to-day roles. This fundamental shift underscores the effectiveness of mentorship in fostering continuous learning.The results were a resounding validation of the role this programme has played will continue to play in the development of these women’s careers and beyond.”

Female Leaders of Tomorrow Programme facilitator, Wendy Gower, said: “The scope and depth of learning gained through the programme has been nothing short of inspirational. Without exception, these women have all grown and discovered practical ways to build on their already great potential. They have learned about the power of vulnerability, how to be themselves in difficult circumstances and how to effectively address imposter syndrome – an outsized problem for most women in leadership.”

Mentor and oOh!media CEO, Cathy O’Connor, said: “The way the IMAA Female Leaders of Tomorrow programme has been designed and its ability to give back to everyone involved, is invaluable to the future of our industry and the next generation of female leaders.

“Through my involvement as a mentor, I’ve discovered there is a new generation who have found their voices more confidently than when I was starting out, and I’m incredibly encouraged by this development.”


The 16 IMAA Female Leaders of Tomorrow mentee graduates are:

Zoe Amos – Kaimera

Angela Brand – Hotglue

Sue Cant

Elly Catchlove Half Dome

Hayley Clarke – Hotglue

Denize D’Silva – Media Republic

Eleni Endt – Adenium

Lenka Kleinova – Hatched

Sally Lawrence – Enigma

Kimberley Leopoldo – Hatched

Erienne Lette – Slingshot

Annie Marendaz – The Media Store

Jana Mehrtens – Admatic

Mattie Mould – Apparent

Samantha Murphy – Assembled Media

Olivia Scott


In Sydney, the 2023/24 mentors were Cathy O’Connor (CEO at oOh!media), Lauren Joyce (chief strategy & connections officer at ARN), Nikki Rooke (Sydney sales director at Nine), Lara Brownlow (head of channel sales APAC at LinkedIn), Mark Fairhurst, Melinda Petrunoff (country manager at Pinterest) and Gaye Steel (marketing and content director consultant and Academic Lecturer at Torrens University Australia).

In Melbourne, mentors were Andrea Salmon (Nine director of sales – Melbourne), Peter Whitehead (chief commercial officer at ARN), Natalie Warren-Smith (general manager – Brand and Channel at Stockland), Emma Fulford (head of marketing at Smiggle), Rachel Page (network digital sales director at the Seven Network) Amanda Connors (global chief marketing officer at Total Beauty Network), Karl Winther (chief marketing officer at Kogan) and Andrew Will (commercial director & market lead at NOVA Entertainment).

The Female Leaders of Tomorrow programme is exclusively available to IMAA members and designed for individuals who currently hold manager/director positions, with a minimum five years’ experience in any media agency discipline. Applications for the new programme intake will be announced soon.

*Source: Gender pay gap – 13% and gender leadership pay gap – 20% – IMAA Independent Salary Survey 2023