The Stella Women Series: Angela Priestley, Co-Founder of Women’s Agenda

01st Apr, 2022

For anyone curious about the latest news and views affecting how women live and work, Women’s Agenda needs to be on your radar. 


From unpacking the latest breaking news to deep-dive editorials into business and leadership, Women’s Agenda is an engaging and much-needed independent voice in the Australian media landscape. 


At the helm of Women’s Agenda (and its fast-growing publisher Agenda Media) is Angela Priestley. Alongside her Co-Founder Tarla Lambert, Angela leads a small but nimble team of passionate journalists and proudly runs one of the few publications in Australia that’s 100% female-owned.


We chatted to Angela about the stories she’s most passionate about telling at Women’s Agenda, what challenges she’s faced as a woman in the media and her advice for other women looking to break into this industry in 2022 (and beyond).


What inspired you to launch Women’s Agenda back in 2012? How has the media landscape changed since you first launched?


“At the time we saw an opening for a new type of publication. One that spoke to women around their ambitions (whether that be around work, family, activism or something else) while also addressing some of the larger, often unspoken hurdles that get in the way of such ambitions, everything from pay and leadership gaps to imbalances around who takes on the bulk of the unpaid work as well as discrimination.


We saw an opportunity to enter the daily news environment, offering optimism and positivity to our audience, while also never shying away from what’s really going on. 


The media landscape has changed significantly since then, as has Women’s Agenda. 


Originally launched with a bigger publisher, I had the opportunity to acquire Women’s Agenda when I took my second stint of parental leave in 2016. I had a six-week-old baby at the time and a six-month runway (as that was the time off I’d financially allocated to be home with the baby) to try and find a way to make an income from the publication. 


Thankfully, I already had Tarla Lambert in my corner to support on the commercial side. A couple of years later we co-founded Agenda Media together (the publisher behind Women’s Agenda, our podcasts,  Leadership Awards, industry publications and content studio) which has enabled us to grow (slowly) without outside investment into building our team. 


We now see ourselves as a daily news platform addressing much more than business, leadership and careers. We look at politics, technology, leadership, climate, health, and so much more. 


The one thing that has always stayed consistent, is our daily newsletter – published every weekday lunchtime for almost ten years.”


Why do you believe we need publications curated by women, for women? 


“In 2022, it’s still extremely rare to find media publications that are 100% owned by women in Australia, or significant diversity across the leadership positions of media. 


Diversity (which must go much further than gender, and which we strive to achieve and improve every day at Women’s Agenda) is critical to news media. It not only enables more voices to be heard but more stories to be shared in the first place, given we take what we see, learn and hear in our own communities, families and experiences, back into those news meetings where story ideas are shared. 


And as a small, nimble and independent media player we also know we can push the boundaries more so than other, more mainstream and larger media platforms. We can tell stories because we think they’re important and will make an impact, rather than because we think they will get eyeballs. 


We can push further on politics and business, knowing we answer only to ourselves.” 


What challenges have you personally faced as a woman (and mother) in the media, and how have these shaped your career?


“I have now spent most of my media career at Women’s Agenda, and have had three kids during this time. 


Most of the challenges I’ve experienced have, at this point, been more around being a new parent, trying to build a business while navigating limited time, a lack of sleep and the uncertainty that comes with trying to sustain a business that thrives on passion and fire – but must also be financially viable for enabling the team we have, as well as supporting ourselves and our families. 


A big challenge for anyone running a business, but also for anyone in media, is burnout. I’ve gone through the ups and downs of this and seen how necessary it is to practively control and watch out for the warning signs.” 


What have been some of your career highlights to date? 


“The first is working with my co-founder, Tarla Lambert, and building a friendship shared on passion, determination, hard work and love for what we do. 


The second is surviving and then growing our business through the early stages of the pandemic. 


Tarla and I thought we’d lost it for a few weeks there, particularly as we had so much of our immediate revenue dependent on running in-person activities, including an awards program and major associated events, that then had to be cancelled. 


Being able to get through those early months of 2020 was a huge challenge, especially on top of homeschooling and keeping a toddler and baby at home. But we were able to do so by examining what we were good at – great stories, content and bringing communities together. 


We didn’t need to pivot completely, we needed to retain our consistency. We kept writing, interviewing, and publishing. We experienced massive, record-breaking traffic months. Our audience kept growing.  And we found that clients respected the work we were doing, and wanted to work with us in other ways around podcasts, partner content, advertising and more.”


What is your advice to other women looking to break into the media or journalism industry? 


“Get writing, producing, tweeting, snap-chatting, podcasting – get active in whatever form of media you want to explore. Don’t wait to be given the opportunity, just start doing it. Find a platform, experiment with your voice and grow your own audience. You may find later on there are opportunities to build a business around what you’ve built, or you’ll get noticed by those hiring. 


But having a voice, especially on challenging and difficult issues will also bring in plenty of critics and in many cases trolls. That can be tough. So try to build a network of supporters around you, whether through people you physically know, or those you can reach out to and get to know a little more online. 


I no longer spend a huge amount of time on Twitter these days, but I’ve met so many great contacts and people online who’ve become great advocates and supporters of our work and are open to providing some behind-the-scenes advice when needed.”


What’s next for Women’s Agenda in 2022 and beyond?


“More stories, more podcasts (we have a new and really interesting series in the works right now), our Leadership Awards in September, and a couple of major commercial partnerships that will enable us to further grow, and get our content to new audiences. 


In the next couple of weeks, we are launching an election hub that’s very, very ambitious and will be like nothing seen previously in Australia. It started as a teeny-tiny idea three days ago and has now grown into something much bigger, that we’re mobilising to launch within a couple of weeks. That’s what you can do with a small, nimble and talented team.”


Tune into the Stella x Women’s Agenda Podcast 


Have you heard? Stella has joined forces with the Women’s Agenda team to launch a brand new podcast series, ‘Moments That Make Us’. Hosted by Shivani Gopal, this series features six incredible female leaders and entrepreneurs with inspiring stories to tell.


Over six weeks, Shivani will be chatting with Kemi Nekavpil, Eloise Hall and Isobel Marshall, Lisa Wilkinson, our own CEO Sam White, Dr Yumijo Kadota and Tayla Harris. 


Make sure to follow us on socials to be the first to hear when episode one drops on April 14th 2022. 


P.s. Stay up to date with the latest news and stories from Angela and the team at Women’s Agenda by subscribing to their free daily newsletter.


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