Katharina Wynne on the Power of Radical Honesty


Katharina Wynne is a powerhouse.

As a woman in advertising — she’s currently a strategy partner at DDB Group — Wynne has joined forces with other industry leaders to create initiatives that drive women’s rights and diversity within the workplace.

She’s not only an inspiration through her leadership role in a predominantly male-dominant industry, but also through her relentlessness when it comes to advocating for women in leadership roles.

POPSUGAR Australia chatted to Wynne about relatable struggles with imposter syndrome, the importance of radical honesty, saying yes to opportunities, and how we can push past a feeling of being lost in our careers.

POPSUGAR Australia: Hi Katharina! How did you get to where you are in your career today?

Katharina Wynne: I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia to a conservative American father and a liberal Indonesian mother.

Though I’d love to say I’m one of those people who knew precisely what I would do with my life from the age of five, I actually fell into my career through a series of saying yes to seemingly random opportunities. Saying yes to things that felt exciting, and a little scary.  

I’d always been attracted to creativity, but felt I never really had a tangible talent for it, such as illustration or design, for example. Nevertheless, I worked my way through the world of activations, branding, and eventually advertising. Through this journey I found that I did have a useful talent after all: (creative) problem solving.

Unfortunately, I still can’t draw to save my life.

PS: Why are women’s rights and a focus on diversity so important within the workplace?

KW: This question is a tricky one, because I don’t think we can paint the progress of diversity and women’s rights with one broad stroke across all workplaces, but I can speak to the industry I’m in specifically. In any creative industry, really, it’s a no-brainer. Diversity of thought has always bred creativity. And in a world that is demanding more and more authenticity from the brands, businesses, and organisations that we interact with, lived experience is one of the most valuable resources. If we want to remain at the forefront of what matters in culture, then it isn’t just morally or politically correct to have more women and diverse people in the workplace, it also makes financial sense.

PS: What are you doing in your current role to champion change and make progress in terms of diversity and women’s rights?

KW: There are two organisations that I’m very proud to be a part of. The first is #OnlyOneInTheRoom, which is a collection of incredible humans from different creative agencies working towards the goal of building a more culturally diverse and inclusive advertising industry. We recently just completed our first annual “Destroy This Brief” competition, where we identify actionable diversity challenges within the industry, and invite absolutely anyone to “destroy” the problem.

The 2nd is DDB Group’s “Project iV”, a mentorship and leadership program designed to empower, inspire, and nurture the female and non-binary leaders of tomorrow. This year, to honour the global IWD theme of #EmbraceEquity, we are launching a program that provides and matches participants with mentors and trainings that fit their specific needs.

PS: In championing women’s rights, what would you encourage others to do?

KW: I think the two most impactful things women can do for one another is practice radical honesty and generosity.

Honesty — because imposter syndrome is no joke. The feeling of not being good enough, of comparing ourselves to others, of doubting our contribution or worth are all very real and often debilitating. In my experience, seeing examples of successful women who are admittedly imperfect, don’t have it all figured out, and are still learning, is incredibly inspiring. To know you can be brilliant without being flawless — especially in this insta-real airbrushed world — is a healthy and important reminder.

And generosity — because a rising tide lifts all boats. Being generous with our time, our lessons learned, and our encouragement of one another can only have a positive impact across the board.

PS: What would be your advice to any women who are feeling lost in their careers right now? 

KW: “The light of day is the best disinfectant.”

We shouldn’t be afraid to talk to each other about the things that worry us. Chances are that someone else has already been through what you’re going through, and even if the circumstances aren’t exactly the same, we can always learn from one another’s experience and perspective.

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