Independent Women: Jo Holdaway

Jo Holdaway, Chief Data and Marketing Officer

In a collection of interviews to mark International Women’s Day 2022, we shine a light on some of the brilliant women at the heart of The Independent. 

Find out more about Jo Holdaway, The Independent’s Chief Data and Marketing Officer.


Describe your job

I am responsible for the data strategy across the company, which spans newsroom and commercial analytics, data acquisition through registrations and subscriptions, data monetisation and compliance.  On the marketing side, it’s leadership of the A2K strategy which encompasses the subscriptions marketing, CRM and customer success teams. Our team has grown with the demand for data to inform our business decisions, and I can truthfully say I have never worked with such a diverse, dedicated and talented group of people.

How did you get into your profession?

My career prior to data has been in media sales. I started as a graduate business trainee for IPC Magazines (later Time Inc) and ended the training with a permanent job in advertising for New Scientist magazine.  As a biology graduate, it was my dream job!  I eventually moved across to outdoor and then newspapers with The Independent.  In 2006 I was transferred from print as the commercial publisher for The Independent to Digital Commercial Director, after the then MD wanted to kickstart our digital commercial proposition.  I then moved into data after my second maternity leave ended, when our now CEO, Zach Leonard, asked me to build a data proposition for the business.

Who and what has helped you break the bias?

I’ve been very lucky, and started working for very successful and strong women from the start.  My first big boss was Sylvia Auton, who was the publisher at the time for the special interest magazines at IPC.  She went on to run the company both in the UK and the US.  My immediate manager was an inspirational woman and the team was also all-women.  When I moved to The Independent, the display sales team was also predominantly female.  This has hugely influenced my thinking and attitudes to progression in the workplace, and helped with setting expectations for myself but also within the company and industry.  The data field is pretty much male-dominated, but I rarely let this negatively affect me – I see it as a challenge.  Support from other women within the industry continues to be invaluable.  Finally, Zach has been a constant support and mentor as my line manager, for more years than I care to count!

Which women do you admire?

I admire any woman who manages to juggle their career ambitions with their home life aspirations.  In particular, those friends of mine who have been there for each other since the early days and are happy to lend their support and give advice when asked at various stages along the way. 

What are your hopes for the future in terms of breaking the bias?

Career advancement should be based on potential and ability, not gender.  The more transparent companies are about their culture, gender pay gaps and D&I policies, the more equality we should see.  To me, it’s about education across all levels of society, and I can see progress when I speak to my children and explore their attitudes.  I hope that the recent pivot to flexible working can help to break the bias which we still see with working mothers, who have an enormous amount to offer but are hampered by logistics, high childcare costs and outdated presenteeism attitudes in some areas of the industry.

What one bit of career advice would you give to others?

The older I get the more I appreciate that career decisions have to be compatible with life decisions, and finding like-minded women at similar stages to you can really help. Be generous, listen and help where you can – it’s a small industry!

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