IWD 2021 #choosetochallenge

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we put some questions to some of the senior women in the business to hear their thoughts and share their insight. This year’s theme is #choosetochallenge, and in an industry strongly influenced by men; it’s inspiring to see women across the agency succeeding and acting as role models and inspirations to women just starting out their journey in media.

We spoke to Heather Connearn, Director, Eliette Cremer, Programmatic Lead, Lesley Menzies, PPC Lead, and Bethan Gibson, Associate Director.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

EC: It’s a day where we highlight that women are equal to men. It’s a chance to remind that there shouldn’t be a gap between genders and that women need to be considered on the same level.

LM: For me, International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate what women have achieved. To remember the trailblazers who paved the way but also to pause and think about how we can improve opportunities for women today, and into the future. We must continue to promote change and diversity to create a more inclusive workplace for us all.

BG: International Women’s Day is a day to recognise and reflect on the strides that women have made to get to where we are today. It is a day to celebrate our accomplishments and to inspire future generations that they can achieve anything they set out to regardless of their gender.

It is even more important to me now as a mum to a young daughter as I really want her to have a world of opportunity ahead of her. I hope to inspire her daily to work hard, to view men and women as equals, and not feel she needs to adhere to a certain stereotype.

What’s your biggest career achievement to date?

EC: Managing a team, no matter the gender, the age and the nationality/ethnic group.

HC: Becoming a Director of the agency was a huge achievement for me. My position enables me to drive change from the top and sets a path for women in the agency to follow.

What do you think has changed within the media industry to better equality?

EC: I think digital media is moving in the right direction as there are lots of female leaders. In all my previous jobs, I’ve had female managers so I’ve personally not suffered from gender inequality, but I can see traditional media is still male centric. There has been improvement as there are male and female managers, but the vast majority are still white men.

BG: The industry is a lot less male dominant than it once was and I think we have finally reached a point where there are equal opportunities for both men and women upon entering. There is also an increasing number of female leaders in the industry, being fantastic spokespeople in their fields and really paving the way for future generations. Exposure to these role models inspires young women starting out in the industry to aim for the higher positions that they may have previously assumed were only for men.

Are there any assumptions about women that you would like to change? Why?

EC: I don’t like the idea of “a woman reaches the top because it looks good for the company or because it matches with a quota”. We should give responsibility based on capacity, background and know how. I personally don’t like the fact that men are fine negotiating higher salaries, while women have a tendency to “hope for it”.

HC: I think that women are frequently overlooked for senior roles because they work part-time due to being their family’s primary childcare provider. There is an assumption that they cannot perform more senior roles whilst working reduced hours. This is most certainly not the case and I would like to see attitudes towards the appointment of part-time employees into senior roles change. I think flexible working has a big role to play in supporting woman taking on senior positions and the pandemic has brought around a much-needed shift in attitudes towards this type of working.

BG: That we are weak, overly cautious, and also that we lack gravitas. Men are still thought of as more vocal, shouting louder to get made their voice heard and demanding what they want. It is an ongoing challenge but something I hope will continue to improve over time.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

EC: I personally think that there should be no difference between genders, like there should be no difference between ethnicity or religion. I grew up with 2 brothers and was treated the same way as them. I want the women of the next generation to think that they can achieve as much or more than the fellow men around them, that they don’t need to wear makeup, dress sexy or anything like this. What bothers me is that women are expected be on their best profile, when men are not asked to dress or look good.

HC: We need to address the underrepresentation of women in the board room (in 2020 only 5 FTSE 100 companies were led by women). I am confident that the generation behind me has the skills to achieve equality in leadership positions, but they must be given the opportunity. There is a long way to go.

BG: I think the media industry is somewhat ahead of the game when it comes to equality but unfortunately not all industries are there yet. There are still a lot of careers that are very much male focused with archaic and old-fashioned beliefs, making it more challenging for a woman to succeed. The other big challenge is pay. Unfortunately the gender pay gap still very much exists, and we have a long way to go before women are truly on a level playing field with men in this area.

What role or impact would you like to play in relation to women’s rights today?

EC: I don’t know if I can make an impact at all, but I am hopeful that the perception is not only for women, but also for men to see that a woman doesn’t need to be cute or pretty to be accepted.

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

EC: The real progress is that I don’t feel like I am where I am because I am a woman, but because of my background. Not that I take it for granted at all, but I am trying not to think of it as a favour. The real progress on gender equality in my personal life is that I was able to buy a house in 2020 independently, without male support.

Why do we need more women in leadership?

EC: We need more women in leadership, the same way we need more variety in all fields. Women are not different to men (we’re not smarter or softer), so we need more women in leadership the same way we need more ethnic backgrounds. The more variety the stronger the team!

LM: Getting more women into leadership roles is a key factor in the journey to true equality. Women can bring a wealth of unique skills, talent and creativity to the workplace and by overlooking them, we all miss out. It’s also important for the next generation of women to have role models that they can relate to. People to inspire and motivate them and encourage them to reach their true potential.

In the words of the iconic Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be even more women out there doing things — and we’ll all be better off for it.”

HC: Research has shown time and time again that having women in leadership roles makes good business sense. We provide a different perspective, one that represents at least 50% of the workforce. We often bring a different skill set and approach to leadership. To change pre-conceived ideas about what qualities are required in these positions we must be in them in the first place.