To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked women from across our business to tell us their experiences of gender equality (or otherwise) at work – and to share the top tips they would go back and tell their younger selves starting out in B2B marketing.
Hayley Burchall, Account Manager: ‘I would love to tell myself to be more confident, to volunteer for more tasks, to believe I could handle more work and more responsibility.’ Art Director Clare Russell agrees ‘confidence is the key to success. We sell ideas and the passion and confidence behind that idea is often as important as the idea itself. People buy into the individuals as much as the work.’ Senior Account Manager Kathryn Pheby believes it’s not just confidence in your work, you have to ‘be confident in your own worth’. Though Clare cautions a balance; ‘don’t be arrogant, don’t think you are better than anyone else. I always think if you are sat on a train with a load of passengers you treat them all the same, whether that’s being courteous as they try to disembark or as you squeeze past them while you try to get on – you have no idea if they are CEOs, assistants or managers and you treat them all the same, because it doesn’t matter we are all people – I think that is worth remembering.’
Have a voice
Part of being confident is finding your voice, Hayley would tell her younger self to ‘be a voice for something you believe in’. Kathryn suggests that ‘speaking up will open up more opportunities, and the more you do it, the more you’ll realise how much you have to offer. Clare agrees and expands ‘also, listen to people, and don’t speak for the sake of being heard, speak because you have something credible to say.’ Leah Philips, Account Manager, feels ‘sometimes it’s hard [to be a woman in this industry], sometimes you have to speak louder to be heard. Designer Holley Wilkes would also advise her younger self to have self-belief: ‘I will never think negatively of my male colleagues unless they give me reason. I will not let myself be excluded from meetings or my voice and opinion pushed to the side. I will be confident in my gender.’
Don’t be afraid to bring your emotions to work
Kathryn says ‘I wish I’d learned to grow a thicker skin sooner! But, I have to remind myself that most negative comments are meant to be constructive, not personal.’ Hayley agrees ‘I had to learn not to take things personally as well, but I also think that the emotional investment that I put into my work has helped me produce better work. Perhaps being a woman has something to do with that.’ Clare agrees that ‘a woman’s greatest quality is empathy and this can go a long way in the workplace.’
Drive your own career
‘Women are always working to justify themselves in their role or for promotions in a different way than how men approach their careers. It’s funny how the word ‘ambitious’ becomes a dirty word’ says Hayley. Holley acknowledges that ‘there are those who hold old-fashioned opinions in the workplace, however, I’ve learnt not to let this minority distract me from my career goals. I have been given many opportunities and feel confident in the B2B world that my male and female colleagues will treat me according to my skills and enthusiasm and not my gender.’
Clare and Kathryn both point out that you don’t have to do it alone. ‘Ask stupid questions, I have asked many a stupid question in my time (and can’t remember any I regret). You will be judged further later down the line when you are ill-informed on a project you have been involved with for some time and that is less acceptable’ says Clare. ‘Though I need to drive my own career progression, I don’t need to do it on my own’ agrees Kathryn. ‘Never be afraid to ask for the help you need to grow – whether it’s training, mentoring or better opportunities. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of supportive people in my job, and their advice has been invaluable.’
The final word
Leah and Holley both have words of encouragement for their younger selves. Leah would like to go back and tell herself ‘you’re tougher than you think’ and Holley would like to tell her younger self that when she was in a role surrounded by routine sexism – being missed out for a payrise and regularly excluded from conversations on the basis of gender – ‘I was incredibly brave during those times.’
Clare concludes: ‘By and large I believe the men in my agency are fair and supportive of equality and I feel lucky to work in one of the more progressive industries in this movement.’
Thanks to all our contributors, Hayley Burchall – Account Manager, Holley Wilkes – Designer, Clare Russell – Art Director, Kathryn Pheby – Senior Account Manager, Leah Philips – Account Manager.