Our Digital Journalist, Safeia El-Jack, discusses inclusivity in the marketing industry and interviews three Magpie women in senior leadership roles on International Women’s Day and equality.
Across the world today, women’s achievements are being celebrated for their contributions made to society, economy, culture, politics and so much more. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias where people have been posing with their arms crossed in front of them as a symbol of solidarity against inequality, discrimination and bias. It also coincides with the re-launch of ‘She Does Digital’ co-founded by Magpie’s Creative Director, Rose, which aims to encourage more women into the digital industry.
In the UK, according to the Gender in Marketing Report by axonn.co.uk, more women hold management roles in the marketing industry compared to men who hold more CEO and director roles. This paired with the fact that childcare tends to fall on mothers as opposed to fathers (thus making it harder for women to pursue full-time senior leadership positions if employers aren’t willing to be flexible) and how the gender pay gap is at its highest during women’s late twenties to early thirties (which is when a lot of women have children) show that there is still work to be done when it comes to equal opportunities.
Here is what three women in senior leadership roles at Magpie had to say about IWD and women empowerment in the industry and workplace…
Q — What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
KIM: A chance to celebrate brilliant women and acknowledge that we are still a long way from equality, especially in the workplace where just eight of the CEOs in the top 100 UK companies are women.
“If we all speak up and call out where things aren’t fair we will create a force for change that it is uncontainable.”
Like every great social movement, we have to come together to create change, we can’t solve these problems alone.
ROSE: I think it’s really important to acknowledge how far we have come in the fight for gender equality and to use the opportunity to celebrate all the women who have helped to get us where we are today and also to raise awareness of the issue. Ideally, gender inequality wouldn’t be a thing. We still have a long way to go, but things are progressing in the right direction which is a good thing.
GRAINNE: To me it is celebrating and learning from history, considering where we have come from, where we are now and then looking towards the future, helping to give hope and empowerment to women.
Q — How do you support women’s empowerment?
ROSE: I am surrounded by many women who empower me every day! However, I also do a lot of work in this area.
“In 2016, I co-founded an initiative called ‘She Does Digital’ which aims to encourage more women into the digital industry.”
I am really passionate about this as throughout my career I have struggled to find women applying for digital roles in design in particular. She Does Digital are a group of passionate volunteers who work across the industry in Leeds. We work on raising the profile of female role models across the city by putting on events, mentoring, linking businesses and students and going into schools, colleges and universities. We had to go on pause over lockdown but are looking to re-launch this month.
GRAINNE: I think by being a positive female role model I can support other women.
“I show how it is possible to have a leadership role whilst being a mother, which applies equally to being a carer and those other responsibilities many of us have outside of work.”
I have provided support to women throughout my career and I am proud to have supported women to achieve their academic dreams, which provides the springboard to enter their chosen careers. Women have supported me when I was early in my career and I aim to pay it forward!
KIM: I strongly believe in ‘working like a woman’, something I have been more confident to do as I have gained experience, learnt from other women and read some powerful stuff (such as Mary Portas’ Work Like a Woman). I have never tried to fit into an alpha culture.
“I prefer a more collaborative approach and being surrounded and supported by talented people.”
I’ve been fortunate in being supported by some empowering women and feel it is important to continue offering support to others no matter what the gender of those who need support.
Q — Why do we need more women in leadership roles?
GRAINNE: There is absolutely no reason at all why women should experience barriers to entering leadership roles.
“Women bring a vital perspective to these roles.”
The limitations placed on women historically and now are the reason why International Women’s Day is so important. Women should have an equal chance to enter leadership roles.
ROSE: We need more women in leadership roles to improve diversity in decision making in organisations. A diverse leadership team can bring many different perspectives. Women in leadership roles can be role models to others in organisations to look up to.
KIM: Vandara Shiva (activist, scholar and author) puts this perfectly for me ‘Women with their caring and sharing will be the teachers of how to be human in the future’. If we lead and empower others using female energy and feminine values I believe we can truly make the world a better place. In all work roles (and out-of-work roles come to think of it)
“I have always believed in vision over ambition and strength grounded in perseverance and vulnerability not dominance and power.”
Leading is also about excellence over perfection. One of our amazing founders Ged once said to us that ‘perfection was boring’, and in the context of empowering women this is perfect advice, excellence is a goal we can all strive for, to be our best and be truthful, perfection is a whip to beat yourself with, lock it away!
“At Magpie over two thirds of the team are women.”
I really believe that this is why kindness surrounds us, it infuses everything from how we run the business, to the impact we make, to how we treat each other at work. Who would argue with more kindness in leadership positions and in the world?
Q — Describe a moment in your career where you felt empowered…
KIM: Now! I feel totally empowered to be myself and lead with my heart and soul at Magpie and with the partners, we work with to create positive change and champion the communities we work with.
ROSE: I think I am quite fortunate to have a great support team of people around me in the workplace that I am genuinely empowered through the kind of work I do regularly.
GRAINNE: I feel empowered now! No longer am I making complicated plans about what time I need to be in the office and leave the office on every given day in order to collect my child from school/childcare so that I can still work my hours in the normal working day. I can now work around my needs as a Mother, this is progress! I am thinking about menopause and how this more flexible approach to when and where we work will support women to achieve their potential whilst also going through what can be a challenging time.
Q — What progress have you seen in the course of your career in relation to women in the workplace and what progress would you like to see?
ROSE: For me, being one of 3 women in the leadership team at Magpie is progress. I have genuinely been inspired by a lot of the women in the team at Magpie, their strength, work ethic, resilience, determination and confidence is amazing to see. I would like to see more women championing, supporting and helping others. Particularly when it comes to people getting into the industry or those returning to work after maternity leave.
“It needs to be ok to take a career break, women shouldn’t be penalised for starting a family or feel pressured to choose between the two.”
The world of work needs to adapt and flex to allow men and women to be truly equal. We need to make it easier for those women who want to have families but also still have a career to thrive and still be taken care of and be supported, along with their partners.
GRAINNE: I have worked in the NHS and Local Authorities for most of my career before coming to work at Magpie and I have been surrounded by female leaders, including two female chief executives. This enabled me to feel that my gender wouldn’t be a barrier to progression, however, some of the most senior roles in the country need more women in them. I would like to see another female Prime Minister in the near future!
KIM: I have definitely seen a greater movement towards more balance for work-life and life as a parent. It’s well known that it’s not giving birth to a child that affects women’s careers, it’s being the default carer for them that can mess up women’s chances of promotion and progress. I have seen huge leaps forward in the last 20 years with this (including shared paternity leave and a much more open approach towards flexible working). My husband and I both shared part-time working to care for our two children in the early days. So whilst it’s not as straightforward as career OR family life, I would like to see more progress with the cost of childcare to enable more women and men to return to work (if they want to). I’d also like to see childcare breaks in work as a brilliant life lesson not a career break, that way those returning to work (and let’s face it – that’s mainly women) wouldn’t be struck by returning to a less-skilled, lower-paid post.
I’d also like to see more senior roles being advertised as part-time and flexible. All our senior Magpie roles are fulfilled by people working part-time, so we can try and manage to combine a meaningful career with being involved in bringing up our children – but I’m certainly striving to be good at this, not perfect, I’ve done my fair share of turning up late and forgetting forms!
Finally, I would like to see more men leading on this movement for equality. Women alone cannot truly make change happen unless the behaviour of all humans changes. It’s not just the physical burden of childcare or caring responsibilities that falls on women and can disadvantage women in the workplace, it’s the mental load. Comic artist Emma sums this up perfectly in her 2017 illustration ‘You Should’ve Asked’.
Read it, share it.
Q — And finally, what’s your message to young women breaking into the industry?
GRAINNE: Don’t be afraid to seek support and guidance from other women who are leading the way in your industry. Think about what you want for your future and take ownership of making it happen by asking for help along the way. I would like to linger on the point of seeking help and things might not always work out how you had planned or how you had expected.
“There is more than one route, more than one way to go if you have an open mind.”
KIM: Unless someone like you cares a lot, nothing is ever going to get better. So grab every opportunity, say yes, never doubt yourself and say ‘thank you’ not ‘sorry’. No matter what your gender – join the movement, support She Does Digital and read You Should’ve Asked.
ROSE: For those wanting to get into the industry, I’d say go for it! The industry is fast-paced, but you’ll learn quick! I would definitely recommend finding a trusted mentor who you can talk to and guide you through. I wish I had that when I first started out but as someone 17 years in, it’s so rewarding and exciting to see and support tomorrow’s talent.
— END OF INTERVIEW —
The intersectionality of being a woman of colour in the marketing industry is also a cause for concern. Last year, the ‘All In Census’ revealed that there were major discrepancies in gender, race and age in the UK’s digital marketing sector. It found that ‘only 10% of industry employees identify as Black or Asian, making their representation at the c-suite level predictably poor at 4%.’ Here is an extensive list of women of colour marketers, ranging from digital strategists to chief brand officers.
Don’t forget to follow Rose’s initiative, She Does Digital here!
How do YOU #BreakTheBias?
Digital agencies lack age, gender and race diversity but score well on LGBT+ inclusion