Impact’s co-founder, Jules Dosne had the pleasure of collaborating with Amy Mercer, co-founder of UpliftHER, to lead a roundtable discussion on Empowering Women in Leadership. They were joined by an inspiring group of People and Business leaders, collectively steering conversations towards positive change.
At Impact, we pride ourselves on our deep-rooted commitment to inclusivity. Over a decade ago, we launched our Future Proofing Talent through Diversity programme, and have been hosting regular events ever since. Our mission is to foster collaboration and open dialogues that can drive positive change within our industry.
In the ever-evolving professional landscape, women persist in facing distinctive challenges within male-dominated environments. Our recent roundtable revealed not just the hurdles but also began to explore creative approaches to navigate and overcome them.
Here are some key takeaways from our dynamic discussion:
1️⃣ Customised Career Development Programmes: Acknowledge that women have unique needs at different life stages. Tailor career development programmes to align with these stages, ensuring support is provided where it’s needed most—whether it’s early career exploration, mid-career advancement, or executive leadership.
2️⃣ Demystify Networking as a Skill: Networking is pivotal for career progression, with 80% of opportunities arising through connections. Make networking accessible by teaching it as a skill. Provide resources, mentorship, and opportunities for women to expand their networks, fostering a culture where connections are valued and cultivated.
3️⃣ Tackle the Hidden Job Description: Address the burden of hidden tasks that women often carry, from organising to educating others about bias. Be conscious about who is doing what and ensure lower-value tasks explicit across all job roles rather than waiting for them to be ‘picked up’.
For tasks/activities identified as having a cultural impact on the company make sure they aren’t just seen as ‘additional extras’ by rewarding them appropriately for their value.
4️⃣ Address the Feedback Drought and Disparity: Women typically receive more subjective feedback, if they receive feedback at all. At the same time, often left in a conundrum as they navigate gendered labels such as bossy, aggressive, or emotional. Combat the feedback disparity women often face by teaching everyone how to give and receive feedback. Dispel gender stereotypes and equip individuals with the right questions to ask for clarity, supporting development while navigating gendered labels.
5️⃣ Championing Others as a Leadership Criteria: Actively supporting and advocating for others should be a measurable deliverable for leaders. Making this part of your organisation’s performance criteria will help ensure women (and others) aren’t overlooked and recognition becomes ingrained in the organisational culture.
6️⃣ Use Process and Policies to Level the Playing Field: From recruitment and promotion processes to paternity leave, leverage these to increase accessibility, objectify decision-making, and consider the messages sent to women within the organisation.
7️⃣ Objectify Performance and Value Flexibility: Measure output and impact over proximity and availability will help people get over the WFH and part-time working stigma and foster more inclusive workplaces where different working patterns and styles can thrive.
A big thank you to Amy Mercer, Gemma Wise, Charly Fisher, Kiran Bance, Tanya Whitehead, Tania Allen, Sarah Joyce, Amanda Tully, Janet Marwick, Dani Loudon, Georgina Small, Rhona Glazebrook and Carly David for your insightful input. Our thanks to Marc Vickery and TBWA for enabling us to host at your fabulous offices and supporting this important topic.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. At Impact, we strive for a world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
We are proud of our fabulous ladies and are taking the opportunity to share a Q&A with a few of them.
Carly: It’s a great recognition of women across the world and to celebrate women in general!
Ellen: To me, it means celebrating the amazing women in my life who have helped shape the person I am today. My beautiful mum and sister are all the good things in the world – I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the strongest, smartest and funniest women I know every day in the office.
Sarah: IWD to me means celebrating the woman around you – supporting them and empowering them to continue to be the boss’ that we all are!
Erica: It is an opportunity to acknowledge the strength and perseverance of our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers in succeeding to get us to this point of equality in the workplace that we may take for granted. Although as a society we are very far from perfect, conversations with key women in my life have shown me the struggles they faced, which we may not even consider now.
Carly: Absolutely! Working with a lot of CEOs/Hiring Managers that are male, I have often felt like I have to work twice as hard to gain respect and impress.
Ellen: As I am still early (ish) in my career, I luckily started my career at Impact – where I genuinely feel all opportunities are equal when it comes to gender equality. Not many people can say this, so I feel very lucky!
Sarah: Not fight harder… but fight differently for sure. I come from an acting background, so my gender has always been a big part of my career, that’s just what happens when your own body is your business – I have met so many people who have struggled to see me as more than “just a woman”. Navigating that has been exhausting at times, but it’s made me stronger and I am confident and secure in my ability because of it.
Erica: I have felt that I have had to fight harder. Previously, I have been treated differently & sexualised, I’ve not been listened to for ideas and not been included in projects for them being a bit of a ‘boys club’. I am fortunate that at Impact I feel confident to put forward my ideas and I am treated as an equal. Now, I am on a bit of a mission to make sure that all of our candidates are treated this way too.
Carly: 12 years ago, working in the Business Support sector within creative & media it felt very much like an old boy’s club, where support staff were hired for all the wrong reasons. Now working with senior HR professionals and driving the discussion around diversity and inclusivity, I’m proud to be part of the huge shift in the world for the better, where the industry feels much more inclusive.
Ellen: I think it can be particularly difficult for women in the creative industry. Take advertising for example, from a recent study only 29% of the creative directors were female. With such a male dominant industry, this can be particularly daunting for women entering the industry and not seeing female representation in leadership roles. Saying this; the figure was 3% not long ago. Although we have a long way to go, we need to keep pushing!
Sarah: We still have a long way to go to make it perfect, but people are starting to wake up and take notice, so I have faith in the society we are building for future generations.
Erica: I feel that the Media & Entertainment industry has come a long way and we are progressively seeing diversity and inclusion at the height of everyone’s agenda. I think the most important step now is to make sure that our attention is towards intersectional representation and having female representation at every level, bring on more female CEOs!
Carly: Be more transparent and inclusive in their approach and recognise women’s value at the leadership level, despite potential career gaps to raise families.
Ellen: I think leadership needs to own it- it has to come from the top! Having leaders with the right intentions and a clear view of gender parity will flow down naturally.
Sarah: I think introducing more gender neutrality in their everyday practices is one of the best ways forward. By that, I mean gender-neutral toilets, gender-neutral terminology in communication. Not only is it more inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community, but it encourages people to not make automatic assumptions of who a person is, and will help break down barriers both personally and professionally.
Erica: I would like to see companies open up the conversation around gender and work to support all gender identities, and that we are not forgetting the difficulties that our trans & non-binary communities face in the workplace. Creating an office culture where everyone feels they can show their true self is crucial and that’s when the best ideas and work can come to play.
Carly: Know your worth and work hard – it’s a strong combination!
Ellen: Be yourself and use your voice. It’s just as important as anyone else’s in the room.
Sarah: Don’t be afraid to challenge and don’t be afraid to be proud of who you are. Stop enabling old-fashioned ways of thinking and operating, have a fierce approach to life, and – most importantly – stay kind.
Erica: Don’t underestimate yourself! If you play yourself down so will other people. Always upsell your skillset and believe in yourself. You’re not being blunt or bossy, you’re doing your job and you’re not there solely to make others comfortable. Be you, and if they don’t love it someone else will!