How to make your workplace more inclusive

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we brought together some of the finest female leaders in the digital, marketing & agency world.

We discussed the role of women in marketing and how to bring about change in businesses to make them more inclusive.

At Street we are HUGE supporters of women – our agency has a female founder, and we have a team full of brilliant women that help run our agency and produce excellent work for our clients. Despite being in lockdown we wanted to do something fun to mark International Women’s day, so we wanted to bring together some amazing female leaders that inspire us to celebrate the achievements of women in a webinar; The power of women in the agency and marketing world.

Our founder Katie Street was joined by a powerhouse of women from both agencies and brands:

Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO, TAKUMI

Mona Nikzad, Digital & E-Commerce Marketing Strategist, Organix 

Rachael Smith, Head of Proposition at easyJet 

Linda Davidson, previously Head of Digital at Jamie Oliver and EastEnders star Mary The Punk and now Leading Tech, Ops and Transformation at Essence

Gender skills gap

The first topic of discussion was the fact that technology roles lack female employees “there just aren’t as many women in those roles” said Katie. Rachael Smith, Head of Proposition at easyJet said that they have done a lot of work on “non in the air functions and in the air functions, and have a 50/50 spilt”, saying their newly appointed CCO is female, even though traditionally these roles are traditionally held by men.

Rachael went on to say that it starts with an early intervention, and easyJet have launched a program in schools about how to become a pilot, telling them about engineering skills, to build on the gender skills gap.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it

The theme of this year’s International Women’s day was #ChooseToChallenge, which led nicely on to Rachael talking passionately about the fact that people need to see people like them in roles. “I do really believe if you can’t see people in those roles, it’s going to be really difficult for you to be in one of those roles”. Going on to say, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it” and said it’s important when looking at organisations that you are going to work with or for you need to consider what you can see, and if they have what you are looking for.

Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO, TAKUMI went on to say that she has seen an evolution take place over the years, being in a Managing Director role when she was 27, saying companies are realising they have to change as there is a generation of women who are coming up the ranks, and they won’t stand for hypocrisy because “they will shout it out, and I encourage them to do so”.

Mary also went on to say, “if you don’t give power to people who are in the roles that are customer facing and they haven’t got any power to make decisions, then, you will not develop your people in the right way to that they can handle power”

How do you make the workplace more inclusive?

Katie suggested one way of making your workplace more inclusive would be to look at your parental leave policies. She spoke about agency UsTwo and their shared parental leave policy, saying that it empowers individuals to make the decision which drives equality and fairness.

Mary suggested that it’s a conversation that needs to be had openly by government and more women in power are needed in government to help make regulatory change.

Rachael spoke about the ‘Gender Pain Gap’, acknowledging how women work despite experiencing and dealing with conditions such as PMS, endometriosis etc but echoed Mary’s thoughts around it having to start with polices from the government.

Rachael then spoke about the things she can influence, “what can I impact, what can I control” saying that she might not be able to change policies at easyJet but listens to her team and their needs and help them where she can e.g. flexible working, condensed hours depending on what would help them to impact them and their lives and make them a better team.

Flexible working

Continuing the conversation about flexible working, Mona Nikzad, Digital & E-Commerce Marketing Strategist, Organix  spoke about how in the places she’s worked, flexible working has been in place for parents, particularly mums, however said that flexible working should be for everyone. She said when you are single you have a household to run on your own, and the admin of paying bills etc falls onto you too, so still need the option of flexible working to get things done. With the pandemic it seems that more companies are offering flexible working which is a step in the right direction for gender equality.

Career advice for your younger self

We were inundated with questions ahead of the webinar, which is a real positive step change, as it means it’s on people’s agendas to work on equality and is a subject people are interested to learn more about.  One of the questions put to the panel, was ‘what career advice would you give to your younger self? Katie mentioned about the BIMA mentorship program, being a mentor herself, she gives advice to her mentees on their careers, things they are working on, advice for the future etc.

Rachael agreed and said even if you don’t take part in a program, she said “ask people to be your mentor, it’s flattering for them and you are giving ownership of your own career”. She also highlighted “you own your own career, the choices you make, what you put your hand up to” and said if opportunities don’t present themselves, you need to go and find them!

Mary said when you are a successful female leader “you have to make decisions that will often make you very unpopular, and people will question decisions, but you have to have the foresight and the confidence to be able to live by the goals and decisions as well”.

Know your worth

The conversation then moved onto self-worth, Rachael said “don’t put pressure on yourself, everyone else is putting pressure on you, so don’t need anymore”.

Mona echoed this and said “know your worth” which was then a running theme through the discussion as it resonated with a lot of people. Mona said to ask yourself these questions, are your opinions being heard? Is your input appreciated? Are you being treated as an expert? Are you trusted with the ability to make decisions? This all comes under knowing your worth. She then went on to say “we have a worth in the workplace, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more money, just know your worth and stay true to that” said Mona.

Katie agreed if you think you’re worth it, or worth more the worse thing they can say is say no, “understand your worth and fight for it” said Katie. She then talked about working in publishing with a lot of men and felt she did better than her predecessor who was male, and they advertised her job for a lot more when she left, and she regrets not asking.

“Women don’t like to make themselves unpopular, don’t want to be seen as pushy” said Mary. She said it happens at all levels across all organisations and it’s got to stop.

How do you ask for a pay rise?

Continuing the conversation about pay rises, Mary shared some tips on how to ask for a pay rise, saying that it’s important to understand the commercials of your business and the contribution of the role you are in. Mary said to ask yourself “what you do and how you contribute to the company’s success?”. Mary compared it to working with a client, think about how you’re going to make a difference and what the commercials are like.

Mary suggested looking at benchmarking reports such as the Cogs Agency, which produces survey results each year, showing trends across salaries and roles, as these may also help your case.

Rachael suggested some solutions for agencies that don’t have the budget to pay more money when people ask for pay rises, she said to think about what will benefit them and improve their lives? Suggesting wellbeing initiatives, condensed week working 4 days instead of 5, more holiday, she said to look at other ways of rewarding people for their hard work.

Educate early on

Linda Davidson, Leading Tech, Ops and Transformation at Essence said that education at schools is so important, saying that we have to start this story early, teaching children in schools about equality and the roles out there available to them. She sadly spoke about her God daughter telling Linda that “your generation has failed our generation” which was a sobering thought for the panel.

Rachael said in response to this that she had seen a phrase which really struck a chord with her, “strong women, may we see them, be them and raise them”. Following on from this she said we can’t change society on our own, but micro phrases, actions will make people think differently.

How do you balance mental health with progressing your career

Another question that was submitted was around how to balance mental health whilst pushing for more as a woman in the workplace? Dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes with progression, Mary said that she has previously seen a psychologist and would highly recommend it and said to do whatever you need that is going to help you. She bought the conversation back to finding a mentor, saying that women who have found success should give back.

Rachael said she can relate to this, and suggested building your network and team as they are the people you need and help. You need a solid team to push you on and make time for your health and wellbeing.

Katie agreed saying “us women are such great cheerleaders for each other. I think your use your fellow females and your colleagues and people that are maybe more senior than you and also your maybe less senior than you and talk to the, as usually all have each other’s backs”.

Towards the end of the discussion, Mary said she doesn’t want to hear about having to fight constantly to be heard…companies have to be proactive, recognise talent and acknowledge it” and said we “shouldn’t take days like to today for granted’.

The webinar was a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day and was full of ideas on ways businesses can make changes to make their workplace more inclusive. This write up is just an overview, so watch the video for more hints and tips.

If you enjoyed this, why not join us on our monthly webinar series, The New World of New Biz where we provide lots of ideas around new business and marketing your agency. Sign up here for free to join the next one.
By Michaela Dudfield
11th March 2021
7 minute read