Women supporting women: WACL Gather Scotland conference
Sallie Bale • 7th Oct 2019
Did you know that more than half of people entering the advertising and communications industry are female, and yet only 36% of leadership positions are held by women? It’s easy to forget this fact when you’re part of a business with a woman at the helm, like here at The Lane. Ali Findlay founded our agency over 10 years ago, and continues to be a leader, role model and positive force in the industry.
As part of my role as President of Bloom Scotland, I recently attended WACL Gather, an incredible event for women in communications and marketing who want to inspire and support one another.
Out of all the themes that came out of the event, the biggest one was that so many women lack the confidence they need to succeed.
Lack the confidence to put their hand up and work on new opportunities.
Lack the confidence to talk about their achievements.
Lack the confidence to speak up about things they don’t agree with.
So, how can we change this? Events like this are amazing catalysts for change. We heard from so many unbelievable speakers, all with great pearls of wisdom to impart. There was enough material discussed to fill many blogs but I’ll stick to my five key takeaways.
Know your value
Leadership coach Ros Taylor’s words that struck me most were that if you want to advance in your career you need to know the value that you bring to a company, and be able to communicate it. This sentiment was echoed by Skyscanner CMO Joanna Lord, who went a step further to say that you need to know your value, and get comfortable with it. Don’t shy away from your worth.
Be a role model
Of course, Judy Murray had some tales to tell. And one anecdote that she told was how, when she was an international tennis coach, she was berating a senior coaching official about how there were no female coaches on the board, and asked what he intended to do about it. His reply was that he has asked her on many occasions to speak at events, to be a role model for up and coming female coaches – but she’d always declined because she was scared.
It’s easy to blame a lack of role models for a lack of diversity. Judy’s point was that the only way we’re going to break the cycle is if we individually take responsibility for making it happen. We need to step outside of our comfort zone and be the role model we wished we’d had.
I feel so privileged to have Ali at the head of our company. To have a role model to aspire to, to learn from. Because it starts to feel like the norm, rather than an exception. Edinburgh’s lucky; we have a great wealth of female run agencies, including PR agency Stripe, whose CEO Juliet Simpson was instrumental in bringing WACL Gather to Scotland.
It’s an old cliché that great things don’t happen in your comfort zone. But it’s a cliché for a reason. One of the most widely recognised stats that came up at the event more than once was that, in general, men are likely to go for a job or opportunity if they reckon they can do around 60% of what’s required. Women, on the other hand, generally need to feel that they can do 100% do the job before going for it.
It was pointed out that part of a job is about learning as you go, and most employers expect that to be the case. The panel discussed that hiring managers are mainly looking for competency and a good character fit. The rest you can pick up on the job.
Many of the speakers spoke about your ‘third dimension’, your B-side. What you do outside of work life and home life. Whether that’s volunteering, sports, art. Something that builds skills and interests outside of your day job.
One of the most inspiring talks of the day was from Renee Vaughan Sutherland. She’d just left her job to pursue her passion; increasing the number of female CDs. Renee wanted to take her mission out into the world, to speak at events and run workshops supporting female creatives to rise through the ranks. But she was petrified of public speaking.
Renee entered WACL’s Future Leaders Award and won a £3,000 grant to help excel her career. She used it to overcome her fear, and become and inspiring and effective public speaker, and she absolutely was.
Sometimes, no matter how much you work on yourself, you can’t control or predict other people’s actions. Sometimes, unfortunately, you face discrimination.
This topic was broached by the a panel made up of Lucky Generals CEO Katie Lee, Stylist CEO Ella Dolphin, Coach Lauren Currie and Wavemaker COO Anna Hickey. And their advice was to call it out.
If you can, call it out in the room, as it happens
If you can’t, then call it out afterwards
But make sure it gets logged, counted, and doesn’t go undetected
Granted, in the moment it can be very hard to speak up. Lauren Currie had an excellent tip: pretend you didn’t hear. And ask them to repeat what they said. This draws attention to what they said and makes sure it doesn’t slip through unnoticed.
Raise other people up
Juliet Simpson’s closing remarks were a rallying cry to not just everyone in the room, but every woman in the industry. She asked that every single attendee goes out of their way to raise up 10 other women in the next month. Whether that’s acknowledging the great work they do, giving them a compliment, noticing when they’re not having the best time and being there for them. Who can you support this month?
And so, as hundreds of women left the event feeling inspired and connected, my thoughts turned to the future. How we can help ourselves and each other build a better industry, a better world? How we can feel empowered to support one another to reach our collective potential, and overcome obstacles (and maybe even feel more confident)?
The challenge is to go out and be the change you want to see in the world.
How will you be more confident?