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International Women's Day Q&A

With International Women’s Day taking place this Sunday (8th March), we decided to highlight some of the inspiring females in our network and ask them about their journey, their challenges, and what advice they may have for our female candidates. Stay tuned for part two of our IWD themed piece (which will include a very special announcement involving the East Midlands Finance Awards) on Monday.

We first spoke with Chloe Fair, an SEO Strategist from Digital Marketing Agency, Impression. Chloe graduated with a degree in German and Philosophy (admittedly falling into the Digital Marketing industry which she has excelled in for the last six years). Since joining Impression in July 2016, she now manages a team of four SEO executives. We asked Chloe what tips she would give to young females starting their careers.

Surround yourself with people that inspire you every day.
That doesn’t even have to necessarily be people in your industry, but even better if you can do that too! Find other females you can aspire to be like, drop them a tweet, and watch them at conferences!

Shadow. Shadow. Shadow. I was fortunate enough to be thrown in the deep end in my roles, but it’s becoming more prominent that you need the experience to get experience in digital now. Whatever role you start out in, as an intern, an assistant, etc. then ask to shadow. Ask to sit in calls, to sit in strategy discussions and even meetings if possible.

Figure out what you enjoy. This is one of the most important things when it comes to choosing a career, industry, and company that suits you. It’s important that you figure out what you enjoy and then try and do more of that in your day-to-day role if you can.

Our second interviewee, Sally Carter, is the Co-founder of The Coco Collective: a wellness business with the ambition to support and help people to live a more balanced, conscious, and healthy lifestyle. In the last year, the Coco studio has become a frequent destination for the ladies at Distinct, as a number of us attend lunchtime Yoga, Pilates, and most recently Barre classes (think yoga combined with ballet!). Prior to this, Sally has done everything from styling & photography at Paul Smith, heading up marketing teams for Speedo International to working with Jaguar Land Rover at her own consultancy business. With all of this in mind, we asked Sally what her key motivators are.

To work creatively and autonomously - towards a clear and meaningful goal. This usually includes working with great people with a shared passion. In businesses where I didn’t have this - I would quickly look for the next opportunity and move on. In my own business, I am motivated by the same things but am able to set my own business purpose and goals. 

Finally, we spoke with Developer, Jessica White. When she’s not doing her day job at Experian, Jess is also Co-Director & Organiser of DDD East Midlands, a general technology conference in Nottingham that celebrates the local technology scene. She also founded Women in Tech – a local meet-up aiming to improve the ratios of technical women at other tech socials in Nottingham. In addition to all of this, Jess is an international speaker, occasional blogger, peer mentor, and Microsoft MVP in Developer Technologies. We wanted to know what advice Jess has for women who are aiming for leadership positions.

Be authentically you. Always try to have a positive impact on those you are working with and around. Help shatter that glass ceiling for anyone following you. If you aren’t true to yourself, work will be harder and less enjoyable. People will respect you more if you are authentic. You may get critique around being “stubborn”, “abrasive” or otherwise – when getting this kind of feedback, you should consider asking for examples to see if it is a genuine behaviour you might want to work on – or if it’s because people perceive that you “should” be behaving or talking in a certain way. If it’s the latter, then it’s probably more their issue than yours.

We felt it was significant to ask our panel whether they had ever experienced any gender-related challenges in their career, and more importantly – how they overcame those challenges.

Chloe: The biggest challenge for me has been confidence which has partly come from knowing that I am often the minority in a room where there are fewer females. This was a lot more prominent in my previous role where the SEO team was in the IT department and we were only 6 females out of a team of 25. Digital marketing is a very young industry, and although it can still feel that there aren’t as many women in the industry as men, I have noticed a big change in the past few years.

Sally: My observation would be that gender-related issues are still very prevalent in businesses and some that I have encountered have been pivotal in my career. Dealing with some of these challenges led me to a great deal of emotional stress and eventually, burnout. During this time, I learned a lot about the need for self-compassion, for finding balance and resilience, and used this as inspiration to create a business that would help to support others in their wellbeing.

The best advice I have ever been given is to fail fast learn faster! You won’t always get something right - get more comfortable with taking risks, testing things out. If it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on.

Jess: I think as a minority you always face challenges. I am a non-caucasian female with a chronic disease; life brings a lot of challenges. In tech, if you aren’t male, you are a gender minority and there are challenges with that, be it with language, attitudes, perceptions, and otherwise. I overcome these challenges the same way I do with the others – I don’t let it stop me from doing what I want, and doing what I am good at. If other people treat me differently or make assumptions about my abilities; I prove them wrong by just being who I am and doing what I do. I support others, I build up strong teams and great systems. It’s taken me a long time to reach the point where I think like this, but life is a lot easier now than I do.

Lastly, we asked our panel what International Women’s Day means to them.

Chloe: I don’t believe in one day to celebrate women at all, and I feel fortunate to be in a position, country, and year where women are treated more fairly than ever before. However, there is still a long way to go in a lot of countries for women to get the voice that they deserve, and I think International Women’s Day is a good reminder of that.

Sally: International Women’s day to me means taking responsibility and being a good role model to my daughter. To empower her, to give her the confidence and self-worth to know that she can be anything she wants to be, with no limitations. And celebrating my mum, who raised three girls in this same way.

Jess: International Women’s Day is wider than just tech and I love having visibility of all the positive things that are happening globally. It is a day where many challenges are highlighted – but overall it looks like things are headed in a positive direction. IWD helps highlight and celebrate that, while also working as a platform to show what still needs to be achieved.

This opinion piece has been created to recognise and celebrate the different women around us, whether we work with them, know them personally or admire them from afar. What I especially love about the answers to this last question, in particular, is the variety. International Women’s Day is entirely subjective, whether you’re male or female (but mostly female), chances are it’s going to mean something different to you. I would like to personally thank Chloe, Sally, and Jess for taking the time out of their (very) busy lives to reflect on this important day and answer our questions.

Thanks for reading!

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Laura Kerr

Laura Kerr

Marketing Manager