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The above quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has led to the creation of a tumblr where women can speak out and share their fears. Women, in particular, hold themselves back by fear of the unknown; fear of failure, fear of speaking up, and fear of being judged. Being afraid stops all of us from dreaming and from reaching our goals. Last night Bloom kicked off their first event of 2014 with a panel debate about how we can overcome our fears to pursue our ambitions and achieve our personal potential.

The Panel

The Panel

The panel took it in turns to tell their personal stories about how they had overcome their personal fears and defined their own success. Dr. Dawn best known for her work on Channel 4′s award winning Embarrassing Bodies was a great example of how she jumped on each opportunity given, but also never gave up when faced with setbacks. Being a full time GP in Gloucestershire with her family, happy and enjoying life – most would already consider this woman highly successful with the perfect work/life balance. During her early career she started answering patient’s questions as an online doctor, which also led her to write for a women’s health magazine and then to being approached to audition for a Channel 4 programme. But she didn’t get the job. Dr. Dawn didn’t want this part of her career to end, and decided to take things into her own hands; approaching Sky to be their resident doctor on ‘Sunrise’. She secured the gig, which required waking at 3am to be in the studio for 6am for her 5minute slot, before heading back to Gloucestershire for her GP patients. After 6 months of this exhausting routine, Dr. Dawn sent off her video clips to an agent who had previously turned her down, got signed and has been leading her double life ever since. A true tale of determination and saying yes to every opportunity on the table, even if it results in short-term failure.

But seriously, what have we got to lose in taking risks?

Steve Hatch, ex-chief executive of WPP’s MEC, who is set to become the first regional director of Facebook in the UK and Ireland, took a risk just agreeing to be the only man on the Bloom panel (and pretty much the only man in the room). He also took a risk in 2004, when he told his line manager he wanted to spend 28 days retraining as a therapist. It was here that he realised that his ability to succeed was directly correlated with his ability to deal with conflict after a run in with an ex-SAS German man who proudly voiced his dislike for him on the therapist course. But Steve stressed how you need to be assertive and not aggressive. This is something that has been recently highlighted by the #banbossy campaign, currently trending on Facebook and Twitter. When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Steve even admitted how he has had to re-think the language he uses with his two children to encourage his little girl to grow up with the confidence and support she needs to reach her potential.

Steve finished with a great quote about boldness from William Hutchinson Murray, “until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back…Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Someone whose dream came true was Maria, a guest speaker on the panel from Eaves who was a victim of sex trafficking but is now successfully working and managing a store in the retail trade. Her story was empowering and put so much of our lives into perspective. This girl fought hardships neither I nor you could imagine from such a young age and she truly represented, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. She spoke assertively about how her best friend had sold her for $50 to the sex trade in South Russia, to being illegally imported into the UK, to finding the strength to run away and having to work tough jobs with long hours and no breaks to earn her way before being caught by our immigration services and held in a detention centre for over a month. Eaves reached out to her and offered her support to build her back up again into the wonderfully successful person she is today.

Following Maria’s story was a hard act to follow for Janet Hull, IPA Director of Marketing for fear of her story sounding shallow. But quite the contrary, as Janet’s rich tapestry of career experience and commitment to the industry led her to develop the creative pioneers challenge, which is an industry-wide hunt for digitally native school leavers to not only give them an opportunity to achieve their potential, but also a chance to infiltrate and change our industry.  This initiative quite rightly awarded Janet with the coveted accolade of an OBE. But her achievement was down to persistence. Shortly after taking (only!) 3 months maternity leave, new management made her redundant. Instead of just accepting her fate, Janet made a stand. She didn’t want redundancy to be a label for unlucky talented individuals so placed an advert in Campaign calling out for other redundant people. The ad got her notice as someone with a point of view and the courage to voice it. She stood up for what she believed in, unafraid and took a risk which could have easily been a career ending moment.

It was a great evening that inspired all and I urge those of you who could not make it to get involved with Bloom’s mentoring programme. The programme offers junior women (up to 3 years’ experience) in the communications industry the chance to be mentored by a Bloom UK member for 10 months. The launch event takes place on Wednesday 9th April at Facebook in London and if you are interested in being mentored, contact Bloom at bloommentoring@gmail.com

Click here for PART 2: GATHER 2013 – CELEBRATING AUTHENTICITY AND SUCCESS

The next session was a panel debate, in which Lord Davis posed the question, “Are quotas the best way to get women on boards?” The panel consisted of Nicola Mendelson, Lindsey Clay, Daryl Fielding and Stevie Spring.

Panel Debate: “Are quotas the best way to get women on boards?”

Panel Debate: “Are quotas the best way to get women on boards?”

Although many of us agreed that mandated quotas weren’t necessarily the right thing to adopt, we all agreed that the threat of them has put women on the agenda, forcing us to think more about opportunities for women in the workplace.

There is no hiding that men and women, even with similar educational backgrounds, often differ in their perspectives. The female perspective is neither necessarily better, nor more insightful, but different. And, it’s this difference that will cultivate board diversity, combining alternative and complementary views which will lead to better decisions in the end.

For the time being, there will be no legislation to impose a quota; but what can we do in our industry and agencies to bring more women on to executive boards? The 30% club is one initiative, whose pledge is “Growth Through Diversity”, aiming to end masculine boardroom control on a voluntary basis, without the need for a controversial quota, such as that imposed in Norway, where 40% of board members must be women.

It is also critical to identify talented woman and create career opportunities for them, implementing the right talent development and succession planning to nurture them to the top, as well as measuring results to check for progress. Nicola Mendelson spoke about how her agency, Karmarama has implemented a women’s group, speaker events and mentors as well as involving men by posting intriguing posters calling for good men. They would then meet said ‘good men’ and educate them on how to stop and call out sexist behaviour in the office, because they realised it was much more powerful if it came from the blokes themselves. This highlights how we need to think creatively about how we address the issues within our own agencies.

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Before lunch we had our ‘breakout sessions’, giving us the opportunity to explore key topics in greater detail and in smaller discussion groups. I opted for Speed Mentoring in which we had ten ‘power’ minutes with each mentor to ask questions. Below I’ve picked out a few words of wisdom from each mentor.

  1. Leigh Thomas – Dare, CEO: Create a persona and dial it up for certain situations
  2. Cindy Yendell – Unspun, CEO: Become an expert at your strengths
  3. Lindsay Pattison – Maxus’, CEO: Being desperately ambitious isn’t a bad thing, so don’t apologise for it.
  4. Suki Thompson – Oystercatcher: Find a strong business partner.
  5. Zoe Osmond – NABS, CEO: Networking is powerful.
  6. Lindsey Clay – Thinkbox, Managing Director: Don’t be self-deprecating and always speak early in meetings with clarity.
  7. Jessica Burley – m/SIX, CEO: Agency life is refreshing and dynamic but you’re not in control of your time, client side is slightly more repetitive but you can manage your day more consistently so pick what’s right for you.
  8. Nicki Hare – Walker Media, Vice Chairman: If you have a rising star in your team keep them constantly challenge and nurture them up the career ladder.
  9. Nikki Crumpton – McCann Worldgroup, Director: Believe in yourself and be confident.

Part 4: Coming Soon

Click here for PART 1: GATHER 2013 – CELEBRATING AUTHENTICITY AND SUCCESS

The second speaker was Karen Darke, a published author and 2012 paralympian silver medalist  Karen’s talk was heartfelt, emotional and incredibly inspiring. If you need motivation, then Karen is your woman!

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Karen Darke, Silver Medalist

Karen had a serious mountain climbing accident which left her paralysed from her chest down. Since then, Karen has undertaken some enormous challenges that most of us in the room would never consider doing in our lifetime. Just a few of the tremendous journeys that Karen undertook were hand-biking over the Himalayas from Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan, kayaking the inside passage to Alaska and sit-skiing the 600km across Greenland to become the first person in a wheel chair to complete this journey. And, if that wasn’t inspirational enough Karen then decided that her next challenge would be to compete at the London 2012 Games.

Karen sit-skiing across the ice cap.

Karen sit-skiing across the ice cap.

Karen explained how many things can stand in our way of achieving success, and creates ‘those mountains in our minds’. For Karen, it was her self-doubt but then she realised she had to adapt to change. Karen’s positive attitude to life shone through, especially when she described her WIBA’s. Her personal acronym for, “wouldn’t it be amazing..?” Whatever your WIBA is, helping ourselves and others towards our WIBAs, no matter how simple or small they might be allows us to go on a journey and become our own hero. It’s better to try and fail than never try.

Darke crossing the Olympic Road Race finishing line hand in hand with team mate Morris

Darke crossing the Olympic Road Race finishing line hand in hand with team mate Morris

Karen finished her speech with this inspirational quote:

Gather - Karen Darke

Click here for PART 3: GATHER 2013 – CELEBRATING AUTHENTICITY AND SUCCESS

On Wednesday, a few of us Carat ladies were lucky enough to attend the WACL Gather Conference. WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications, London) is a group of the most influential women in the UK Communications Industry who invest their time and energy in helping to develop women in our industry and run training workshops throughout the year which culminates in Gather – a day of inspiration and training.

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This year Gather 2013 tackled the topical subject of ‘Authenticity and Success’ – helping you to succeed midst challenging and turbulent times in business & remain true to yourself whilst making the most of business opportunities as they arise.

The first speaker was Facebook VP Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson. Her presentation entitled ‘A Work in Progress’ focussed around passion, persistence and prioritisation. Carolyn was honest and open about “trying to have it all”, explaining that “there’s no such thing as work-life balance”. Instead Everson’s motto is “work-life integration”, describing her career more as a jungle gym as she blends work and home together. Everson is fortunate enough to be in a position where she can bring her twin daughters on at least one business trip per quarter but she said for all of us, balance issues are people ones, not men vs. women. We all need to understand what is important to us and be clear what your priorities are on any given day. Everson’s rule is to attend every ‘first’, first school play, first hockey game, first graduation and if that means missing a meeting then so be it.

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Carolyn’s second piece of great advice was building your own personal board of directors. People that you can go to for career and life advice, who act as your sounding board, giving you objective guidance to help make those important life decisions. Everson’s most difficult decision was taking the job at Facebook after being headhunted by Sheryl Sandberg, which would mean leaving Microsoft after only 9months employment and breaching certain elements of her contract. She received some negative press in the media, but it is clear from her current success that her personal board gave her some good advice to make that difficult decision.

Click here for PART 2: GATHER 2013 – CELEBRATING AUTHENTICITY AND SUCCESS