On Saturday the 23rd April, I attended Marie Claire’s At Work Live 2016 held at Altitude London. The day began with a keynote session looking at the topic of change facilitated by Trish Halpin (Editor in Chief of Marie Claire). The impressive panel was comprised of Laura Bates from Everyday Sexism , Nishma Robb (head of marketing for Google), Laverne Antrobus (TV psychologist), and Anita Rani (broadcaster and semi-finalist on Strictly Come Dancing)!
Nishma Robb spoke of the need for female role models, and how Wonder Woman had been pivotal when she was growing up! She assured us that our experiences outside of work are just as important as our previous roles, as the way we handle situations gives a fuller picture of how we work. She advised us to think about how we present ourselves and our experiences, rather than limiting ourselves solely to our past work experience when considering our future career options. She wisely encouraged us to look at potential opportunities and consider what value we can add to them, rather than worrying about whether or not we are good enough for the the role. Nishma spoke of the increasing number of women returning to professional life after a long hiatus, but choosing to start business empowered by technology – it’s never too late to learn something new! She encouraged us to find communities of other women, and bind together to become a powerful force.
Anita Rani’s personality shone through from the moment she began speaking – it’s clear to see how she has been so successful in front of the camera! She spoke of her experience growing up in an Asian family in the north of England, where she was fortunate enough to attend a school where being bright was celebrated. She reassured us that despite getting broadcasting experience at a young age, her career has been far from on a set trajectory! She advised us not to worry about failure, just keep fumbling our way through until we are closer to our goals, pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, asking ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’
Laverne Antrobus advised us that change is a driver, and that it enriches our lives. But it also brings us in touch with vulnerability, which is why so many of us shy away from it. She encouraged us to ‘punch through’ the vulnerabilities and make the first little steps towards change by listening to that ‘guiding principle’ we all have inside of us. That internal narrative. That inner voice. She reminded us that we all have our place in the world and that sometimes we need to tell ourselves “I’m me. I’ve got something to offer.”
Laura Bates shared her experiences in setting up the Everyday Sexism movement, and the phenomenon that it has become over the last 4 years, and, unfortunately, the online abuse that has come with its success. She spoke of the need for us all to reach out for help when we need it, particularly through a period of change. She encouraged us all to start ‘doing’, as it’s the first step towards achieving the scary things. She advised us not to worry about having all the right skills for what we want to do, but to follow our passion, and push ourselves, and the rest will follow in time. In response to a question from the audience about how to handle sexism in person, Laura reminded us that we do not have to ‘grin and bear it’, and that we do not have to cope with it by ourselves – both companies and individuals should support each other in tackling this issue.
My next session was the Personal Branding Masterclass with Linzi Boyd, author of Brand Famous. I found this enlightening as I realised that, whether we like it or not, we do already have a brand, and a certain level of ‘Google fame’! So if we choose not to manage it, then we leave it in the hands of others to choose what our public image looks like! She advised us that when meeting new people, the first thing people do is Google them! Then they look at their LinkedIn page, and only then, the third step, is to look at their website! Try googling yourself and see what comes up – and whether you’d be happy with prospective employers seeing it.
Regardless of whether we seek increased recognition within our existing workplace, or considering a move or even setting up our own businesses, Linzi explained the value of building our profile, thereby increasing the ‘pull factor’ drawing opportunities towards us, rather than constantly chasing after them. She shared practical tips from her book, from looking at the influencers in our industries to become associated with them, to considering other forms of media to boost our image – such as short video clips, or podcasts. She also encouraged us to consider both online and offline forms of promotion – such as speaking at events in the knowledge that others will share video footage or reports on their social media networks.
The third session of the day was entitled ‘Inspirations’, with a panel including Karen Blackett from Mediacom, Stella Creasy (Labour MP), and Sophie Kinsella (writer of the successful Shopaholic series).
Karen spoke eloquently of her experiences and observations of diversity in the advertising industry, or the lack thereof! She spoke about how many of us are ‘covering’ at work, which is hiding our natural selves in the belief it will hinder our progress at work – apparently 61% of us engage in this activity, and this number increases even further in the LGB community. Karen shared some practical tips for being different at work, including acknowledging realities, but not letting them define us. She encouraged us to find our ‘cheerleaders’; our champions who will support us with our endeavours. She reminded us to accept there will be some things we cannot control – and to not be afraid to ask for help with this; she has a Life Coach to help her with managing this.
Sophie Kinsella reminded us all that we have a voice and a unique take on life – and encouraged us to treat meeting every new person with the task of finding out what that is, even if it isn’t always something we agree with! She advised us to write the book we would love to read, rather than writing what we think others will want to read. She encouraged us to visualise it, imagine it in the bookshop, and then it can become a reality. She advised us to be authentic, and to put a piece of ourselves in what we write – even encouraging us to start by writing our deepest, darkest thoughts that we would never admit to anyone, as then we have something interesting to start working with! She warned us to never delete anything, as there will always be something of value, even if it is only ‘a silly joke about bras’! She encouraged us all to find our voice, know who we are, and not to be afraid. Trust our own instincts rather than following other people.
Stella Creasy opened with some harsh realities about gender inequality and women in society evident in the rape reporting and conviction statistics. She had warned us she intended to make us angry, and she was successful, but she also quickly followed this up with a positive approach – the Triple A Challenge consisting of Answers, Actions, and Allies. Instead of accepting the current situation as reality, we need to challenge the norms, find alternative solutions, be more active in the steps we take, and use our networks to support each other. In response to a question about how we include men in this discussion, Stella reminded us that “Equality is good for everyone”, and men need to be reminded of this.
This brought us to lunchtime – the rest of the day’s activities will be in Part 2 – stay tuned!