Thought Leadership

Feminism isn’t just a women's issue

Ocean Outdoor’s International Women’s Day Event served to empower, uplift and inspire

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month serve as opportunities to consider the challenges, progress and action needed to push forward the dial on equality.

The to-do list is a long one. Collective action is still needed to close the gender pay gap; a task which at the current rate of progress the IMF predicts could take 132 years to close. The creative industries still need to move the needle to widen the lens to ensure that efforts are inclusive of all women and intersectional by design. According to data from MEFA, Asian women felt least confident at 28% expressing confidence about their ability to progress in their company, versus 54% among all women and 47% among Black women. It is clear that there are many challenges ahead, yet also achievements to celebrate.

At Ocean Outdoor’s International Women’s Day Event at Frameless, the outdoor media giant brought together women from across the industry. At the event industry leaders discussed the big issues impacting women in the workplace to rally for change and inspire progress.

Inspire and get inspired

For all the statistics that show the pace of progress to be dragging, Rhonda Alexander, Ambassador at The Female Lead reminded the audience of the importance of getting inspired on an individual level. By changing the narrative through amplifying the female success stories that surround us, more women can be inspired to become a part of collective progress.

The Female Lead works to uplift young women with alternative female role models, providing young girls and women with inspiration and proof points of what they are able to achieve. So far the organisation has launched two books that feature the stories of thousands of women. Many of these publications have been donated to schools to help girls discover role models and explore new aspirations.

Looking to all women and not just the next generation, the organisation has also created a ‘Fulfillment finder tool’, to help women understand what fulfils them in life and in the workplace. A tool which is designed to help them create better personal goals. Understanding women as consumers, colleagues and citizens, The Female Lead pushes women to rise by lifting others through a focus on content, community and celebration.

Women fit into lots of different sections with components that make us who we are, addressing intersectionality can help create workplaces where all can thrive and improve experiences.

Crystal Nyarko, Social Media Executive at Media For All (MEFA)

Shona Dobson and Amy Hamilton of Ocean Outdoor ran an inspiration session inspired by Bloomfest. The session underlined the importance of making the space as an individual to focus on goal setting. For while change happens as a collective, understanding your own goals and dreams is vital to success.

Imposter syndrome affects everyone

With a recent KPMG study finding that 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers, it’s no surprise that the topic was touched on by Karen Blackett OBE, President UK, WPP, Melissa Bethall, Board Director and Senior Advisor, Ocean Outdoor, Candice Mayer-Gillet, Managing Director, Westfield Rise and Sharon Lloyd Barnes, Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead at the Advertising Association.

Blackett shared that imposter syndrome often lifts its head when she joins a new role or has to present in front of an audience for the first time. Mayer-Gillet attributed the feelings to not having enough confidence in your own skills. She encouraged the audience to write down a list of achievements to show themselves what they can do. The group also highlighted the importance of female role models and promoting with a co-pilot, to share in the achievements of others and lift one another up.

Lloyd Barnes' session took a deep dive into her experience with imposter syndrome sharing that despite her achievements she has struggled with it her whole life. Lloyd Barnes shared that she even turned down a promotion because of a lack of confidence. She set up a school for autistic children, which now helps to educate hundreds after her eldest son was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy. Yet despite this significant feat, she still attributed her achievements to luck. While she was pushing forward and taking risks she was constantly filled with nerves she would never let others see.

Let your rage be fuel and not a forest fire, it's a myth that you care too much

Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director, Creativebrief

In 2013 Lloyd Barnes was diagnosed with breast cancer, which for her was a turn in the road. “It felt like a sign from the body to think differently,” she explained. She found power in her experience, and in turn felt now she had the power to change something, be brave, more confident and create space for things to happen. “We all face challenges, but for me as a woman, it was about me getting out of my own way,” she added.

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

Similar to imposter syndrome, the idea of self promotion is also one that fills many women with dread. Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief shared an approach to self-promotion in which we are kinder to ourselves and acknowledging the overwhelm that many women feel in their roles. An overwhelm fuelled by a challenging and unstable socio-economic landscape that heightens all the day-to-day pressures people face. An ecosystem which has left 26% of people feeling constantly anxious about their jobs.

Kemp urged the audience to find their own pace in the always-on marketing ecosystem. A  formula which focuses on presence, action, consistency and emotion. Being present to know that if the way you work isn't working then change it. Taking action inspired by Sarah Elis who says ‘it is no one else's job to drive your career forward.’ Being consistent by finding what you are good at and working with others to enable your skill set. And, embracing emotion by finding a passion point and channeling your emotions into action. “Let your rage be fuel and not a forest fire, it's a myth that you care too much,” she added.

We progress when we all progress

Despite the collective challenges we face, Crystal Nyarko, Social Media Executive at Media For All (MEFA) reminded the audience of the importance of looking at things through an intersectional lens to consider how different groups are impacted.

MEFA exists to raise black Asian and ethnic voices within the industry to drive DEI efforts. MEFA circles explore acute marginalisation in the hopes to gain a better understanding and foster more inclusive environments. Nyarko revealed that the data shows only 29% of Black women agreed that new people in their organization have an equal chance to rise to the top versus 43% among all women. She shared that while only 37% of 18-34 year olds feel that their organisation is helping minorities to thrive vs 49% of the 35-44 age group. Statistics which underline the importance of equity and a shift in approach to ensure that everybody can rise.

“Women fit into lots of different sections with components that make us who we are", says Nyarko, “addressing intersectionality can help create workplaces where all can thrive and improve experiences.”

Ending the session a panel chaired by Susann Jerry, Strategic and Corporate Communications Leader, featuring Melanie Lalou, Head of Westfield Rise, UK, Emma Saddleton, Global Strategy Director at Carat and Matthew Eagle, Head of Investment at Dentsu X, explored how industry allies can work together to drive change.

Lalou and Saddleton shared the importance of women supporting other women and how the myths that society perpetuates block progress. While Eagle spoke on the importance of male allies, sharing how he and his wife's experiences with baby loss fueled him to push toward policy and progression. Underlining the fact that feminism isn’t just a women's issue, progress is good for everyone.