There was a certain irony in seeing the headline that ‘more than a third of teenage girls suffer depression and anxiety’ on the same front page as updated data on the gender pay gap (in short – there still is one; https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/23/gender-pay-gap-average-18-per-cent-less-uk-women).
(I wonder what it must be like to read the continual coverage about the pay gap, the casual sexism of the Olympic commentators, the constant trolling and victim blaming as an 18 year old girl? Pretty bloody depressing, I’d say.)
I read the pay gap coverage with an eye roll. Here we are again. At first I couldn’t even be bothered to comment on it. Creating systemic change in this arena is complex, painfully slow and full of people missing the point entirely.
Rather than add to the complexity, I’m going to focus on one thing I think the advertising industry could change to make a difference in this area – flexible working. The biggest challenge, in my view, is that the advertising industry finds it hard to create an upwards career trajectory for those choosing not to work 38+ hours a week. And, typically it is mothers who are requesting to work in a different way – albeit we are seeing increasing numbers of men adopt this work pattern.
With the technology and cross border reality of 21st century work, it is astonishing to me that we are so wedded to 20th century work practices. It’s time that an industry that prides itself on being current, caught up with the times.
On Tuesday 28th June, we hosted our first ever conference – HeANDShe – with a diverse panel of speakers from the worlds of neuroscience, mental health campaigning, media and advertising.
Our intention was to discuss how to bring men along to the gender conversation, along with starting a debate about how men are also harmed by gender stereotypes.
The evening brought thought-provoking conversation about how and why the panel would tackle harmful gender stereotypes.
For those of you that couldn’t be there, here are some insights.
Dr Jack Lewis, neuroscientist, kicked off by stating that female and male brains are much more similar that dissimilar, and that nurture plays a huge role in shaping the brain differences between men and women. What this means is how we treat our girls and boys, which research tells us is different even before they are born if we know their gender, is what largely shapes the consequent differences in our brains. He suggested that the brain is more likely to remember narratives and stories, rather than facts. This may be why the idea that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ has gained so much traction, when in fact the similarities are much more pronounced than the differences.
Natasha Devon MBE, the Government’s former Mental Health ambassador for Schools and co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team, explained the devastating impact that gender stereotypes can have on young men and boys, which is shown by the alarming high suicide rates and rise in mental health and self-esteem issues that young people suffer today. She suggested that having one emotion – whether that be happiness or anger – isn’t enough for any human being, and that men especially need to be able to have the space and opportunity to be able to open up and share how they’re feeling.
Harriet Minter, Women in Leadership editor for The Guardian, put forward the case that women need to do less and men need to do more, expect more and ask for more. She shone a light on how hard it can be for men to choose a career that they are passionate about over providing for their family, how challenging it can be for men to have the space to care for their children, and how it might actually be tougher for men to ask for flexible working and extended parental leave than it is for women. Harriet argued that gender equality is still just a “nice to have” in our industry and we need to continue having this conversation if we are ever to affect real change within our organisations.
Paul Frampton, Group CEO of Havas Media Group UK & Ireland, went last and did a great job at landing these insights in the world of advertising and media. He discussed leadership styles and how “leadership is changing… and emotions are the secret weapon of great leaders”. This, in his view, provides a strong case for more gender diversity at a senior level and the emergence of a feminine leadership style. He said, “We’re starting to see a world where vulnerability is valued in the workplace, especially for millennials” which is something that The Hobbs Consultancy has been championing for a long time.
Paul argued that “knock on change in the ad industry will have a knock on effect in wider culture”, and it is because of this that I think we all have a collective responsibility to affect change in our industry.
If you are interested in us bringing the HeANDShe conversation to your organization please get in touch.
(Marketing and Operations for The Hobbs Consultancy)
Self-compassion is one of the most important modules in The Daring Way™ intensives that I run, and also a theme that comes up time and time again in my coaching with female leaders. Why is it that we sometimes speak to ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t dream of speaking to our friends, (let alone our enemies)?
At its simplest, self-compassion is about treating yourself in a way that you would treat a close friend. What do you do when a close friend is struggling? You give them a hug maybe, let them know that you’re there for them, you might buy them a gift or show them some empathy.
Too often, with ourselves, we interrogate our thoughts looking for fault and blame. We beat ourselves up for our failures and the “should” voices have a field day; ‘You should have tried harder’. ‘You shouldn’t have believed in that’. ‘You shouldn’t have trusted that person’. I also have a tendency to isolate myself and shut myself off from the rest of the world.
Kirsten Neff is a professor at the University of Texas in Austin who has made self-compassion her career’s work. I recently had the good fortune of attending an advanced workshop in Texas which she led. I have to say, the work we did together blew my mind.
Often in my courses we discuss Kristen Neff and her work. Up until now the response has been fairly ambiguous. Yes, everyone agrees that we beat ourselves up and speak to ourselves in terrible, terrible ways. Yet everyone feels a little bit resigned to it, that it’s an impossible habit to break. There is a limiting belief that to embrace self-compassion is to be a bit fluffy and ‘woo woo’. To be frank, it feels a little flakey to be consciously saying ‘Oh you poor thing that must be really tough’ to ourselves, rather than ‘come on Rox snap the fuck out of it!’. The other push back is that our own internal critic has been the driving force behind the success in our lives.
Kristen blew all of this out of the water.
Firstly, she came along with the science. The physiological underpinnings of self-criticism is your body feeling threatened – which will produce cortisol and adrenalin. You don’t need me to tell you quite how damaging these are in large quantities for our bodies. The physiological response is trying to attack the problem but in actual fact these stress hormones are attacking ourselves because we make ourselves the problem.
In contrast, the physiological underpinnings of self-compassion are in the mammalian care giving system. Physical warmth (giving a hug), gentle touch and soothing vocalisations all produce oxytocin and opiates in our system. Also when you are compassionate the reward centres of the brain light up. Self-compassion literally gives our body the resources to be able to hold our own pain.
When we think about our success being driven by our own self-criticism and harshness, you cannot help but wonder at the cost of what. Sure, we may be driving our external success via promotions, pay increases and getting that mortgage. But what is the cost of that on our physical and mental health? And is it truly sustainable? We know that women seem to be more sensitive to the stress hormone cortisol than men (as detailed in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive). Surely it’s time for us all to start taking this a bit more seriously.
Take a self-compassion break (courtesy of Kristen Neff).
Every bone in my body resists putting this simple breathing exercise in the newsletter and also resists doing the breathing exercise. Breathing and mindfulness are a continual struggle for me – and yet the science is showing me it isn’t fluffy, new age shit at all. This is what we need to start to heal.
Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out. On the out breath, breathe out compassion for other people. On the in breath, breathe in compassion for yourself. Keep doing this for two minutes thinking about different and specific people to breathe out compassion to, and then extend the same loving kindness to yourself.
Kirsten’s website http://www.self-compassion.org is also a wonderful resource for learning more about self-compassion.
THC’s view on The Great British Diversity Experiment
Emily Philp, Head of Marketing and Operations, The Hobbs Consultancy
I attended The Great British Diversity Experiment Report Launch on Wednesday 25th May at BBH London with over 250 fellow advertising folk. As you walked into the room, you could feel the nervous energy bubbling below the surface, what findings were in store for us… For those who don’t know what The Great British Diversity Experiment is, it’s the first diversity initiative conceived for, designed and launched by the communications industry. Over 20 teams of truly diverse individuals took part in an experiment, answering a brief from Tesco to attempt to solve problems of food wastage. The winning team received an all-expenses-paid trip to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, and a weeklong placement at BBH London. Meanwhile the findings of the diversity experiment were collated into a report, which were presented on the evening of the report launch along with talks from industry leaders on the very specific and practical insights the experiment uncovered and a review by the winning team on their individual poignant experiences, challenges and self discoveries.
One particularly interesting, but not surprising insight for me was that the teams that performed the best in the experiment were those where the individuals could be themselves. Furthermore, it is emphasised in the report that diversity works for the creative industries because working with a diverse group of people allows individuals to show up as their authentic selves, which means you can contribute more creatively and effectively in your job.
As mentioned this isn’t a surprising insight for me as one of the main focuses of our energies and offering at The Hobbs Consultancy is to enable people to show up as their true selves in both personal and professional life.
The Hobbs Consultancy’s mission is to bring a more inclusive culture to the workplace and coaching is a core part of what we believe can deliver that mission. It is through coaching that individuals can work out who their authentic self is, understanding what makes them tick, what holds them back and what enables them to be the very best version of themselves when they enter the workplace.
Of the 5 practical actions that the report sets out for businesses to do now, the one that resonates the most for me, is ‘retrain your leaders’. It’s vital that leaders of organisations take action. Without the buy-in and demonstration that company bosses will put their money where their mouth is, without inclusive leadership, we wont have the power to transform the industry, making it one that thrives with creativity, connection and innovation, that attracts and retains the best talent and ultimately delivers game changing work for clients. Here at The Hobbs Consultancy, we offer executive coaching and Leadership Programmes, which focus on leaders doing their own internal work, recognising and then accepting responsibility for our circumstances and taking action to create a more inclusive culture.
The GBDE report also calls out that there is a huge need for more diversity training in the industry – in order to change the creative process and leadership styles. We agree and believe passionately that Diversity and Inclusivity training is key to helping companies create a more creative and innovative working environment, which is why one of our main product offerings is a Diversity 3.0 workshop which gets participants behind the business case for D&I, looks at what their unconscious biases might be and finally moves into action.
Alongside D&I training and Leadership Programmes, we offer Mentoring training, Conflict Resolution workshops and a D&I audit – this product offering has been designed to help businesses provide a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
My biggest take out of the report launch was that there is hope; to quote the founders “if every leader across the communications industry implemented the recommendations of the report, we would build a better communications industry” – I believe collectively, we are on the way to making this happen.
To read the full findings of the Great British Diversity Experiment, click here.
For more information on The Hobbs Consultancy’s products and services, email Emily@thehobbsconsultancy.com
How women are portrayed, considered and represented is currently on everyone’s agenda.
In this guest post, Roxanne Hobbs and Flora Joll from Mullen Lowe London argue whether advertisers need to catch up with our changing culture.
We are in a unique position in the advertising industry. Everyone is jostling to lead the discussion around equality and conscious that the views around gender are moving faster in culture than in advertising. Yet we are also in a unique position to influence the outcome as we create part of our cultural landscape through our creative output in the advertising that we make.
As a case in point, Fairy asked the question of how fair the division of labour is in your household, to complement Ariel’s suggestion that men #ShareTheLoad in attempts to redress the balance of inequality. These campaigns perhaps have the intention to create a conversation about the distribution of household labour, whilst also selling a few more unit cases of detergent. Indeed we now know that the more fathers undertake their fair share of household labour, the more their daughters in particular express a greater interest in working outside the home and having a less stereotypical occupation.
Perhaps the sooner we question and thus subvert gender stereotypes, the less likely they are to persist. Riding on Allways’ coat tails, Barbie has changed her act and Target doesn’t stock blue and pink ‘gendered’ colours for their toys any more.
With this momentum, what is now required is a definitive statement of intent. It almost goes without saying that equality is the endgame, but now that the conversation has moved on, where should it go?
We believe that what is now required is a more progressive conversation about gender equality. Whilst we applaud the attempts to instigate a conversation in the media and through advertising, we suggest the end game is one in which gender isn’t even part of the equation.
Gender is just a small part of how people define themselves, and it would seem for the younger generations this is becoming increasingly true. Perhaps The Guardian got it right – “the next step in marketing to women is to stop marketing to women”.
We do not need to create a gender specific portrait of women, or men. We can create narratives that appeal on a fundamental level: human first. Gender stereotypes play out well on a creative mood board, but the cost of these stereotypes on a societal level are becoming clear. We predict these stereotypes will increasingly create resistance, and not attraction, to our brands.
Ultimately we envisage an advertising world in which we don’t even allude to gender stereotypes, even if the intention is to ultimately undermine them.
Change does not have to be dramatic or overnight – it can be done incrementally, as Soraya Chemaly pointed out in her TED Women talk “The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge”, saying that “small changes in initial conditions can yield exponential difference”. A deodorant brand that has been all about attracting scantily clad babes can show your girlfriend smiling next to you; it just so happens that it is her in the driving seat, as Axe showed in ‘Find Your Magic’.
Flora would argue that marketing should set the agenda for culture, whilst Roxanne believes, at the very least, it should reflect the culture around it. At the moment it would seem, given advertising’s obsession with the younger demographics, that in the arena of gender it is doing neither.
Author – Flora Joll, Strategist, Mullen Lowe
Contribution by Roxanne Hobbs, Founder, The Hobbs Consultancy
Welcome to the third part of our Imposter Syndrome series.
In part 1 we talked about what Imposter Syndrome is, the fact you’re in good company and its relationship with perfectionism.
In part 2 we talked about how to move past Imposter Syndrome.
In this final part of the series we talk about cultural shifts. How can we create workplace cultures in which it’s ok to be yourself? How do we help our people avoid feeling like they don’t belong or that they don’t deserve to be there? In short, how do we minimize feelings of fear or shame in the workplace, and instead cultivate creativity, innovation and empathy?
One of the reasons I think some successful individuals struggle with Imposter Syndrome is because they look around at other successful people, and unconsciously think ‘but they don’t look like me’. Industries often have a stereotype of what success looks like, and that becomes problematic when you don’t fit that mould. There are so many reasons to embrace diversity in your organization, and this is another one to add to the list. It makes business sense – if you want people to contribute their full range of talents, you need to break the stereotype of what success looks like in human form in your workplace.
Action: Do you know your diversity challenges, goals and strategy?
Do you have a culture in which it is understood that mistakes happen? Or that failure is an occasional consequence of pushing boundaries and innovative thinking? Or do mistakes have high consequences and failures are dismissed or hidden under the carpet? We need to remember that to be human is to be not perfect. We are all imperfect. Our mistakes and struggles make us what we are – the learning we gain from that experience is what enriches us.
Action: Consider how you collectively view failure, could you turn it into something to be celebrated and learnt from?
Embracing vulnerable leadership
A female CEO of a large advertising agency said publicly, when she was offered the role, that she felt nervous and she had loads to learn. It’s difficult to imagine many men doing that, don’t you think? But more importantly, in one sentence she made it possible for every single employee in that company to step out of their comfort zone, to move beyond their Imposter Syndrome, and go for it. For me, that is the epitome of leadership.
Action: Role model vulnerable leadership. Don’t be afraid to show that sometimes you are uncertain, have taken risks or expose yourself emotionally. People want real.
We hope you have enjoyed the series on Imposter Syndrome. We offer workshops in organisations to help your teams understand how they might be holding themselves back and to navigate this phenomenon.
Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
P.S. To learn more about emotional resilience, picking yourself up after set backs, and being with difficulty, book onto our next two day Rising Strong workshop on 20th April and 11th May. Click here to book your place.
This week we’d like to share a piece by one of our associate coaches – Hannah Massarella CPCC.
‘I’ve been talking to clients and partner organisations a lot lately about resilience. Resilience is about being able to ‘weather the storm’ in difficult times, resilience is about being able to continue with something that is highly challenging, without it impacting your wellbeing.
Resilience is also about walking away from something that doesn’t serve you, and dealing with the fall out from making that choice.
Life throws up a million different situations that require resilience. And sometimes as a response it seems easier to put on some metaphorical armour, to close up, shut down and power through. But in the long run this ‘battle’ perspective shuts you off from life. By armouring up to deal with the challenges you also become cut off from new connections, it becomes more difficult to feel peaceful and compassionate. Judgement and rejection end up ruling.
I advocate an alternative approach to resilience. The work I do with clients and organisations uses self-care as a route to resilience. Self-care to me, is about paying attention to how we feel and the kinds of conversations we have with ourselves. Self-care is about identifying gremlin thoughts, learning how to ‘be with’ every emotion, getting clear on personal purpose and values and acknowledging and owning all of our skills and attributes.
I used to work with a particularly challenging colleague, she brought up a number of emotions in me and my response was to avoid her at all costs. That approach contributed to my burn out. If I’d have known and been practising what I now know, I might have been able to weather that particular storm from a stronger place of self-belief, I would have found it easier to ‘be with’ the difficult emotions that came up every time she spoke to me.
Challenging situations at work and in life, will always come up (unless we decide to live in a hole). Challenging situations come up with an enhanced level of stress when you are pushing boundaries and working against the odds. Armouring up leads to suppression of emotion, which leads to sickness and burn out, so in reality a self-caring approach to resilience is the only answer.
So how do you stay resilient to life’s struggles?’
*Image by Levi Morsy http://www.unsplash.com
This year, I’m walking my ‘daring way’ talk, stepping in to the arena and organising The Hobbs Consultancy’s first ever conference. I do hope you will be able to join us.
The conference is going to explore our thinking about gender from a completely fresh perspective – what if we could integrate rather than separate? This is a topic which informs how we consider our target audiences as advertisers and how we think about our employees as HR professionals and line managers.
We will listen to some diverse points of view about gender from different places – from the world of neuroscience (where we are learning that many gendered brain differences might be environmental rather than innate), from the perspective of teens and self esteem (where we are more recently seeing male teens struggle with body image issues, something previously seen predominantly in girls), from a female leadership editor (whose job depends on our differences and yet has some surprising views on the future) and from an agency network CEO (who has recently talked about the need for men to get involved in the quest for gender parity).
My hope is that we further the debate in a constructive way, whilst also being entertained, inspired and having the chance to catch up with professional colleagues.
The topic is also pertinent to me on a personal level as it reflects the change in my thinking over the past five years since leaving the corporate world to set up on my own in 2011.
Whilst on maternity leave, I was able to look back at the media and advertising industry from a more objective viewpoint and saw, literally for the first time, how being a woman had impacted upon my career. Whilst working at MEC, then Carat and then Vizeum, as a grad through to a Managing Partner, I didn’t see how being female came in to the equation at all. I think this was partly because I lacked the ability to look from the outside in, and also because of the fast pace of the job – reflective time didn’t really get to happen.
I set up The Hobbs Consultancy initially to support women through the key inflection stages of their career – maternity and the step in to leadership. We don’t have a problem attracting young women in to our industry. We have an issue retaining them though their mid career stages, through the family stages and also in to leadership positions.
And let’s be clear. I am sure now that it was the organisations as much as the women within them that needed support. At the time I had self sabotaged and had brought my own challenges around perfectionism and people pleasing that often made it difficult to take the helicopter view and focus on what the right thing to do was. I was more focused on doing things right – keeping stuck in management rather than leadership mode.
Whilst working on a diversity project at a media network, I interviewed lots of men and women about gender in the workplace. I was really surprised by what I heard. There were three key themes from the men – either a disgruntled ‘why so much focus on women?’ which made them disengage from the project. Or a ‘my wife / sister / daughter is struggling with some of this and I want to be part of the solution’. Or ‘Why is it just the women that we’re talking to about extended leave and flexible working?’.
I began to realise that we very much needed men to be involved, that focusing solely on women is the antithesis of inclusivity and that our gender expectations or stereotypes can negatively impact on men as much as women.
I thought that talking about the business case for gender parity would be enough to get men involved. I no longer believe that. The men I speak to are actually far more interested on a personal level. How is this system not serving myself or the women in my life? How can it be different for all of us? How can I release myself from some of the expectations around masculinity? How can I get to spend more time with my family too?
So this is a conference for everyone. It’s about how our binary ideas of what men and women should do, feel and think can get in the way for all of us. The first wave of feminism, whilst making great strides forward (for which I’ll always be thankful) also got it wrong – they positioned themselves in opposition to men rather than with men.
I have a husband, a brother and two sons. I look at our expectations on them to provide, to ‘man up’, to not display emotions, vulnerability and weakness and I see the other side of the same coin that has produced the so-called glass ceiling in the workplace. Our gender stereotypes are damaging everyone.
What if we stopped thinking in opposition to one another and stopped thinking about how different we all are?
What would be possible?
Welcome to the second part of our Imposter Syndrome series. In this piece we discuss how you can be aware of these feelings, their associated behaviours and how to navigate it.
Clearly, if you’re not showing up as yourself, if you are doubting your abilities and ‘holding yourself back’ then that could well be preventing you from stepping into leadership, from going for that promotion, maybe from simply speaking up in the workplace. And that, unfortunately, just keeps you stuck.
How can we tackle Imposter Syndrome?
There is no easy fix but there are steps you can take. Each one will give you a stepping stone for showing up as your true self and sharing your talents in a way that feels authentic and valued.
Understanding your thoughts, feelings and behaviours
Often, expressing feelings in the workplace is not widely welcomed. Yet, we cannot effect sustainable change without considering feelings alongside our thoughts and our behaviours.
The typical thoughts associated with Imposter Syndrome are ‘not enough’ – whether it’s ‘not intelligent enough’, ‘not qualified enough’, ‘not creative enough’ or simply ‘not good enough’. The feelings behind these thoughts are often unworthiness, shame and fear.
Think about these feelings and whether they resonate with you. Are they feelings that surface when you are at work?
Your feelings and thoughts influence your behaviour and this is the key to self awareness and long term behavioural change.
If you recognise those self doubting thoughts in yourself then the next step is to understand how those play out in your behaviour. Are you:
Check in with yourself and understand how your feelings are influencing your behaviour.
Expressing your feelings with someone who has earned the right to hear it
Is there someone who you trust (and this is why female mentors can be so helpful), and can talk to about your fears and feelings of unworthiness? Often just expressing your feelings aloud can help you contextualize what is actually going on. More likely than not, you will also realise that you’re not alone and your feelings are not uncommon.
Engage in critical awareness
Even though you might recognise the signs of Imposter Syndrome you have to be honest with yourself about what is going on. It’s all too easy to bury your head in the sand and hope that things will change. The truth is, things won’t change unless you tackle this head on.
Start with being honest about your feelings, thoughts and behaviours. You can then go beyond that and be honest with yourself about your achievements and your successes.
It’s important to remind yourself that to be human is not to be perfect. We are all imperfect. Our mistakes and struggles make us what we are – the learning we gain from that experience is what enriches us.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.
*Image by Roberto Nickson http://www.unsplash.com