On International Women’s Day, what does empowerment mean to the women of Octopus Group?

Sexism is a pressing issue in all our lives – and as movements like #MeToo have shown, it isn’t going away. Meanwhile, the gender pay gap is closing all-too-slowly, and women across all industries are still working under a glass ceiling.

The theme for 2019’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter, so we asked some of the women of OG about their experiences of sexism, how they feel about gender equality and balance in the workplace, and what their hopes are for a more equal future.

Name: Ella Darlington
Job title: Account Director
Joined OG: June 2016

On a fundamental level, the empowerment of women for me is about respect and choice. It’s less about the gender pay gap – although it does bother me there aren’t more female leaders in creative agencies – but the slightly more pressing issue is equal pay. You shouldn’t be paid less for doing the same job, because you’re a woman.  

Modern feminism is also nuanced for me as a mixed-race woman. The mere fact that schemes need to exist to introduce more ethnic minority background people, let alone ethnic minority women, into the creative industry, speaks volumes. For me, the TRUE empowerment of women is about inclusivity. And when the creative industry is more inclusive, everybody benefits. The best book I’ve read on this recently is Diversify by June Sarpong MBE. It’s an intelligent, empowering read grounded in research, with practical advice for employers and individuals on how to make inclusivity real.  

Finally, if I could have one wish for the future, it would be to abolish imposter syndrome. I talk to lots of creative women at different stages in their careers, and most are plagued with a mindset that stops them from asking or reaching for something, because they think they don’t deserve it. And it’s a lie.

Name: Meera Trivedi
Job title: Senior Account Manager
Joined: November 2015

‘Love’, ‘dear’, ‘poppet’, ‘good girl’ and ‘pretty little face’. These are not phrases you’d expect to be used in a professional email exchange from a well-respected journalist. Sadly, last year one of my female colleagues received such an email. You can question what the big deal might be. You might think they’re just phrases, probably meant as a ‘joke’. But one small word has the power to belittle, patronise and undermine a woman’s professionalism, experience and expertise.

#BalanceForBetter should enable a level playing field, moving away from inappropriate forms of address and these subtle but powerful forms of repression.

Name: Nicole Jones
Job title: Mid-Weight Copywriter
Joined: July 2018

To me, empowerment means giving everyone a platform to use their voice. I work in a male dominated team, so I think about this a lot. As a young woman, it’s easy to feel like you should keep your opinions, ideas and jokes to yourself. And that’s a real shame – because I can bring perspectives that others can’t.

Fortunately, I know my voice is valued at work, so I’ve got more and more confident using it. I’d like to see more men actively using their privilege to openly call it out when they see women being spoken over, or their ideas being taken, and so on. But we all have a job to do here – I know that I have privilege as a white woman, for example, so I have to consider that and act accordingly. Intersectionality is key.

Living with #BalanceForBetter in mind can help with this. It’s a complicated issue, and confronting issues of privilege can make us feel uncomfortable. But it’s so important, not least because teams work better when different voices can be heard.

Finally, we spoke to OG’s latest hire – our new Board member and Director of Marketing Services, Nicola Pestell.

Name: Nicola Pestell 
Job title: Board Director
Joined: March 2019

Over the last ten years, I’ve seen a massive shift in the impact women are having and the value they add – especially in agency world. There are a number of inspirational women in agencyland, and I’ve been extremely lucky to have been mentored by one of them!

The diversity that women can bring to the board is essential for growing the talent coming through the business. Female leaders have a responsibility to mentor new talent and empower them. Our attitude needs to be that with the right attitude and ambition anyone can become great leaders, no matter what their agenda or personal circumstance are.

 I can see that work life balance is now a given. I am a mum with a long commute and without balance, I would never be able to juggle my work and personal life. Ultimately, it’s about businesses having and retaining the best talent.