At Ad Week Europe I was lucky enough to attend a private lunch held at The Drum Arms for winners of The Drum's 50 Under 30 list of women in digital. Calling it a private lunch suggests a slightly stuffy event, but as it was run by The Drum, it meant burgers, booze and provocative discussions.
We had been invited in to meet our fellow winners, and talk about what we had got out of the award, and what we might be able to come together and achieve as a group of women in digital.
The benefits for the winners have been really diverse - for some, it was a much needed confidence boost during a trying time at work, for some it was an opportunity to get themselves seen by potential future employers, and for many it has been a chance to act as a role model for younger women who might consider a career in digital (and don't worry, I know that being under 30 ourselves means we're not exactly digital stalwarts).
For me, as well as a slew of kind emails from old colleagues, something I got out of being on this list was a chance to ask other women to put themselves forward for opportunities. Several female friends and colleagues had asked how I had got onto the list, and were shocked to find out that I had applied for it. So it bears repeating that you don’t need permission to do this sort of thing. The worst case scenario is the judges turn you down. That’s not too scary. And yes it’s cringeworthy asking your boss to sign off the application to say they agree that you’re great, but we need to get over that initial embarrassment. We need to keep putting ourselves forward in order to end up with more women in leadership positions.
I was surprised to find out at our lunch that some employers decided not to put their best women forward for the award because they were nervous of them being poached. I think this misses the point. The 50 Under 30 is all about role models, diversity and a whole heap of positivity, so to hold women back on these grounds is silly - great people will get noticed regardless of whether they’ve entered an award and regardless of their gender.
I feel lucky to be part of Dentsu Aegis Network, as we have very vocal leaders who are passionate about equality and diversity, but more employers need to be fighting women’s corner instead of cutting off their opportunity to rise up.
The women on the list have done and created some incredible things both inside and outside their day jobs, so it was nerve-racking just going to meet a group of high-achievers. Some projects and women really stood out on the list, such as Natalie Price, a producer at TMW Unlimited who also managed to create a potentially life-saving tech product in her spare time: the Proximity Button, a bluetooth-connected device for people living with dementia which alerts their carer if they wander too far away. How cool is that?
Another great one is Heather McDaid’s creation, 404 Ink, an alternative publishing company, which even accepts magazine submissions in Scottish Gaelic. Other unusual achievements on the list included giving a talk on the future of sex and technology, starting their own agencies before the age of 30, or building a mentoring programme (that’s Casey Bird from SheSays - which has done lots of brilliant things for women in digital).
So for the 50 Under 30 in 2018, I really hope to see plenty more amazing women putting themselves forward, and more employers opening their minds. Having this list in the first place is what makes us feel we have permission to aim high.
Lauren Ingram is marketing manager at 360i Europe and is launching a creative network called Power Suit Social.