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Pinterest’s International Women’s Month initiative: a conversation with Nicole Ocran and Cathryn Wood

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For the month of March, Pinterest UK is celebrating everything that empowers women - from celebrating female founders to learning from women who choose to challenge the norms. To support this fantastic initiative, Influencer’s marketing executive Megan Horsnell sits down with content creators Nicole Ocran and Cathryn Wood to highlight the importance of International Women’s Month and discuss how the Pinterest platform allows creators, like themselves, to champion other female entrepreneurs within the influencer space.

What does International Women's Month mean to you?

NC: To me it means celebrating womens’ achievements and womens’ progress while also highlighting the challenges we still face, especially at the intersections of race, religion, sexuality, age and ability.

CW: To me International Women’s Month means celebrating those who inspire me, those who I know and realising that we (womankind) have the power to change things if we become one loud voice. It means showing my daughters that they can do whatever they want to achieve and to never be set back because they are women.

How do you use Pinterest to celebrate and uplift other women?

NC: It’s definitely the first place I go to find inspiration and also collaborate with other women! For example, when I’m putting together moodboards for shoots or any projects that I’m working on, Pinterest is my first point of call, and it’s usually other womens’ work that is my inspiration! I’m also working on a rebrand with a graphic designer who is also a woman and we are using Pinterest as our source of inspiration!

CW: I love using Pinterest to find new creators and a lot of the time, they are women. There are so many inspiring accounts waiting to be found. I often look on the Today page which has relevant accounts featured. It then means I can track them down on other social accounts too. Of course I then pin beautiful content to my boards. I also love to look through their inspiration too - that creative buzz is a wonderful feeling.

How do you champion other women's work?

NC: In all honesty, it’s something I’m always drawn to - especially in a creative job. As soon as I see something that I love or that resonates with me I always want to share it. On Mixed Up, the podcast that I co-host with Emma Slade Edmondson, we discuss mixed race identity and share cultural work, articles and media that we’ve enjoyed each week that tends to be predominantly female-focused. Usually on a Sunday I’ll share imagery or writing that I’ve enjoyed on Instagram by women, and I work closely with female photographers and other creatives as much as possible - it’s so deeply rewarding.

CW: Sharing. Online or in real life. Talking about them, using my voice to uplift them. Word of mouth is so powerful and it can achieve great things. I also try to buy from small brands and businesses too. Helping to support other women with their dreams. “We rise by lifting others” is a quote I love.

Which female leaders have inspired your career path?

NC: There are so many women that I admire both in and out of my space, women who have forged the way like Patricia Bright particularly in the content creator space, and also other women that I look up to and hope to emulate one day, like Candice Braithwaite, Kelechi Okafor, Elaine Welteroth, Emma Dabiri, Otegha Uwegba…and I’m sure there are hundreds more!

CW: Oh so many. Sara Tasker gave me confidence in my photography and showed me that it was okay to be a bit whimsical, imaginative and different. I adore how Charlotte Jacklin uses colour and has a unique sense of style. It can be so many different and tiny things but I take inspiration from so many. And my biggest inspiration will always be my girls.

How can brands celebrate female leaders more?

NC: It’s all about making gender equality a priority and a pillar of your company. Female leaders are an important visual marker externally and internally, but they need to nurture womens’ talent, they need to have a course of action in place for other women employees to get promoted into the right roles, to expand their skill sets, and to ensure that the gender pay gap is being closed.

CW: Again, I think it’s a case of using their voice to celebrate others. Sharing creators work and championing those who are confident to speak and express their opinion. Words have so much power and it can be so simple for the brand. I truly believe that giving those quiet or overlooked voices a platform could be an incredible thing.

How can women better enable each other instead of competing? What needs to change to allow this in your opinion?

NC: I think the first thing that would need to change is the scarcity mindset. What I mean by that is dismantling the idea that there can only be one, because we’ve seen that usually there is only one woman in the room, or only one Black woman in the room, so that scarcity of work or position makes us feel like we are in competition with one another. In reality, there is space and inherent value in all of our contributions and the onus should be on men to give up their privilege, power and position to make room for women in all of their intersections.

CW: We need to let go of it. It’s hard, and compassion is definitely one of those things that creeps in. But there’s a quote about a flower that does not compete with the one next to it. It always sticks in my mind. Someone else's great news and opportunity doesn't take away yours. It’s not how it works. There is plenty of space for everyone.

Do you have a female mentor? If so, what are the benefits of mentoring?

NC: I don’t have a mentor in the traditional sense at the moment - although I need one! There are so many women whose careers I follow that act as a kind of digital mentorship. One woman in particular I’ve admired for years is Hayet Rida, a blogger turned entrepreneur, and I know I mentioned Elaine Welteroth earlier too! I think there are so many benefits to mentoring; having that support and leadership, being able to have someone to turn to for advice who has had the experience and all of these things lead to access and opportunities, which more women need.

CW: I have previously had a mentoring session with the wonderful Charlie Swift. We spoke about how I work and ways to overcome work-related issues. We also spoke about how my cycle affects my work. Working in a creative industry relies on you to be creative and hormones can really hamper that creativity. Being gentle with myself when I’m not feeling so creative within my work, and future planning for when I’m riding the highs have really helped me. It means I can get a better workflow for the whole month.

Have you had to overcome any gender-specific challenges? If so, how have you overcome them?

NC: More than anything, I’ve found being a Black woman, being a mixed-Black woman, means that you’re always being underestimated because of race and gender. Those two things are inextricably linked; it means that you’re constantly having your boundaries pushed and, not only having to work in difficult environments that dismiss you or refuse to see you, but force you to advocate for yourself and others. I’ve grown up knowing that my work ethic has to be second-to-none, I have to push hard to be able to move things forward and get my work in front of the right people, I have to push hard to be paid fairly. I wouldn’t say I have overcome those things yet but it’s always at the forefront of my mind.

CW: As per my previous answer.

What can we all do to help achieve gender equality?

NC: The big question! It’s all institutional that then trickles down to the personal, so we have to see women, their lives and their work as valuable. We have to dismantle patriarchal stereotypes for both men and women because it causes disproportionate violence against women at the hands of men.

CW: Listen and speak out. We need to call out what is not acceptable. We need to listen to those whose stories should be heard. We need to realise that worth is not based on gender. It’s about teaching our husbands, brothers, sons and friends, it’s shutting down sexist jokes. The more we pull together and respect one another the closer we can get to equality.

What advice would you give your younger self?

NC: “Nothing before its time” and don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way!

CW: It’s okay to be different; it’s okay not to want to do the conventional things; and to completely trust your instincts because with hard work and determination you can achieve what you want to achieve. I would love to give my younger self the confidence I have gained since becoming a mother.

Who is your female icon?

NC: The feminist icons whose work I’m really diving into at the moment are bell hooks and Nawal El Saadawi, who recently passed away.

CW: My girls. I kind of owe it all to them. The reason I took the leap into this world, the reason I left my old job. They inspire me each and every day. They are fearless and brave and if I could bottle up that energy - oh I so would! They can pick me up on tough days and honestly they are the reason I create.

Want to discover more female tastemakers and continue to learn from inspiring women in our field? Thought so. Head over to Pinterest’s International Women’s Month portal by clicking on this link: https://pin.it/5OSIu6E. And if you want to see how creators are winning on this social platform, head over to Pinterest Business now: https://business.pinterest.com/en/creators/