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IWD: Break the bias – an inspiring Q&A with 7 female leaders at Blue Array
March 7, 2022
Today marks International Women’s Day, a celebration that recognizes the women who have come before, laid the groundwork, and fought for the rights of all. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved, we also know that there is still a long way to go. In recognition of this special day, we spoke to seven female leaders at Blue Array (the UK’s largest SEO agency) about their careers in SEO and how they’ve navigated a male-dominated industry.
What advice do you have for women just starting their careers?
Luci Wood, head of customer success: I think there’s a lot of pressure to be seen as having found your ‘dream job’ straight out of college or university. However, it’s important to discover what you don’t like as well as what you do: that could be the role itself, but it could also be working out what types of companies and people you want to work with. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a job that doesn’t work for you or your values. There will probably be a job in 20 years’ time that’s perfect for you that doesn’t even exist yet.
Stephanie Emmanouel, managing director: I will share a piece of advice that was shared with me when I went to work on a project in Japan early on in my career. Be the most observant person in the room (even if that’s on Zoom). Observe how highly successful people operate and make sure to remember every minute detail.
Jenny Ovens, digital operations manager: Take some time to understand yourself, become more self-aware and tune in to your intrinsic motivators, and, most importantly, don’t feel the need to conform to stereotypes. Ask yourself, how do you define success? Figure that out and use it as your grounding compass to make decisions throughout your journey.You won’t have all the answers, no one does and that’s ok. Trust your instincts and get support when you need it. Most successful business people have mentors, coaching and therapy - just like high performing athletes. Investing in yourself isn’t selfish but a necessity to flourish.
How can women in senior positions encourage more women to consider senior leadership?
Kim Dewe, head of SEO: Women, especially those of diverse backgrounds, face unique challenges when it comes to unconscious bias and expectations based on leadership stereotypes. I’ve discovered over time that encouraging other women towards leadership happens when you encourage them to be their authentic selves (and this doesn’t mean portraying characteristics that are traditionally associated with women).
Luci Wood, head of customer success: A good senior leadership team is diverse, with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Many neurodivergent people (particularly females) start their careers having already experienced years of poor mental health, and then face an uphill battle to jump through the hoops many companies require for leadership positions. Until companies offer an environment where everyone feels welcome to bring their true selves to work, we will always face a challenge achieving that balance.
Stephanie Emmanouel, managing director: Personally, I think it is about encouraging every person to reach their full potential. Gender identity is not the only characteristic that can hold us back from pursuing a senior leadership position. I encourage everyone to believe in themselves and focus on their strengths. Also, I think that people in senior positions should encourage their teams to surround themselves with people who give them positive energy and genuinely support them.
Do you have a particular woman who has positively impacted your career? Tell us about them.
Jodie Harris, head of digital PR: A marketing director in a position very early on in my career impacted me the most. She rose through the ranks to a director role very quickly without her background holding her back. I saw her successes first hand and she undoubtedly knew her worth at every step. She told me very early on in my position what my strengths were and how to harness confidence in them. It was inspiring to watch someone with a similar social-economical upbringing than me making their presence known in the industry. I found this to be one of the biggest learning moments of my career.
Vicky Kollnberger, talent & happiness manager: I’ve been lucky to have been managed by many women in my career. In one of my first positions, the managing director was female and she was an inspiration to me. She took the time to understand the needs of everyone in the 200 strong business and was always available to support and coach you. She was a person whose presence and confidence filled the room, without her having to say anything, and I always aspired to be like that. 25 years on and I still think about the impact she had on me. She now runs her own successful event company.
Elisha Tyler, head of finance: Aside from the last five years, I have worked in male-dominated companies and I did not have the privilege of having a female mentor early on in my career. I have had to draw from my own experiences and drive my ambitions forward independently. I do aspire to be a strong female role model for my daughter and son. I openly share my personal experiences and challenges with them. In doing so, I hope to make an impact on their careers and those who cross their paths. I hope my journey can help shape the next generation in some way.
Thanks to Kim, Luci, Jodie, Stephanie, Elisha, Vicky, and Jenny for taking part in this IWD 2022 Q&A.