This year we properly celebrated International Women’s Day at Poke towers.
We’re really proud of the team who turned a bunch of ideas floating around into reality, and wanted to take some time writing about what we learned and discussed along the way.
To start off with, you, reader, need to know that we’re a pretty culturally diverse bunch. There’s almost seventy of us in the office representing around twenty different nations. So for us, International Women’s Day is a celebration where we remember what women all over the world have done in pursuit of (equal) rights, honour those who paved the way and made it far in their careers on their merit.
But it’s also a reminder that there’s a lot of work to be done to address the gender pay gap, show true diversity in our work, get access to reproductive healthcare, mandatory family paid leave and benefits, and so on. And that’s what most of our activities and talks were about.
Our poster site outside on Baker Street drew attention to the fact that even though women in marketing make it into senior roles and break the proverbial glass ceiling, they’re still not paid as much as men. Other posters throughout drew awareness to lesser known but equally important areas: the economic benefits of diversity (of all kinds), how few dads take time off, and how women outnumber men in universities, but globally are still lacking education.
Our big event was a breakfast roundtable that doubled as informal Q&A with some our women in senior leadership roles. We wanted to open up the conversation and allow everyone – especially the more junior or new members of Poke – to speak to them as people, not managers.
The chat revolved around questions about how they’ve handled their career trajectory (if there even was one), having children, shared household responsibilities and returning to work, or dealing with impostor syndrome. Some of our more notable conversations revolved around three topics:
Mentorships: nothing should stop you from emailing someone you find inspiring
Our panel confirmed that in order to climb the steps and be where they are to date, it was essential to them to be mentored in one way or another by people who trusted their talent and potential.
Were they mentors? Sponsors? Advice originating from the USA suggests that these types of individuals are the ones you should look out for in your career. But if going round asking people “will you be my mentor” sounds weird or scary, there’s a much easier place to start. Don’t be anxious about asking for help from someone that inspires you. Often they’ll feel flattered that you asked, everyone loves a coffee or lunch - and in a worst case scenario they might say “not now” or suggest someone else who can help.
For one of our colleagues, the ‘mentor’ was actually a recruiter that went the extra mile to advise on what she should do with her career after a long time spent travelling – a great idea in hindsight, since they have a bird’s eye view of what other people in the same role are doing and how they’re progressing in other agencies.
Not all sexism is meant to be offensive or comes from a bad place, but it does need to be flagged out in order to stop
We started from the premise that sexism is pervasive and covers a very broad spectrum of behaviours, but focused on the instances where the perpetrator is genuinely unaware of the consequence. The problem is women don’t flag when things go wrong, for fear of repercussion. The Everyday Sexism project partnered with trade union TUC to report on the state of sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace. Titled “Still just a bit of banter?” it details the instances of harassment women are faced with, and concludes that very few women take action. Four out of five (79%) women do not tell their boss - concerned it would impact on their relationships at work (28%) or on their career prospects (15%), while others were too embarrassed (20%) or felt they would not be believed (24%).
One of our colleagues recommends the more straightforward route of talking to offenders after meetings - take them aside and ask them if they were aware of what they did, and how it was perceived. Genuinely well-intentioned people don’t want to be caught out making mistakes – or be publicly embarrassed – so it’s a good direct approach that could be the start of a bigger behavioural shift. Being assertive does not make you bossy.
You often don’t know about your maternity benefit until you actually get pregnant.
One of our colleagues shared her experience as a mother-to-be, and how she had to start digging up these facts the moment she became pregnant. As a woman, you quickly realise the problems with maternity benefits.
First, employers are often reluctant to share this information, and women don’t ask either. She was not alone. The Maternity Benefits Survey by Glassdoor in 2014 spoke to 1,000 women and discovered that 78% of women don’t ask about the maternity packages at interview stage, and only 32% said they were offered information about maternity in their induction pack, while 13% had to actively ask for it because it was not published anywhere in the business.
Secondly, men are not entitled to the same company benefits as women which means they often only take 2 weeks off. If they could also take months of paid leave, then it’d become less likely that women will be discriminated against after long absences.
As a result we’re now working to see how we can include this information in welcome packs for new joiners, as well as find a way to be more flexible with what is actually on offer for both parents.
Last but not least
Oh, and we also changed our dear Poke Radio doodle to an emoji version of Rosie the Riveter.
Everyone played their favourite female (or female-inspired) anthems on the day, so we definitely had our fair share of ‘Independent Women’, ‘Who Run the World (Girls)’ ‘Scrubs’ and ‘Respect’.
And one more thing...
Our creative director Malin scored a huge pitch win that week - that she later celebrated with a - wait for it - welding course!