As a woman in a new business, a mum, an entrepreneur and founder I have had a fantastic life and created opportunities that have led me to where I am today, but not all my experiences have been positive, and as we approach International Women’s Day I feel it’s my responsibility, in fact, it’s all of our responsibilities, to raise awareness that sexism sadly does still exists in our industry and share experiences, however uncomfortable.

I am very lucky to host a podcast that enables me to delve into this subject, and as part of a special International Women’s Day takeover, I am interviewing women from across the brand and agency landscape to discuss and explore their experiences, and discuss what the industry can do to support us in making a change. Last month I had the absolute honour of chatting to Sedge Beswick Founder and Managing Director of SEEN Connects about her experience of the industry. Sedge is an absolute powerhouse having set up her own Influencer Agency over 5 years ago, she works with amazing brands like ASOS and NIKE and shared something quite shocking!

“We had a client in Bangkok and when I flew in for a meeting, he had thought Sedges was male and he refused to meet with me because I was female. That was the most extreme situation I have ever been in”

I honestly was dumbfounded that this still happens and in such recent times. So, as I have this platform I wanted to share some of my own experiences to drive awareness and hopefully provoke some thoughts for us all on how, and what needs to change to truly break the bias and start to focus on developing a truly inclusive workplace.

'Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’

I love this quote from Ruth Bader Ginsberg because it’s so true and it’s always been true, but as well as belonging we need to be equal on every level from treatment through to pay and opportunities.

Money, Money, Money

I once worked for a really big company where I was told that I wasn’t paid as much as my predecessor (who didn’t perform nearly as well as me) because I was a woman in my 20s, and not just a little bit less I am talking £10-15k less. Now there were potentially other factors at play here however, I am fairly confident that because I was a younger female, I was prejudiced against. This was over 15 years ago but I am sure this still happens today.

Actually, we know it does and the gender pay gap in 2021 for full-time female employees aged between 40 and 49 is still at approximately 12%. I am no data analyst, however, I am sure we will see figures stick around this as we recover from the pandemic as the government reports: In 2021, more women than men were furloughed with a loss of pay.

Then there’s the obvious stuff!

Mid-meeting whilst working in the drinks industry a guy unhooked my bra. Yeah, you’ve read that correctly. I’d love to say I gave him a piece of my mind but honestly, I was so shocked, and it was just at the start of a meeting so I had to shake it off, almost as if I couldn’t make a scene for something that was completely acceptable.

Katie Street, Female Founder

Have you ever been the token woman used to show diversity in the pitch room? Have you ever had your gender included when you’ve been introduced to further bring home the point that you are a woman? Have you done this to yourself? I have, why? Is it a subconscious need to validate ourselves because we’re women that are high-achievers it’s such an odd thing to do!

Mums, the word

We’ve just had our first Street Agency baby and another on the way and it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to really make sure that we celebrate their awesome news, and also make sure we support mum-to-be as they prepare for their new role with a brief stint away from Street and so they don’t feel out of the loop and come back to a role that continues to support them.

I would hope with the pandemic and more people working flexibly, and remotely that this may be a thing of the past (and if you’re still doing these things then stop it) but every now and then parents are going to need to pop out, to give a bit of focus to a child that needs picking up, dropping off or made to feel better. I’ve had so many experiences where my role as a mother made my colleagues especially the men roll their eyes, or comment on what I'm not doing in my work hours. When the truth is I more than caught up when my daughter was settled.

So what can we do?

The education has to start with men. We need to inform and educate our sons, husbands and colleagues and bring them up in a way that is more inclusive. We have already seen some big step changes here, even Disney is catching on and women are positioned as the heroes that don’t need to be saved by Prince Charming - but a lot still needs to be done here to make sure the way we are all looking at each other regardless of age, gender, race or background to ensure the world is a fairer more diverse and inclusive place for us all to live and work together.

Honestly, I don’t have the solutions, but I’m pretty sure we can figure it together so on International Women’s Day I am going to be joined by some amazing women leading the charge on this subject in a special webinar with an acclaimed Author on this subject, and CEO of Pearl & Dean Kathryn Jacobs, Marisa Thomas Head of Marketing at Everpress, Mia Powell, New Business Director at Lammas Park and Jas Bassi Head of Digital Experience and Solutions at NatWest.

We’d love for you to join the conversation at 11 am on Tuesday the 8th of March by signing up here.

It's truly time to #BreakTheBias