International Women’s Day is a global celebration for women and an occasion to recognize and applaud the achievements of women from all walks of life.
At Bookmark, we work alongside inspiring women who are not afraid to share their thoughts and opinions on pressing subjects like Gender Equality in the Workplace or who are ready to support and coach you through courses like Walk the Talk: Championing Gender Diversity with WPP.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘’Better the Balance, Better the World,” a callout to build a gender-balanced world. After all, balance is not a women’s issue, it’s also a business issue, and, most importantly, a social issue. The day’s theme is about “the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage […]. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
We asked our women in leadership, and we have quite a few, to tell us what “better the balance, better the world” means to them in the context of their work.
Christal Agostino, Executive Vice President, Air Canada Media, Toronto: When I think of better balance, better world, I look to the future and how our collective work will be driven by cutting edge technology. I strongly believe that we need to fund more female tech founders so that our industry can benefit from a wider variety of technology to help fuel our creative projects. So how do we ensure that the next Google, Facebook or Amazon is female-founded? It all starts at the investment stage with a more balanced venture capital ecosystem. That means: more female investors at the decision-making table and better access to advisors and resources. Right now, only 14% of partners at Canadian VC funds are women and that number drops to 7% at the top 100 American venture firms. We need to substantially move the needle on that statistic in order to propel a more diverse generation of founders into the future.
Lucy Coles, Chief Content Officer, London: It’s less about gender balance for me and more about the need for a harmonious mix of personality types in the workplace. Generations of workers in the west have been brought up under the ‘ideal’ of extraversion – with a view to being able to go into industry and do business deals by speaking up, meeting eyes, and pumping hands. Introverts have been undervalued. But in our modern world, we have now understood that the creative who can quietly dream up the perfect design is just as valuable as the account director who confidently presents it to a stony-faced boardroom of marketing executives. Men, women, visionaries, masterminds, counsellors, idealists… we need them all in our workplace ecosystem.
Kristen Fleener, Board Director, London: I was one of the first subscribers to ‘Ms’ magazine in the 1970s and Gloria Steinem was a great hero of mine. In those days men truly did reign supreme and you felt the scales of equality weighed in favor of white men. I was also in awe of Dr. Martin Luther King and organized a school-wide sit-in when I was 11 years old. So I agree keenly with this quote from Ms. Steinem: “I want us to organize, to tell the personal stories that create empathy, which is the most revolutionary emotion.” The truth of the matter is that hierarchy and violence can’t be remedied by more hierarchy and violence. The end doesn’t justify the means, the means we choose to decide the end we get. The means are the end. It is my view that women have empathy in spades and this quality more than any other is what we bring to the workplace – which is why we excel at managing people and maintaining relationships for decades. Women and minorities shine as beacons of the possibilities of being repressed for hundreds of years – and finally inhabiting the ivory towers of the business world.
Joelle Irvine, Director, Marketing & Growth, Montreal: I’d like to touch on balance as a whole, as I find many women, including myself have experienced taking on too much while trying to prove our capabilities. In my opinion, balance is about focus. Focusing on what matters, and on elements that are fulfilling and beneficial to myself and our company. However, true balance is also only possible when you are supported by a solid team, regardless of their gender. It’s about having a good mix of people with diverse skill sets, perspectives and personalities, where everyone brings something fresh to the table. Without focus and support, there would be no equilibrium. And, without that, there would be no place for passion, curiosity or change in the workplace.
Kristin Izumi, Executive Vice President, Luxury & Lifestyle Group, Toronto: I’m grateful every day for the fearless trailblazers who have fought and continue to fight for women’s rights, however I acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do and it is everyone’s responsibility to make this happen. For me, achieving true equality goes beyond building a diverse, gender-balanced team; it’s about welcoming (and celebrating!) different perspectives, educating our clients on the value of diversity in the stories that we tell, uncovering our (often-hidden) bias* and reducing the barriers to success that women still face in the workplace. I’ve set some mighty goals for myself (and the business) this year so that we can continue to make an impact across all of these areas, and as the inspiring (and notorious) RBG said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
*Learn how the orchestra discovered and confronted their unconscious bias.
Natasha Jackson, Chief Strategist Officer, London: I struggled with the word ‘balance’ for many years, particularly at the beginning of my career. Being one of the very few women in digital I felt that I had to work harder and shout louder than the many men in the industry (80%men vs 20%women). This meant my work-life balance and health suffered. I worked 24/7 and quite frankly it wasn’t the best of choices. Over the last few years, I have worked very hard to find the right balance and I’ve found that perfect combination:
Taking time out to read, think and learn (rather than work 24/7)
Learning from and growing with the smartest people on the planet: my incredible team and phenomenal colleagues. Their gender, age, and ethnicity are irrelevant.
Spending time with my incredible friends and family.
Better balance for me may not be better balance for the world, but it’s most certainly made a difference in the way that I think, act and work.
Happy international women’s day? Nah, happy perfectly-balanced day to you all x.
Caroline Ku, Managing Editor, APEX Media, Montreal: The airline industry is traditionally dominated by men. It’s visible at the conferences we attend and the keynotes and panels we cover. Although there are many women in this industry, few represent their companies in the media. Having a better balance starts with giving someone else – not necessarily the people in the highest ranking positions – the opportunity to share their perspective, because in an industry that caters to all types of customers, it’s simply in our interest to listen to and try to better understand a variety people.
Emmanuelle Peri, Photography Director, London: This is a very current topic in photography – last year in Les Rencontres d’Arles, the most prestigious photo festival in the world, 30% women exhibited against 70% men – so the gender balance in the photography world is a concerning aspect of our work. I try as much as possible to commission more women photographers in all areas whether it is for portrait photography, landscape, documentary or still life. I find that working with women allows us to explore projects and subjects different to those that men explore and therefore bring a fresh approach to the visual content adjusting the balance between genders.
Kirsti Webster, Client Services Director, London: It’s a financial fact that gender-balance helps businesses thrive. As an agency, we need to solve a range of problems for our clients, so we need diverse talent in order to do that – meaning balance is also about bringing together differing but complementary skill sets, working styles, backgrounds, experience and so on. At Bookmark, we recognize the work/home life juggling act and encourage flexible working. We also have a gender-balanced board. But at a broader level, there’s obviously still a long way to go to achieve gender equality. I recently read that globally, the gender pay gap will take just over 100 years to close at the current rate of progress, so much more needs to be done to encourage a diverse talent pool at every level and to recognize and nurture female leadership potential.
Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at Bookmark.