Developing a Culture of Empowered Women


Becca is a Media Executive at Carat Manchester. As well as working with clients on national campaigns, she has taken part in Dentsu Aegis Network’s Women and Leadership course and actively participates in Dentsu Aegis Network North’s Empowering Women network. Outside of work Becca is a regular gym-goer, but is even more skilled at finding excuses to avoid the gym. She also sings and writes her own songs, and can be found performing at local open mic nights. Having moved into her flat last year she also loves a bit of DIY, so if you ever need any tiling doing or shelves putting up, she’s your girl.

Women and Leadership Carat Manchester

With this week marking the closing celebration for this year’s Dentsu Aegis Network’s ‘Women and Leadership’ course, it was a time for reflection on everything we’ve learned and why working for a company that recognises a need to support women sends such a strong message – both to those that already work for Dentsu Aegis Network and to those thinking about the type of company they’d like to work for.

Women in Leadership has been running for the last few years and it is filled with lots of practical examples of how you can build confidence and networking skills, but also a lot of introspection. The sessions are surprisingly tiring as you’re asked to reflect on many areas of your life.

Alongside the WAL course, this year Dentsu Aegis Network North launched its Empowering Women network, connecting women who work within DAN, but also extending the invite to our clients and other women within the advertising industry in Manchester.

Our most recent Empowering Women event was led by our very own Lucy Barnes, Strategy Director, who questioned a strong panel of women made up of Rachel McDonald, Managing Director of Dentsu Aegis Network North, Vic White, Editorial Director at Hearst, Ann Steer, Chief Customer Officer at N Brown and Nicole O’Shea, Head of Advertising Sales at News UK.

Collectively the panel detailed their own experiences of being a woman in media, all of them passionate about celebrating women. Prior to the event, when talking with male colleagues, many thought that it would be a man-bashing session, but the truth is Empowering Women is striving towards the goal of ensuring the same opportunities are open to everyone, and that we all are given the tools and the space to thrive – regardless of gender. Ann strongly believes that diversity of all kinds means better performance all round. However, we can’t escape the reality that in our industry, at every level of seniority more and more women disappear, until the highest levels are dominated by men.

The discussion opened exploring the barriers for women in the media industry, though they’re likely applicable to many workplaces. Motherhood is a theme that comes up again and again in these types of conversations, and whilst physically women can’t change that they give birth, companies can do more to ensure that re-entry to the workforce is as supportive as possible. Not only that, but people should recognise that a woman’s ambition doesn’t stop just because she has a child (or children).

Ann spoke about the need to have someone supporting you, to give you a push when needed, and to remind you that you can do it. Rachel urged successful women to support other women, and spoke of the ripple effect that this kind of support could have across every level of the business. Rachel also went on to say though ambitious, Dentsu Aegis Network UK’s goal for 50/50 gender equality in senior roles by 2019 is necessary. With a target to focus the mind, Dentsu will be that much more successful in building a pipeline of future senior women. Nicole echoed this thought, describing her own CEO, Rebecca Brooks as formidable, and saying that this kind of strength drives equality for all levels. She stressed that transparency is key in achieving this, and that targets are necessary in order to keep the goals on the agenda. Dentsu Aegis Network is already in a positive place though, with the lowest gender pay gap in the industry, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room for change.

One of the ideas we explored on Women and Leadership was the confidence gap – women won’t apply for a role unless they are confident that they can fulfil 100% of the requirements, whereas men (generally) will apply when they feel that they meet 60% of the requirements. This also applies to asking for pay rises as men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and that when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do (Linda Babcock, Women Don’t Ask). It can also be seen when a woman describes an achievement as ‘just lucky’ whereas a man will be more likely to claim the success as a result of his own hard work. The Empowering Women panel spoke about imposter syndrome, and how it women of all levels of seniority, across all walks of life.

At Dentsu Aegis Network, Rachel wants everyone to know that the door is open to have these conversations; whether it’s about the confidence gap, or not feeling that you can leave for parents evening. Everything should be talked about more, by talking about things we can normalise them. The new generation of women coming into the workplace will benefit from the changes already being actioned. At Carat for example, two men work four days a week and have a day at home with their family; there are also men who will be taking shared paternal leave.

It’s not only Dentsu Aegis Network who are enabling networks like Empowering Women, Google’s Manchester office facilitates I am remarkable for women and under-represented groups, and Ann herself set up N Brown’s network Women like Us. She was inspired to do something rather than waiting for permission or a HR exercise. She believes that it is our collective responsibility to shape our industry and the changes that we want to see.

Top Takeaways:

Throughout the evening both the panel and the audience gave tips and advice on how you can feel empowered in the workplace – with a few practical exercises thrown in from Women and Leadership too:

  • Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power posing and body language
  • Change your password to motivating word so that you’re reinforcing that mantra multiple times every day
  • Get a ‘power lippie’ – whether that’s a lipstick that makes you feel great, or a killer pair of heels or nice clothes, find something that makes you stand a little taller and feel more confident in an instant
  • Have ‘difficult’ conversations and normalise supporting each other’s differences
  • ‘Load your anchor’ – through a little prep you can change an unwanted feeling to a more positive one in a matter of moments. This happens because you can link a positive internal response to an action which you can do on-cue when you need a boost, essentially re-conditioning your mind. By training your mind in this way you can consciously choose to establish and re-trigger positive thoughts and associations for yourself, making your anchor a tool for self-empowerment.

How to ‘load your anchor’:

Select a feeling that you would like to have in a particular situation. i.e. you might want to feel calmer ahead of presenting at a meeting

Take a few moments to remember a time when you had that feeling. Choose a strong example – either a memory of a time when you felt that way, or imagine what it would be like to feel this way.

Step into an imaginary circle and as you do so, squeeze your thumb and forth finger together – making your anchor. As you do this say the word aloud that you want to load into your anchor (i.e. calm), and then describe the situation when you felt like that (after a great night’s sleep), and allow yourself to relive that memory as intensely as possible.

As the feeling fades, release your anchor and relax.

Choose another example of having that feeling and repeat the process using the same gesture. Repeat it until you feel confident and until the action of making the anchor triggers those feelings.

Keep loading your anchor with as many positive thoughts and feelings as you like – and then in a situation when you need to feel that way, set off your anchor by making the gesture.

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Women and Leadership Carat Manchester
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