International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s also a day that marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
This year’s theme for IWD is #BeBoldForChange — a rallying cry for everyone who believes in a more gender-inclusive world to take direct action to help forge a better working future for all women.
At Exposure Ninja, we’re proud to say that we’ve been taking bold action for years, though to our mind, hiring for skill and talent over gender doesn’t seem too bold — it just seems sensible!
At the time of writing, we have a near-exact 50/50 split of male and female Ninjas (23 males and 22 females) and we have more women in managerial roles than men at the present time (five females and three males).
So, to celebrate their awesomeness, we caught up with eight of our leading ladies at EN to find out what it’s like to be a kick-ass lady boss in the world of Digital Marketing and to gain an insight into each of their career journeys so far.
But first, a short foreword from the boss:
Tim Cameron-Kitchen, Head Ninja — “Women frickin’ rule!!”
It seems amazing to me that there is still gender inequality in business in 2017 and that events like International Women’s Day, particularly this years #ADayWithoutAWoman strike that’s taking place in the US, even have to take place.
In the five years that Exposure Ninja has been growing, we have been totally dependent on our female Ninjas. Without them, we wouldn’t have experienced anything like the growth we have.
For us, gender equality doesn’t mean that males and females are identical in every way and that all people have the same character and behavioural patterns. It doesn’t mean that a male and female, in the same role, will have exactly the same output. Gender equality is not about removing gender from the equation. It means they are complementary.
To have an organisation that doesn’t balance both genders is like going to the gym and working out only one side of the body. It produces weakness and functional inferiority! Organisational beauty, efficiency and high performance comes from symmetry. So, rather than trying to bury the inherent differences in genders, we should make use of this balance of character traits. After all, men and women have been teaming up throughout human history, whenever they need to survive or thrive!
We see industries too heavily dominated by one gender get into all sorts of trouble (take the macho culture in banking, for example). For me, this doesn’t even have to be a crusade for equality, but simply a review of the facts: men and women have different characteristics and this makes both genders an equally vital part of any workforce.
We’ve ended up with a 50/50 split in our company, not because we’ve consciously designed it that way, but because we’ve always hired the best person for the job — and shock horror, half of the time, that person is a woman!
Charlie Marchant, General Manager
— “Never self-deprecate, you’re awesome!”
Becoming General Manager/Chief Operations Officer of a digital marketing company by the age of 25 took a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance. You have to prove yourself over and over again to get into a leadership position.
I started out as a content writer back in 2014. I had a lot of writing experience from my English degree. I knew some stuff about marketing from internships in the marketing department of Picturehouse Cinemas and BBC Films and had started learning about online marketing and SEO through running a travel blog.
When I started at Exposure Ninja, I was the only content writer. Three months later, I was head of the Digital PR team, which by then was me and two guys. Over the course of the next two years, I grew that department to a team of twenty Ninjas and increased departmental profit to consistently more than 50%.
During that time, I worked with a number of incredible women, including my fellow manager(esses) and the strong, independent and creative women within my own department, many of whom have gone on to take leadership roles within the company and others who completely own it in their departmental roles.
After those two years, I was offered a job as General Manager/Chief Operations Officer. This was really thanks to my track record of building the Digital PR team from just me to the most profitable department in the company and the support of my fellow managers (both male and female) who recommended me for the role.
Interestingly, it’s becoming increasingly common to see women in the role of COO. Facebook, Snapchat and Airbnb are all companies with female COOs. Unfortunately, this has led a number of leading publications to make fluffy claims about the so-called “female” character traits that make women good for the role of COO.
Figures vary on how common it is for women to hold C-suite roles in marketing, but one study showed that just 3% of leadership positions within the creative and digital industry are currently held by women. Another stat shows that female presence in top management positions today remains below 9%. This article from Marketing Week discusses the lack of gender diversity in marketing more generally.
During my own career in marketing, I’ve had to overcome a number of issues that women face in the workplace. The first is attitude. As a woman, you have to own it in the workplace. What I’ve learned is not to apologise unnecessarily and to never self-deprecate (tell everyone you’re awesome!). Whenever you present a problem to someone, immediately present the solution right after, and be as awesome as you can be.
The second has been fair pay. Being a woman can mean that other people underestimate your skills. I’m a staunch believer in open pay scales that reward people for their contribution and performance based on data. I’ve been in a position where men were paid more than me for the same or lesser job. Stand your ground on those issues and don’t let small discrepancies blow over — because small issues snowball.
I’m proud to say that Exposure Ninja has fair pay scales across all departments and is constantly striving to improve its pay structure and reward those who most deserve it, gender aside.
During my roles at Exposure Ninja, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to progress based on my hard work and own merit, rather than my gender. I’ve been supported in my career progression by both male and female colleagues and I get to work with incredible women and men across various departments in our company. I’m excited to be part of a company that’s breaking the mould when it comes to women in digital marketing.
Brittany Stackhouse, Head of Website Development
— “I did it to prove him wrong!”
At the age of 16, it was time to decide where my place in the world of work would be. During my last year at school, it was all about careers. We had advisors who used to come in and talk to everyone about various options after you leave school. I will never forget the conversation I had with the career adviser.
He asked me what I would like to do when I leave school. My reply was “I want a career in I.T.” from the look on his face, I could tell he wasn’t expecting me to say that! He took a deep breath and went on to tell me: “You will never be able to start a career in I.T, as it’s a male-dominated industry.” This put a lot of doubt in my mind; is I.T. the right place for me? Am I setting myself up to fail before I’ve even started?
After a few days of wondering what to do, I said to myself that I will get a job in I.T. and prove this advisor and everyone around me wrong!
A local I.T. company were advertising for an apprentice in I.T. Support and Website Development. I got the application and thought: “here is my shot to prove to everyone that if you’re strong and believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.”
I went for my interview; the company was small and there were no females working there daily, other than the female accountant who worked a few days a month. I kept replaying over and over what the career advisor said to me and I remember thinking to myself: “he’s right, this industry isn’t for women.”
But, I got the job!
I was over the moon and extremely shocked. I was the only woman that had applied for the position, up against a handful of guys. I worked for the company for eight years and they taught me everything I needed to know and how to be strong within the I.T. industry.
There were a number of occasions where male clients wouldn’t talk to me or were very rude, due to me being a woman. Myself and my colleagues made a stand against these clients. It was either they accept the help from me, or their issue doesn’t get resolved.
Over the years, I became a key member of the company with a range of clients that would request to work with me on a regular basis. I will always remember when I was asked by a client to present a new development project to a panel of directors. I was excited that he had asked me to present the project, but as I walked into the conference room, my jaw hit the floor!
There were fifteen directors and finance executives, all male, sat around the table in front of me. I wanted to turn around and run. However, I knew deep down that this was my time to shine. I pulled myself together and took it in my stride and delivered the presentation. I came out of the conference room and the client also followed me out. He was impressed with the presentation that I had delivered — to say he had thrown me in at the deep end!
This boosted my confidence in being a woman in I.T. even more and I was so proud of myself for delivering the presentation. I could’ve quite easily crumbled and backed out when I went into that room, but I didn’t.
In 2016, I was ready for a change and new challenges. I wanted to move my career up a notch and I applied for my current position at Exposure Ninja.
Exposure Ninja has given me, even more, confidence and new skills. I was shocked when I realised how many women work at Exposure Ninja. As I get to know them, I know that Exposure Ninja wouldn’t be the same without them. It’s great to see that the industry’s attitude towards women is changing and I am proud to stand my ground and be part of it!
I get asked by a lot of people: “how did you end up in I.T?” My answer is always the same: “I was told when I was 16 that I’d never have a career in I.T. and I wanted to prove that guy wrong and that anyone can achieve their dream career.” That’s exactly what I did!
Lizzie Cross, PPC Manager
— “We need to stick together to question unacceptable behaviour”
I don’t think I’d ever really had a massive sense of gender equality until I decided to make the move to London to further my career.
Having grown up surrounded by a large percentage of women, I think I was so far away from any idea that there would even be a sense of inequality in the workplace — especially as the jobs I had leading up to this point had all been pretty equal, at least not as far as I had noticed, anyway.
I took my first job in London as a PPC executive when I was 26 and the divide was instantly recognisable. I was one of just four women in an office of 22 and it became apparent that gender equality was not something my female colleagues had experienced within the company.
Interviews were held every week and not once did I see a woman being interviewed for a development or technical position — something I questioned on numerous occasions.
Any ideas myself or the other women had were cast aside and the pay gap became more and more obvious. On one occasion, I overheard a male colleague discussing the fact that he didn’t want to hire a female candidate he had interviewed because she had just gotten married, so he assumed she would want to start having a family soon.
This attitude left me completely stunned and the position definitely set the standard for me. I realised then that I would not accept this behaviour in any other role. It also showed me that gender inequality can go completely unnoticed and that we, as a society, need to stick together to question this behaviour and ensure that we are all given the same amount of respect and fair treatment.
My position at Exposure Ninja was my dream job and thankfully, due to my level of experience, I sort of fell into the role, but I have felt nothing but a sense of equality from the offset.
I am surrounded by confident leaders and individuals, both male and female, and I haven’t once felt like my gender has been brought into the equation over any situation. I hope that one day, all businesses have this same approach and that women can go on to keep achieving everything they set their sights on.
Rain Agustin, HR & Finance Manager
— “Not just relying on my husband’s income fulfils me as a woman”
Being an honours student in the Philippines means people have high expectations of me. They all have an idea about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I am also the eldest female sibling and granddaughter in the family, which means I have lived under my father’s overly strict rules my whole life.
I experienced a lot during my teenage years that shaped me to be who I am today.
My college days were a struggle. My parents are farmers and so I had to bring vegetables to pay for my room rent! It meant that sometime sI only had a single loaf of bread to eat for a whole day.
Despite the challenges I faced in order to study, I’m still thankful for so many things. I’m thankful to my first employer who gave me the opportunity to gain experience in the field of accounting for four years. I’m thankful for the experience I had in my job as a hotel Auditor, which allowed me to travel to a place where I met the love of my life!
We’ve since been blessed with a son and he’s now five years old.
But, I’m actually most thankful to a male work colleague who introduced me to Exposure Ninja. It’s been such a wonderful blessing to become a Ninja with an awesome boss!
For more than three years now, I’ve been the HR & Finance Manager of the company and seen first hand how we’ve grown in the digital marketing world.Because of my work at Exposure Ninja, we’ve been able to build our simple house for our family — we no longer have to rent (and this was paid for in cash, not vegetables!)
Being able to see my son every day, caring for his needs, and having the ability to provide for my family and not just rely on my husband’s income fulfils me as a woman.
Hannah Whitehouse, Project Manager
— “Never let anyone stop you from reaching your goals”
During sixth form, I was always encouraged to go to university. I felt proud to be the first woman in my family to ever go to university and the hope was that I’d graduate and immediately land a fulfilling job. What I originally planned, however, didn’t exactly work out.
After struggling to find a job following university and having little idea of what career path I wanted to take, I found a job at a local nursery. This was my first taste of working in an environment that was heavily female dominated. In fact, there was only one man employed in the setting (and he did the accounts!).
After two years, I wanted to do something new. I made the decision to quit my job and set up my own freelance business. I created my website, got my business out there and began working with clients pretty quickly.
But, it wasn’t met with a positive attitude by everyone. Though supportive, my family were concerned that client work would be difficult to come by. Thankfully, I proved them wrong, and if it weren’t for that jump into the unknown, I wouldn’t be at Exposure Ninja.
While connecting with friends I’d made in the industry, one of them told me about a vacancy that had popped up for a Digital PR & Outreach Specialist. I emailed Charlie, my awesome manager, and got taken on and welcomed into a Ninja family made up of some of the most incredible women I’ve ever met.
We’re a group of ambitious, motivated and passionate women determined to get the best results for our clients — and we have a fun time doing it, too.
After just five months in my position, I got promoted to Team Leader. In addition to my Digital PR duties, I was also responsible for managing my own team of Ninjas, managing their workloads and ensuring I provided them with the support they needed.
Fast forward eleven months since I first began working at Exposure Ninja and I’m now a Project Manager. I act as the main point of contact for a number of clients, ensuring that work is delivered to a Ninja standard and that the client is always happy with the results we’re delivering. I couldn’t be happier to work with a company that recognises hard work and rewards motivated employees with the opportunity to progress, even rapidly!
What’s more, I know that I didn’t get this job to meet a “quota” — at Exposure Ninja, we have a number of fantastic, hard-working women in managerial and leadership positions, and it’s not because they’re women, but because they’re genuinely the best person for the job. In such a male-dominated industry as marketing, to see so many talented women getting rewarded for their work is something that I am immensely proud of.
While I haven’t suffered from a negative attitude towards women while at work, I have in my own personal life. On numerous occasions, I was told by those close to me that I shouldn’t pursue something I wanted to do because I “wasn’t capable”. It was at that point that I decided to not let another person’s damaging opinions stop me from achieving my dreams.
If there’s one piece of advice I would give to any woman, it would be to never let anyone stop you from reaching your goals — because believe me, you are worth so much more than that.
Samantha Lyon, DPR Team Leader
— “When you empower women, they help drive your company forward”
I can remember being belittled and patronised at almost every single job I had before starting at Exposure Ninja. Any inappropriate comments were brushed away as being part of that person’s character and I was told they meant nothing by it. When you work at a place like that, one that doesn’t do all it can to encourage women and make them feel like a valued part of the team, you become disillusioned and disengaged.
It’s almost funny how much overt misogyny still permeates our work culture today — and people think sexism isn’t an issue anymore! I am so glad I ended up in digital marketing, and in Exposure Ninja in particular, as I have been allowed to play to my strengths. As a Team Leader in Digital PR, I can be creative, I can be methodical, I can help people and I can encourage others in a way I wish I had been in my previous roles.
When you empower women and allow them to gain confidence in their skills and abilities, you create an environment where they can climb to the top of an organisation and help drive it forward. Any male-dominated industry that is still living in the Stone Age in this respect is doomed to failure; they’re not maximising their potential. Thankfully, Exposure Ninja has created a culture where both men and women can succeed and excel depending on their enthusiasm, their drive and their strengths.
Hannah Vickers, Social Media Manager
— “Women should be celebrated for taking on powerful roles”
Growing up, I always knew what I wanted to do career-wise. From school, to college, to my degree in English, I ensured I took all the steps I needed to to get on my chosen career path. It paid off and I achieved my dream career as an Online Editor at a national magazine at the age of 24.
Now, just over two years later, after falling in love with social media, I am working as a Social Media Manager at Exposure Ninja.
Luckily for me, gender equality has never been an issue. I believe that this is probably due to the career path I chose to go down. My English degree was made up of 90% women and then, when I landed my journalism job, that too was about 90% women; there was only one man in our entire office!
It hasn’t meant I’m not aware of the gender equality issues facing women today. I know that for so many women, working their way up the career ladder hasn’t been so easy. Even in 2017, women are still getting paid less than men and often aren’t being taken seriously, purely because they’re women.
I’m thankful I’m at a company that respects and understands that women are a crucial part of the workforce and shouldn’t be underestimated because of their sex. Instead, women should be celebrated for taking on powerful roles and proving that, actually, it isn’t a man’s world at all!
Nic Tuxford, SEO Team Leader
— “Be the badass woman you want to be!”
I’m blessed to have grown up with some awesome women in my life. My grandmother (born in 1920) earned her own money in the printing industry, survived being widowed during the war in her early 20s with a newborn child, and always stood up for herself.
My mum had an incredibly successful career up until retirement this year. She’s incredibly smart and raised me to believe I can do anything I choose. I grew up seeing both of my parents working, both taking care of me and my brother and both doing the housework!
This confidence has allowed me to shape my life the way I wanted. When I chose to start having children in my early 20s, my peers assumed my career was over. Sadly, this social attitude often causes young mothers to give up on the possibility of having a career, fearing they’ll be defined as unreliable in the workplace or neglectful to their children. It’s not surprising we feel like this if my own experience is common place.
The patronising comments from colleagues, the assumptions that I didn’t want to progress in my career, and the (completely inappropriate) questions around my decision to have a child really knocked my confidence at first. But, I’m not one to give up!
I blocked out every negative voice and every outdated assumption, and I made my own career path through hard work and determination. Exposure Ninja has made this path even easier, with a strong focus on gender equality, flexibility and some amazing female role models in management positions.
As for my children? Well, both are doing well at school, both get plenty of parent time and both are proud of their mum and dad, too!
Rules are made to be broken, so don’t let society’s gender-biased “rules” define how you choose to live your life. Take risks, overcome your fears and be the badass woman you want to be!
On that fantastic note, there’s really nothing left for us to say, apart from will you join us and the International Women’s Day movement and #BeBoldForChange?