International Women’s Day 2021: Empowering women who #ChooseToChallenge
International women’s day is a day dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements all over the world. This year the theme is ‘choose to challenge’– because a challenged system is one that can lead to change.
At Kaizen, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent and strong women who push boundaries. In fact, as a business – we’re actually 60% female – but not all businesses and industries are this equal.
To celebrate the progress made so far, we spoke to some of the most amazing women in the Digital PR/ SEO industry. We spoke about what motivates them, what power they get from being a woman as well as how we can further challenge gender in the workplace. Spoiler alert: some of the women from Kaizen appear in this too.
Why is international women’s day important to you?
“It is a reminder of how far women have come over the last 100 years especially– the world is entirely different now. As a manager, I’m surrounded by many female inspirations in the industry and I feel incredibly lucky to have not had to settle. The females in my family are some of the strongest I know. They all have different stories and flaws and I look up to each of them every day.” (Marina Plummer, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)
“Challenging gender bias is so important. As a younger woman in the workplace, I feel confident in my abilities and have been lucky enough to work with men who value my time and experience. However, even in roles where I’ve exceeded expectations, I’ve found out that I’m paid less than my male counterparts. As a woman, I’ve been described before as bossy, but if I was a man, it would be a positive attribute such as determined or direct.” (Jasmine Granton, Digital PR Team Lead, Absolute Digital Media)
“IWD is important for me because there are still huge prejudices around the world that affect women’s rights and women’s opportunity to succeed. In the past year, the pandemic showed that the gender divide is still real, and it exaggerated the imbalances from furlough to child care and housework falling on women more than men.” (Lauren Ahluwalia, Senior Social Marketer, Adtrak)
“Feeling underestimated due to your gender or even the colour of your skin is never a nice feeling. Having people make assumptions of you based on your gender can demotivate you and further fuel the imposter symptoms that some of us already suffer from. But no one should feel worthless in their career, you are there because you are good at your job and you have the skills and expertise to excel.” (Kayon Menzie, Digital PR Executive, Kaizen)
“International women’s day is important to me because it’s a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But it also calls for equality – where men and women are treated the same. The more action we take now the faster steps can be implemented for future generations!” (Eva Cheng, Digital PR Exec, JBH)
This years theme is #ChoosetoChallenge– why is challenging gender bias in the workplace so important to you?
“I’ve been in roles where I’ve had to make the tea for client meetings, purely because I am a woman. I’ve experienced sexism first hand within my 12 years in SEO, and we must make the workplace a more nurturing place where women can thrive, demonstrate their skills, and not be afraid of shouting about it.” (Hannah Butcher, Head of SEO, Re:Signal)
“I believe that everyone – both men and women – should feel that they can achieve absolutely anything in both their professional and personal lives. Gender biases are still taking place and they can impact how we feel about ourselves. By even just talking about, we are able to remind ourselves that we should never doubt our abilities.” (Marina Plummer, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)
“We also all know there is an issue when it comes to women and asking to be paid fairly and, of course, what we’re worth. I was notoriously guilty of underselling myself, and sometimes still am, but I now think about what a male would do in my situation and that quickly wakes me up to realising I ‘deserve’ to be paid fairly. I’ve seen this in our industry, too, with people like Areej AbuAli calling out conferences, agencies and general instances of gender (and racial) inequality and calling for change, as well as her setting up Women In Tech SEO and many amazing initiatives within that. We need more people (of all genders) challenging the status quo, but many of us are still too afraid to speak out in fear of being viewed in a bad light or even being affected professionally. Yet, it really is time for a change and I think this year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge, highlights that, I hope to see more of it going forward.” (Surena Chande, Freelance Content Writer and Journalist)
“Women are being urged to be more confident in the workplace– but are also told they are too aggressive when they stand up and speak? The workplace needs to work for women too, from flexible working hours and maternity pay to ensuring that women receive equal pay to their male counterparts.” (Lauren Ahulwalia, Senior Social Marketer, Adtrak)
“Challenging gender bias is so important in the workplace– we need to recognise that talent does not come in one-size-fits-all. It is important that we continue to speak about issues that we face, even the ones that make us uncomfortable so that we can make real changes and accurately represent what it means to be a working woman.” (Kayon Menzie, Digital PR Executive, Kaizen)
“I want to change things for the next generation. I don’t want the women who come after us to face the same things which we have had to experience. Is that what we want for our daughters? Our granddaughters? We have an opportunity to make people listen and as we unite to challenge gender bias in the workplace, we take one more step towards making a difference for those who come after us.” (Saffron Shergill, Digital PR Executive, Impression talk)
What advice would you give to women in the Digital PR and SEO industry?
“Use your voice to lift as you rise. Celebrate other women who you admire, who have supported you, and who have made a positive impact in your career.” (Hannah Butcher, Head of SEO, Re: Signal)
“Stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone walk all over you. The industry has so much to offer for all sorts of skills, and whether you’re a woman, whether you’ve been in the industry for 1 year or 10, your opinion is just as valuable.” (Marina Plummer, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)
“I think it’s important to know your worth and to not be afraid to negotiate – obviously now during Covid this is a bit of a tricky one because many of us are just happy to get a job. I do believe, however, that the right employer will value your negotiation skills. There are tons of free resources on negotiating available, reading up on some can really make a difference.” (Sophie Wolge, Digital PR Intern, Kaizen)
“It’s fundamentally problematic to place the emphasis and responsibility solely on women to change their behaviour in order to fit in a male-led workforce. Instead, leadership across organisations should be investigating what potential barriers are there which prevent women from succeeding.” (Serena Pearson, Senior SEO & ASO Manager, Kaizen)
“The advice I’d give any woman in the Digital PR industry would be to create your community. I’ve found so much love and support from so many incredible women in this industry. I learn and am inspired by them on a daily basis– it’s such a welcoming place. I’d also urge that women speak out. Your voice is valued and if the people you’re currently working with don’t like it… someone else will.” (Jasmine Granton, Digital PR Team Lead, Absolute Digital Media)
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt as a woman in the industry?
“That you just have to keep doing what you’re doing, even when people are threatened by your success.” (Hannah Butcher, Head of SEO, Re: Signal)
“To stand my ground. I’ve learnt to understand that voicing my opinion isn’t about causing conflict or making issues. It is something I am doing to help better what we are doing as PRs.” (Marina Plummer, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)
“There are so many incredible women in the industry that I look up to and that’s because they’re unapologetically themselves. They are unafraid of speaking up, will demand and highlight their worth both publicly and within the companies they work for. So I’d say learning to be a little stronger and less afraid of demanding my worth – there are definitely male peers in the industry who are doing the same” (Surena Chande, Freelance Content Writer and Journalist)
“Women should shout about their talents, skills and differences. There is a space for everyone in this industry– and women are some of the trailblazers behind it. Be unapologetic about your experiences and your womanhood, we should uplift and celebrate each other, regardless of seniority or popularity. This is particularly important for raising the profiles of Black and Brown women within the industry as often our achievements are not highlighted and we should celebrate all women, not just a few.” (Casey Paul, Marketing Manager, Kaizen)
“Never let anyone make you feel like you aren’t good enough because you are amazing at what you do!” (Eva Cheng, Digital PR Executive, JBH)
Who inspires you the most and why?
“I’ve met and worked alongside some ridiculously talented women during my time in the industry. Shannon McGuirk is one– during a time when I was struggling to find my voice in the industry and full of frustration, she recognised it, understood it and allowed me to open up about how I was feeling. She wasn’t just my boss, but a friend, and I will always be grateful for the support she gave me.” (Marina Plummer, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)
“So many people inspire me so it’s hard to pick a few. Kirsty Hulse inspires me massively when it comes to confidence and inspiring us to hold our lives in our own hands. I’m also hugely inspired by Areej. Setting up such a strong community takes a lot of time, effort and resilience and I feel honored to be within that community” (Jasmine Granton, Digital PR Team Lead, Absolute Digital Media)
“Today it is Meghan Markle for speaking up when she was silenced. On other days it’s Jacinda Arden for challenging gender stereotypes and handling the pandemic incredibly well in New Zealand.” (Lauren Ahulwalia, Senior Social Marketer, Adtrak)
“Areej AbuAli for her fearless attitude and mission to empower others, Ruth Barrett for her intelligence and unbelievable kindness (she’s been an absolute rock to me and I don’t think she knows). Saffron Shergill for her bravery and resilience always inspires me. Gisele Navarro – I don’t even know where to begin with her, she’s an absolute superstar! Hannah Smith continues to be an inspiration and the amount I learnt from her while working under her is phenomenal. There’s so many more but I’ll leave it at that.” (Surena Chande, Freelance Content Writer and Journalist)
“My mother is my biggest inspiration of all, she came over to the UK from China in the late ’80s not knowing any English, she has so much courage and confidence in her to be able to do that.” (Eva Cheng, Digital PR Executive, JBH)
Any last words that keep you empowered to share?
“I really like this expression ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt.” (Jo Juliana Turnball, SEO Contractor, Kaizen)
“The room deserves all of you, all at once. Be mindful of any situations or people that might cause you to shrink yourself because there is no such thing as being too much– maybe they just weren’t enough” (Meghan Payne, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)
“Do good and let others do good for you” (Eva Cheng, Digital PR Exec, JBH)
“Go get ’em!” (Marina Plummer, Digital PR Manager, Kaizen)