Do successful women have to be applauded… or should it be business as usual?

As it stands, we have a female MD and a predominantly male board at Propaganda. We work with many CEOs, directors and chair people who are pretty much a 50/50 split between men and women and they’re all terrific at their jobs.

So we do take equality for granted here. Sorry, not sorry.

Our MD Laura Kynaston says, “Male, female, young or old, if you’re good, you should have the opportunity to progress.” 

“I sometimes find the ‘gender’ discussion a little uncomfortable as I think it makes it an issue when it shouldn’t be. However, I also understand that I’ve had a good experience, where my male colleagues and clients have never made an issue of my gender, but there are many women who still have to fight tooth & nail to be treated as an equal in the workplace, which for us is simply incomprehensible and unacceptable.

“The conversation around equality has never been as high profile, and right now, this is a great thing. But I’m looking forward to the day where it doesn’t even have to be a discussion.”

In recent years, women in business and equality in the workplace has been a key discussion around International Women’s Day, which is reflected in its 2017 campaign #BeBoldForChange “call on the masses or yourself to forge a more inclusive, gender equal world.”

With this in mind, we chatted with some of our high profile female clients to find out the challenges they have faced, who inspires them and their view on equality in their respective industries.

Helen Parry, Managing Director, MagnaColours

Helen Parry concedes that the her sector hasn’t always offered the best opportunities for women, “I have always worked in male dominated markets – there are still very few women in senior positions in the chemicals and printing industries. There is no doubt that in those sectors in particular, you have to work harder to prove yourself, compared to your male counterparts.”

Despite the industry norms, Helen and MagnaColours are paving the way for equality, “I’m fully in favour of equality in the workplace, and the same goes for the culture at MagnaColours. I’d say the ratio of men to women is about 50:50. You see women occupying more and more positions at board level, but there is still a fair way to go. In retail, FMCG and many service sectors, I see many more women rising to the top, but in some industries like engineering, we have more work to do at grass roots level.”

Although Helen’s background is in a very male-orientated industry, she takes inspiration from female entrepreneurs “Michelle Mone, founder of Ultimo has been an inspiration to me. I listened to one of her talks at a Buy Yorkshire event and she was truly inspirational, teaching that you should never give up on what you really want. There’s a lesson in that for all of us.”

Karen Betts, Director, Karen Betts Professional & K.B Pro & High Definition Beauty 

Karen Betts has found that, in the beauty industry, it’s not uncommon for females to hold senior positions and that her gender has in fact been of benefit to her, “We understand both business and the wants and needs of our clients, which is something our male counterparts sometimes struggle with.

“We do not have a stance on equality, this is something that has happened automatically for us. If there is someone perfect for the job, then it’s his or hers, irrespective of gender. In the beauty industry, ladies are the dominant sex in sheer numbers. We haven’t faced the same obstacles that women pursuing careers in other industries might.”

Across her career, Karen has counted entrepreneurs Jacqueline Gold, Karen Brady and Jo Malone as her inspirations, but her greatest influence has been the words of business woman Rosemary Conley, “Her comment to me to never take your eye off the ball was, perhaps, the best single piece of advice I have ever received, and has been very important to me recently.”

Bridgette Softley, Director, Nouveau Lashes

After holding a number of positions across the hair, beauty and cosmetics industry, Bridgette became Co-Director of Nouveau Lashes, and has relished the tests of the role, “I love the challenges that being a co-director of a company brings, the responsibility of growing a business, creating jobs and making a difference to the lives of others. I do feel exceptionally proud to be a woman in business myself, but the position I’m in also enables me to help thousands of other women to achieve their business dreams and goals too.

“We’re one of few businesses who can say we’re a strong force of predominantly women and we’re incredibly proud of that. We have staff members in roles traditionally served by men, delivering best practice, standing up and being counted. I think the visibility of women in these roles publicly is incredibly important and we’re happy to support and encourage our staff to pursue these opportunities.

“From Spice Girl to fashion designer, Victoria Beckham, is living proof women can have it all if they put the effort in. She is also a huge supporter of other women’s success as am I. For me Victoria has followed her dreams and turned her passion into a worldwide success, while remaining in equal parts family orientated and business savvy.”

Laura Kynaston, Managing Director, Propaganda

Our MD Laura started out at the bottom, and across her 18 years with Propaganda, has worked her way to the top, starting as the PA to the Creative Director and becoming MD in 2007. “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I’m not sure I should be any more proud because I’m female.

“Propaganda has never had to go to great lengths to encourage equality in the work place, rather it’s been an integral part of our culture, I’m lucky to work in a business that employs a good balance of both genders across a good spread of seniority levels. Equally, how we accommodate flexible working is really important. After the birth of my daughter, I was able to return to work 3 days a week and we have a number of other working mums in our team who work flexible hours. I think this sends out a really important message that women have a valuable ongoing contribution to make to the workforce. I also think it sends out a very positive message to other women in our team that their career shouldn’t be effected by the decision to have a family.”