As part of our support for International Women’s Day “Choose to Challenge”, we invited women in leadership to discuss their views on gender inequality and related issues. While we have heard from some of our own female leaders, we have also reached out to inspiring women from other businesses. For this #IWD2021 Ringside, we caught up with Collette Easton from performance marketing agency Yard.
Collette Easton is a C-Level Executive who has over 20 years’ experience in digital agencies. Collette has twice been part of successful leadership teams to enjoy acquisition. She’s currently a chief revenue officer, working in the agency commercial function, improving processes and systems and ultimately profitability.
What’s been the driving force to get you where you are today, and have you benefited from having any personal mentors?
I come from a long line of military personnel. My nan and my mum have been particularly inspirational to me. My nan was a Royal Military Police officer, she worked with female German prisoners post World War II, being tried for their war crimes. She worked with women who had done horrific things to prisoners in concentration camps. Nan talked calmly about these women, her wards, whom she processed in a civil and professional way. My Mum, also ex-Army, became a prison officer at the age of 40. Again, she tried to deal with prisoners with as much humanity as the job allowed.
Being ex-military myself, then moving into the search engine optimisation world in the early noughties, I have been used to being out-numbered by men throughout most of my professional life. My military experience, I suspect, means I don’t bat an eyelid when occasionally I find I’m the only female in a room. As long as I understand my topic, and have an opinion, I’m rarely phased. My sense of humour is a major part of my armoury.
If you feel like you are being held back because of your gender, call it out. We all have different personal requirements – be really honest when you interview. Dig into policies and HR. Click To Tweet
What advice would you pass on to other women to help them progress and overcome issues associated with ‘the glass ceiling’ in your industry?
I read lots of advice telling me I need to work twice as hard to succeed as a female. I personally don’t believe I have experienced that. I have found my niche and I have worked hard at it, but that’s because I wanted the success. I have utterly loved my career in digital – it has had some incredible highs and spectacular falls. I wouldn’t change a thing (well maybe a few poorly judged incidents, but that’s nothing to do with my gender). I have experienced sexism; a small example is when I have had roles that required international travel, and I have been asked so many times who is looking after my child. I know that men don’t get asked the same types of questions. But I don’t take it personally. To me, it’s a compliment, because the interrogator suspects that I’ve had to make complex domestic arrangements as well as deal with my professional requirements.
In the last decade, there has been a huge shift in working arrangements. Currently I work with an amazing set of people that really care about family, and we also consider ourselves a working family. If you feel like you are being held back because of your gender, call it out. Maybe you’re simply not working for the right organisation for you. We all have different personal requirements – be really honest when you interview. Dig into policies and HR.
This is perhaps controversial – and maybe that is because I just haven’t experienced it – I’m not really sure how thick the glass ceiling is anymore. If it is there – did you tap hard enough to crack and smash it into smithereens? Or is it genuinely crushing you?
Are there any initiatives from inside or outside your organisation that you think make a substantive difference in addressing the gender pay gap and open up opportunities for females to progress in their careers?
Our agency has sponsored employees to be on the WACL (women in advertising and creative leadership) mentor programme. I asked our marketing manager, Rona, how this has been for her. She says it’s a great opportunity to get career advice, external to our organisation, to network with and speak to other female leaders and hear their stories.
As an organisation, we also have a culture committee, run by the teams. During 2019 we did quite a bit of surveying to see where we could do better. We achieved a 50/50 gender split across the agency.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work life balance and responsibilities outside of work? Any words of wisdom you can share on how you’ve managed the past 12 months?
The last 12 months has really taken its toll. But some positives have occurred. I have done a lot of work from home for a long time, fully supported by two out of three organisations I have worked with. One real positive: there will be no more jibes about potential skiving off and watching daytime tele. The rest of the world now realises how much work is done at home, and how hard the boundaries can be to ensure you switch off between the commute from your workspace to your leisure space.
We must all surely realise how flexible working has a huge benefit. The office and social interaction is an absolute must, but so is quiet home working for deeper thinking. Organisations that better embrace flexible working will find their workforce more diverse, and a bigger pool of talent will be available in the future. Those parents of young children or carers with amazing skill sets should have better opportunities open to them because we’re no longer chained to the office.
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on International Women’s Day and the topics we’ve discussed today?
If I’m truly honest, I find the gender conversation a bit difficult. I have worked with amazing men, suffered some serious misogyny, I have worked with incredible women and then a couple that were just truly awful people. I realise it is so much more complicated than I will ever truly grasp and completely unique for every woman, and I will not deny that we’ve had to fight a patriarchy. But I really believe that today, most of us are just nice people trying to do the right thing. I have a theory that one person will do something really nasty to you, but 20 people will do almost anything to help you no matter what their gender.
Organisations that better embrace flexible working will find their workforce more diverse, and a bigger pool of talent will be available in the future. Click To Tweet
We’ve heard much talk about how our new world of work will help diversify workforces. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the future and the impact this has on diversity and inclusion within businesses. Thanks to Collette for sharing her story with us.
We are just one week away from International Women’s Day, and more #IWD2021 Ringside interviews are on their way.