Saturday 8th March marked International Women’s Day! The day that always seems to creep up on me and then I kick myself that I’ve not been proactive around a subject that is so very important to me, the importance of promoting and insisting on an equal and fair world. IWD is about celebrating how far the world has come in making life more fair and equal for women, but crucially it’s also about putting a spotlight on how far we still have to go. So here are a few words inspired by IWD, written on IWD and dedicated to the celebration and continued improvement of women’s lives and rights.
Women, brilliant women all around me from my amazing mum and sister, such strong women with great capacity to love and to laugh in all situations, to friends like Caz, who I bumped into this morning, with 9 week old Zander, embracing the very early days of motherhood and her role as a mum, to the brilliant and impressive women I work with day in and day out at Livity. We are 70% made up of women at Livity, a company of about 50 people and growing. I’m extremely proud that the 70% women representation continues to be reflected in our Leadership Team. Kate, Alex, Lyeloon and Caroline are all inspiring and effective leaders, coaches and do’ers and examples of how ambitious career progression and pathways can and should play out. If you also take a look to their their right hand women: Lianre, Anna, Melissa, Rachel, Mira, Erica and Naomi all of whom are achieving similar levels of short and long term effectiveness and leadership and ditto all the other amazing Livity women beyond them, including our newest and youngest recruits, Livity Interns, Cherokee and Frances, I hope it begins to paint a reassuring picture that businesses like ours, that are achieving 30% year on year growth, are flying, in part (and I think a 70% part is pretty significant don’t you?) due to the brilliant women driving them forwards (Livity guys, you of course make up the other 30% and equally brilliant part, but today is and should be in celebration of the gals.)
What I observe in the women that I have the privilege of working with is an openness and willingness for self-development, both professional and personal, and this means that they are constantly raising the bar. Ours is a far more difficult Leadership Team to get on these days compared to the one we created a few years ago, because the same women who were a part of forming that team have played their part in raising the bar. What is truly exciting is that the women coming up and through in our business are now aiming for that new bar, and be assured they are going to reach it. The impact of all of this is that our business becomes better and stronger. The glass ceiling has no place to even be considered a challenge in our business, however, across the marketing industry there is still some work to be done. I’m Chair for Youth and Diversity for the MAA and in our recent MAA Census, some figures were almost converse to ours at Livity, in that 67% of executive leadership are male, with the make up of the industry being 49% male/ 51% female – so there clearly is still more work to be done on encouraging pathways for women to achieve leadership and executive roles. Beyond our MAA member agency world the figures are even worse than our 33% of women in executive positions, with an IPA 2012 report revealing the average proportion of women accounting for roles in executive management or higher had reach 25%, and this was a good increase on previous years. The music industry is hard to get figures for, but the one woeful figure I managed to pick up was that 15% of membership of the Music Managers Forum is women and a quick play with the Creative and Cultural Skills really useful data generator revealed that overall the number of female ‘Managers and Senior Officials’ in the industry is only 13%.
So yes, on IWD we must celebrate the improvements, the great stories and stats that demonstrate progress, but let’s face it, you only have to sit and look at a few stats to realise that we still have so much to do and achieve and I believe that to gain any meaningful traction it must start at a leadership and executive level. In business, any major challenge or change that is big and important needs leadership. At Livity we have no specific programmes for women or indeed diversity, equal opps policies yes, programmes no. Yet we have great numbers of women and a really diverse team (58% white / 42% non-white) why? Well, one half of our co-founding team is female (me!) and the other half of the partnership, my inspiring biz partner Sam Conniff, is a human being and leader who has a phenomenal sense of fairness and open-mindedness, he is also someone who grew up in a family of impressively strong women, I’m certain they have contributed to his inherent sense of equality for all. We need to set examples, challenge traditional thinking and behaviours and create business environments in which everyone can thrive, be ambitious and have a clear, compelling and equal pathway. One of the most important things I’ve learnt on this topic is that once you have momentum, once you are experiencing first hand the numerous benefits of a diverse and equal business, you’ve now set a precedent and you’ve created the environment for success, you then begin to naturally attract those brilliant people who also ‘get it’. That’s extremely exciting, because then you can all just get on with enjoying, creating and delivering brilliant work, in our case, for our clients and for the benefit of the young people, the very reason Livity exists.
Change for women in business needs to come from the leadership of the business and it might indeed need a programme or specific push to support it, but the leadership is essential, because without leadership it’s an uphill struggle whereas with the support of the leaders it is simply a natural evolution, that might take time, but that will have momentum and promise and above all benefits for both businesses and the clients, customers or communities they serve.
So there we are, International Women’s Day, yes you have crept up on me once again, but this year I’ve responded to you and I promise to continue to do my bit and hopefully even a whole lot more by the time you come around again next year.
Written for my daughter, Liliana aged 10.
09.03.14, Michelle Clothier, Managing Director at Livity
A month ago marked the end of the most incredible year, namely my year as one of the first-ever digital marketing apprentices at Google.
This week, fittingly, is National Apprenticeship Week, and the theme is “Great Apprenticeships” based on the notion that great businesses are made by apprentices, and apprenticeships lead to great prospects. I may be slightly biased, but I can’t help but agree.
Around this time last year I spoke at an event at the Tate Modern for Creative & Cultural Skills’ Creative Apprenticeship Week about apprenticeships, the opportunity I was being afforded, and the journey I was about to embark upon. Embarrassingly, it was captured on video. Looking back at that now fills me with various emotions, ranging mainly from dread to sheer embarrassment, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I barely even recognise that person now, but I would like to think I’ve done the past me justice. This is in part down to the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have, but also thanks to the realities I’ve had to face, and the sheer amount of hard work required to get to where I am.
The opportunity to go to work every day at one of the biggest companies in the world, a company that people write entire books about getting jobs at no less, has been nothing short of life-changing. Working day-to-day in a company of incredibly smart, passionate people, within a team of inspiration, dedication and fittingly, innovation, has taught me more than simple words on a page ever could have.
Fast forward one year, and one of the campaigns I’m working on in my current role includes community management for an apprenticeship and traineeship provider. This involves monitoring their social media channels and contributing to the various official National Apprenticeship Week hashtags while creating and curating content for the client around #NAW2014: a combination of all the skills I’ve spent the past year learning.
Seems rather apt, don’t you think?
As I look now for my next opportunity, it has become abundantly clear that my apprenticeship has taught me so much, not only about marketing, business, and working life within the industry, but also about myself, and the way I work, and perhaps most importantly, that experience really is everything.
07.03.14 Abi Jenkins, Account Executive (and former Google apprentice) at Livity
“Sports currently fall into two categories: male sports, and females playing sports designed for men”
Having had a recent conversation about women in sport amongst friends, I then overheard a conversation about how the recent Winter Olympic success was dampened by the fact that it was in women’s events.
This just made me sad and ultimately revealed the often thinly veiled misogyny in our society which results in women being given a lesser status in sport.
And the difficulty is that often the debate becomes skewed; as it’s clearly not the case that should sporting competitions suddenly become mixed, women would win. Ultimately the landscape was not created with women in mind, with the majority of sports being devised in a time when women were based in the home, neither playing or often watching sport.
As Rick Paulas wrote in Vice last summer, “sports currently fall into two categories: male sports, and females playing sports designed for me”. If sports were devised to favour female body shapes and biological traits etc., things could be very different. This makes sense when you think of the sports where women are often equal in performance such as sailing, archery, and equestrian events.
But we are where we are, and no-one is arguing for scrapping popular sports in favour of an attempt at equality. However there are some things in today’s society which could help even the playing field, such as an increase in sports instruction for females at a younger, development age, which would result in a higher percentage being encouraged to achieve their potential. As Rick put it, “this disparity is what happens when a generation of parents give boys footballs and girls Barbie dolls for their first few years”. Well put, I thought.
And more funding, investment and sponsorship in female only sports. If you can’t source the funding, you can’t train, and even if you could, women earn so much less from sponsorship deals that I’m sure it just doesn’t seem worth it.
But it’s ok, there’s a male curling event we’re guaranteed silver in. Phew.
21.02.14, Kate Harwood, Senior Account Manager at Livity
New research by think tank Demos released this week reveals that teenage job hopes are being ruined by negative media representation.
Livity and somewhereto_ intern Oscar gives us his response to the report, considering the damaging implications that false stereotyping may have on young people today as they seek to enter the world of work.
If you haven’t read the Demos report yet I’ll save you the hassle and say that it makes for a pretty depressing read. A society in which 80% of 14-17 year olds feel they are unfairly represented in the media is one that has dealt an unfair hand to those who need opportunity most.
Being a young person in 2014 isn’t easy. It is our collective duty to avoid the dogmatic perspectives that have served to undermine our future generations. With 85% of young people believing that negative stereotypes are affecting their chances of getting a job, we face the very real prospect of a generation growing up with the nagging sense that they are not good enough. It should go without saying that they are.
It is all too easy to point the finger and find a scapegoat. This is what societies do to obscure more pressing issues at hand. Teenagers can be lazy, rude and obnoxious but they can also be brilliant, entrepreneurial and inspiring. We must work to make sure we bring out the best in our young people, not highlight the worst.
It’s not about identifying a problem. It’s about finding a solution.
20.02.14, Oscar Mackenzie, intern at Livity and somewhereto_
Here at Livity, we strive to empower young people through the power of brands and co-creating campaigns. In doing so, we provide young people with training, support and opportunities to build a brighter future.
Guest blogger Robin Chu, founder of CoachBright, gives us his insights into working alongside young people who are disengaged with learning, seeking solutions through technology-focussed initiatives…
In my first tutoring session with Tim*, a 14 year old, I asked him what he thought of school. ‘I hate it… I’m bored… it doesn’t excite me’, he told me.
At the time (a year ago), still fresh from graduating, I thought this was just a classic case of ‘yeah, but it’s cool to pretend school is crap, right?’. After all, plenty of my friends and myself went through education saying the same thing. However, several sessions later, it was clear this wasn’t a front to be fashionable. He was serious. School didn’t motivate him and he didn’t get anything from it.
Surprising? Probably not. A problem? Yes. My question then, is why?
Tim’s bright (on B’s and C’s at GCSE when we started), articulate and personable. And school gives you friends, teachers who got into the profession to inspire and a place to explore interesting content. So, what’s wrong?
Is it because kids don’t want to learn?
Arguably, but let’s consider Sugatra Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiment. In 1999, Mitra put an internet-connected computer in a New Delhi slum. Without any knowledge in English or how to use a PC, the kids from the slum played around and taught themselves how to browse the web and basic English phrases. No supervision, no instruction, no curriculum. This suggests if pupils are put in an environment where learning can happen, it will happen.
Then, is it because teachers just don’t care?
This point is touted around time and time again. Teachers don’t care so pupils don’t care. The job is cushy and easy. But, one watch of the recent BBC3 series Tough Young Teachers, or going into a secondary school at 7pm shows this is absolutely untrue. Teachers definitely care. Most work way beyond office hours marking homework and devising killer lesson plans.
If it’s not teachers and it’s not the pupils then whose fault is it that Tim isn’t engaged?
My personal, if very biased opinion (feel free to slate. I’m @RobinChu1 on Twitter) is that neither are true. Instead it seems schools are just too stretched resource-wise to cater for each individual pupil.
With Ofsted requirements, schools are judged on academic targets. For instance, at a secondary such as Tim’s, the focus will be on getting as many pupils on A*-C’s at GCSE with a few exceptional case studies (e.g. One pupil received 11 A*’s etc). Broadly, this is the criteria schools are assessed on.
Therefore, in practice, top resources and staff time are pushed to those who are either struggling on a D/C grade borderline or those exceptionally talented on an A* grade. Looking through this lens, no wonder there is a demotivated squeezed middle which Tim falls under. After all, like a middle child in the family – the youngest gets the attention and the oldest the glory. In this case though, the ‘parent’ (school) can’t be blamed since they are only doing what strategically makes sense.
Moving forward, you might think I’m painting a bleak picture for the Tims of this world. Maybe – 10 years ago. Now – definitely not. The rise of technology and community engagement means schools are no longer limited to their finite resources. The goal to give each child, like Tim, a supported, personalised and attentive education is no longer a pipe dream anymore.
Some fantastic initiatives are already revealing the potential for lowering school walls to enthusiastic community members. The Brilliant Club are raising ambition and skills by getting PHD tutors to deliver university style seminars for pupils. Future First are bringing alumni back to their old school to share stories about their occupation. This is great in giving not just useful career information but relatable role models.
It’s the same with technology. Even Britain’s most well-known and traditional of schools in Eton, acknowledges that the new digital landscape calls for change. Partnering with Emerge Venture Lab, an education technology accelerator, Eton teachers will mentor the next generation of social entrepreneurs. That way, helping increase the amount of technology-focussed initiatives to tackle the major issues round education.
Likewise, CoachBright, the venture I have founded is a tutoring programme for disengaged students that merges offline workshops and one to one tutoring around a digital world. Based heavily on the US movement round “flipped teaching”, it aims to use technology and volunteers to give each pupil the personalised and attentive support they need to thrive.
So, while the problem of pupils not enjoying school is a very real problem. The solutions are not that far away.
Robin Chu, CEO and founder at CoachBright 31.01.14