International Women’s Day (IWD) is observed annually on March 8 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year, there were countless events held around the globe hosted by corporations, brands and community organizations. For IWD, I was fortunate to attend the Omniwomen New York chapter launch, which is a group organized by our parent company, Omnicom, with the purpose of increasing the influence and number of women leaders throughout the network. Needless to say, it was an incredibly inspirational evening.
My biggest takeaway from the event was that it is imperative to continue this conversation beyond IWD and Women’s History Month, which is this month. We need to take action throughout the entire year to continue pushing for gender parity and equality.
As I attended the Omniwomen event in the Big Apple, several of my colleagues participated in their local geography events as well. Below are a few key learnings from those events, and how each of us can continue to #PressForProgress in the upcoming year and beyond…
Barri Rafferty, President & CEO:
I was reminded that everyone has a diversity story by Jennifer Brown, and that we all need to work to uncover what we cover up ourselves. I had never thought of it that way. Then, Michele Thornton Ghee raised the energy level telling us to make appointments with ourselves to be better, “You have to schedule time for change.” International Women’s Day was a great reminder that we are the change. Each day, year round, how we approach things will lead to change in our lives, our colleagues’ lives, our children’s lives, and the society around us.
Jo-ann Robertson, Partner, CEO, Ketchum London; attended Omniwomen UK:
I was so proud that we had our first male delegate from Ketchum London at Omniwomen UK this year. If we are to accelerate progress in this space men not only need to be part of the conversation, but they need to have a sense of responsibility for instigating and driving change. My friend from CDM, Phil Bartlett, gave a keynote address called “Boys Don’t Cry” that was perfectly pitched and is critical for understanding men’s behaviour in society and the workplace. The call to action that I took out of this year’s event was to make it about we, not he or she.
Karl O’Doherty, Account Director; attended Omniwomen UK
As Jo-ann mentioned above, I was the first male delegate from Ketchum London at Omniwomen UK. There were two moments of sudden clarity at the event for me. The first came in the CEO panel, where we heard brave confessions from women about their own realisations when becoming parents – it really opened my eyes to the fact that a lot of the structural unfriendliness to women (and, really, any other employee) that can exist in the workplace is clearly visible; we just don’t notice until it affects us personally. The second moment of clarity that I had was in the presentation from Phil Barlett, where he drew attention to the language choices we make, both consciously and subconsciously. For both our own workplace, and our craft, the two realisations will mean a higher level of questioning the status quo: Word choice is so important – what impact will my words have? What are the root causes behind my colleagues’ actions and how can we accommodate those as I would hope my own needs are addressed?
Michele Lanza, Partner, Global Talent Acquisition; attended Omniwomen SF
We recently launched the San Francisco chapter of Omniwomen, and on International Women’s Day we hosted a breakfast at the Ketchum San Francisco office. While we only expected about 50 people to attend, we ended up with over 100 participants. We were all blown away by badass women and men that showed up at 8:30 in the morning, full of commitment, passion and dedication to tackling the challenges women, and men, experience in the workplace. I am still processing all of the amazing insights and ideas from the event, but there are three main areas I am going to commit to moving forward in the upcoming year: First, we still see high impact situations dominated by men, and organizations must do a better job of ensuring women are in the room as well. Next, it is so important to enter every room with empathy and give people the benefit of the doubt. Lastly, we are our biggest advocates, and we need to stand up for each other. These three takeaways are things I will commit to and make sure to foster within my organization.
Alex Malczewski, Associate Consultant, Organisational Effectiveness & Learning; attended Omniwomen UK
Omniwomen has inspired me to #TakeItOn. First, I’m going to take the advice of one of the most memorable talks of the day, which for me was from Sam Phillips of Omnicom Media Group. Sam encouraged us to say yes more and to lean more toward fear than boredom – life is going to throw a lot at you, it’s how you deal with it that counts and by following more “yeses” and being brave, you open yourself up to more opportunities. Throughout the day it became clear that there is still more to be done on raising awareness around issues facing professionals on a day to day basis, for example: returning to work as a new parent, taking time to care for elderly parents, or adjusting to part-time colleagues on your team. I will commit to helping our organization view these challenges as a norm, and create a supportive environment for any employee going through life changes.
Kirsty Sachrajda, Head of HR, Europe; attended Omniwomen UK
At the UK Omniwomen summit we heard from inspiring and successful female leaders, such as Sam Phillips. Her speech was incredibly impactful and moving because she not only talked about the different stages of her career, but also the different stages of her personal life that ran in parallel. We need to change the narrative around women in leadership and debunk the myth that leaders are born and not made. Too often we hear “I don’t know how she does it all” (which would never be said about a man) and we need to talk more about HOW our female leaders do it all, how they got where they are today, and the support and teams they have around them, both personally and professionally.
Sue Maloney, Partner, Associate Director Ketchum San Francisco / SVP Creative & Strategic Planning; attended Omniwomen SF
The Omniwomen breakfast in San Francisco office was standing room only – a sign of just how excited everyone was to kick off International Women’s Day. The “guest speakers” for our gathering were actually all of the attendees. Small breakout groups talked about the observations and obstacles women are facing in the workplace and the conversations quickly shifted to all the ways we can work to fix it. Hearing from seasoned professionals who have been in the industry for years, young professionals in their very first job, and male colleagues who wanted to be part of the conversation and the solution was truly inspiring. The take-away? Everyone has something to contribute, we can all learn from each other, and this is not just an issue for female leadership to own, this is everyone’s issue to own.