By Jenny Stanley, Founder, Femme Niche and MD & Founder, Appetite Creative
Last week, Femme Niche and The Agency Collective joined forces to host an event called Women in Agencies: Overcoming invisible barriers to success. The event was held in the Unruly offices in London for agency owners who truly care about making a change for the better in our industry.
Just 25% of all agency owners are women which is a huge disparity and as an industry, we need to examine what challenges there are to women starting agencies and how we can overcome them.
So, what is holding women back from starting agencies?
The three stand out reasons seem to be risk, confidence and finance, which are reasons why women are less likely to launch their own business.
There is also a mental barrier, and while everyone can set up an agency – the hard work is keeping it going
The first essential step that women need to do is to build up self-confidence from the people around you. You need to also embrace your entrepreneurial inner self and shift your attitude to a ‘f**k it, do it’ one!
It is incredibly hard to own an agency and whether you are male or female – it’s hard and you must be headstrong, determined and have tunnel vision; with an inherent need to be 100% focused on the endgame.
There appears to be a likeability v confidence question for women who can sometimes struggle more with the need to be liked and the confidence to lead; this might stem from how we treat children and we need to ensure that we show them that they have equal choices. It is essential that we also overcome our own preconceptions and look outside our own frame of reference. A recent report from the Fast company stated that whilst 50% of women dream of having their own business – only 12% believe they can do it.
There is another challenge creating an all too visible barrier for women to succeed which is women pitting themselves against women. This can often be driven by envy, spite or jealousy and is both disappointing as well as detrimental. The good news though is that there seems to be a shift away from this vitriolic behaviour and women are increasingly understanding the need to work collaboratively with other women and groups like Femme Niche, dawn London and Digital Leading Ladies are a driving force in encouraging women to support, mentor and collaborate with each other.
Flavilla Fongang Founder of successful branding and marketing agency, 3 Colours Rule spoke at the Women in Agencies event and provided real insight into how to break through barriers to succeed:
“My biggest fear was myself and I had to self-teach myself and eliminate thoughts that I wasn’t good enough. When I started my agency, I was scared to lose my saving and more importantly, I was scared to fail. I had to look at what was best for me and challenge my mindset. Don’t be scared to be selfish.”
Flavilla created an agency that works with Wework, Suzuki, BBC, Facebook, AIB and HKT to deliver business branding and helps companies achieve their full brand perspective. She is a leader in her field and here are her top 20 tips to succeed as a leader:
- Get comfortable getting uncomfortable
- Embrace your uniqueness
- If you don’t ask, you don’t get
- Feel the fear and do it anyway
- Be the boss
- Be underestimated
- Be super different
- Business is personal – choose who you work with
- Take care of your personal brand
- Brag when you have done well
- Your network is your net worth – how many new people do you speak to each week
- Work with great people
- Put innovation at the heart of your company culture
- Learn continuously and network the shit out of life!
- Surround yourself with high achievers and mentors
- Use virtual / podcasts to teach you
- Be ready to fail and learn
- Never conform
- Provide value and inspire others
- Be the change you want to see
Ellie Hale, The Agency Collective asked the leaders of agencies who attended the event to make pledges to make a difference in our industry. Pledges were made to do voluntary work, go into schools, mentor junior team members, go into universities and mentor through skillset forms. The resounding message was to shine a light on women who inspire you and provide education, experience and esteem.
“It is essential to champion women. If you are willing to make a change to make a difference, do shout about it through #ACpledge #agencypledge.” says Ellie Hale, The Agency Collective.
For anyone out there thinking that there is a barrier preventing them from succeeding, remember that you are just one good decision away from changing your life. Take a risk and be the leader you were always meant to be.