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Lisa Thomas: Why I'm taking WACL to Scotland
Last year WACL released ‘Deeds not Words’ an original research piece of conducted in partnership with LinkedIn. This research suggests that gender parity across the industry generally has been reached, but the boardroom has not caught up, as only 36% of those in leadership roles are women. It is encouraging to see that there has been a 19% increase in hiring women into leadership roles over the last ten years, which suggests the gap is closing, albeit slowly.
There are certainly large numbers of incredibly talented women in senior management positions in our industry, but whilst progress is being made by a number of organisations, more needs to be done.
This year I have taken on the presidency of WACL and I suppose that if you were to boil my mission for the year ahead right down to one core idea, ‘doing more’ would be right at its heart. For those unfamiliar with the organisation, WACL brings together the most senior female leaders in advertising, marketing and communications, drawing members from brands, media owners, advertising and media agencies, as well as other industry businesses. It’s a fascinating point in the organisation’s almost 100-year history, transitioning from being a dining club into a purpose-led organisation that is focused on accelerating gender equality across the industry. This is exactly the type of challenge that I find energising.
In the spirit of change, for the first time in nearly 100 years, WACL is stepping out of London to host its annual Gather event. We have chosen to replicate the Gather format in Scotland this year to both celebrate the Scottish marketing community, which is large and vibrant in terms of media owners, consultancies and brands, but also in recognition of the lack of senior women on boards and in leadership roles in the country. In research carried out by the Marketing Society Scotland in 2015 only 9% of women and 29% of men believed their was gender equality in Scottish marketing. This has led to a strong sense from the female marketing community in Scotland that they were not really being catered for. That’s not to say diversity isn’t being discussed or addressed, but that it was felt women were lacking senior role models and a platform to share their experiences and get the support they need to take their careers to the next level.
Gather Scotland, which will bring 400 women together for a day of inspiration, support and training, takes place at the Signet Library in Edinburgh on Thursday 19th September. The event has two elements – a senior leaders’ Gather event from 9.30am – 5.30pm and a future leaders’ Gathering event from 5.30 – 7.30pm.
We are pleased to welcome a dynamic panel of inspirational speakers, including; Executive Dean Edinburgh Business School, Professor Heather McGregor, tennis doyenne Judy Murray who will be interviewed by sports presenter Jane Dougall, as well as Egyptian athlete and Nike influencer, Manal Rostom.
The event also features senior business leaders and WACL members, including the first female managing director and Non-Executive chair of Boots UK, Elizabeth Fagan; Ella Dolphin chief executive (CEO) of Stylist Group; Katie Lee chief executive of Lucky Generals; Pippa Glucklich CEO of Amplify UK; Shona Stilton, global partner at Facebook; Jo Lord, CMO of Skyscanner; Anna Hickey, COO of Wavemaker; and the MD of global change agency NOBL Lauren Currie OBE.
In addition to keynote speeches and lively panel discussions, we will be hosting a speed mentoring session where, over the course of 90 minutes, attendees will meet with and learn from some of the UK’s most brilliant female leaders.
All profits from the events will go to NABS and Glasgow female empowerment social enterprise, MsMissMrs.
A huge amount of passion and hard work has gone into bringing this event to Scotland and we have been enormously impressed by the willingness of so many women to help others. From the voluntary organising committee in Scotland, to the 10 WACL members attending from London, the 20 speakers and 30 business mentors – all of whom are giving their time for free.
This generosity and enthusiasm, combined with the positive reaction and support we have already received from the wider Scottish business community, has really reinforced our conviction to widen participation in this manner. From the legal profession to hospitality, finance and retail, it’s clear that there is a real recognition that events like Gather and organisations like WACL are crucial if we are going to address and increasingly shift deeply ingrained behaviours and patterns. We hope many of you will join us bringing women together to use our collective experience and influence to make a lasting impact on businesses in Scotland.
Lisa Thomas is the chief marketing officer of Virgin Group and president of WACL.
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