Image Source: Bronac McNeill
November 30th, 2022 was a proud day at the Taboola London office.
Bright and early on a Wednesday morning, 300 women and allies from across the communications industry gathered in a room that is normally called “Phase 2″, but for one day only was given the much more inspiring name of “Fearless Space”. We were here for Bloomfest, the Bloom UK Network‘s flagship annual event, which fosters discussion, collaboration and change in our industry.
This year, the theme of Bloomfest was the F word – in fact, a whole range of F words, ranging from Feminism to Family, Friendship, Fortitude, Fearlessness and ultimately, our Future as women and as an industry.
Throughout the day, the audience was challenged, informed, inspired and empowered by the sessions that took place. Among that audience were several members of the Taboola team. I asked them to distill down the key takeaways from the day. Here are the messages that stuck out.
Be 10% braver
Image credit: Bronac McNeill
One of the most memorable moments of the event came early on, when keynote speaker Jaz Ampaw-Farr shared her story of going from an abusive childhood home and being raised in foster care, to being a CEO and mother of three, and recently winning the prestigious Speaker of the Year award for her work. Jaz’s message was simple, and resonated with Managing Director for Northern Europe, Stacey Delaney:
‘I really liked how Jaz talked about being 10% braver and instead of being scared to put yourself out there because you think that something is “not the kind of thing you do”, changing the narrative and saying “actually, this is the kind of thing that I do” and taking that one step forward, putting your hand up and nominating yourself for something, even if you might not know what to do next.”
Katherine Pickles, Product Marketing Manager, was also inspired to be braver, saying ‘Curiosity will open the door and drive you forward, so this is my alarm bell ringing to get curious!’.
Resilience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
Bruce Daisley‘s powerful session encouraged the audience to question one of the most common pieces of advice that women are given: to be resilient.
Claire Mullarkey, Group Head for Independent Agencies & Direct Advertisers, reflected on the session, saying ‘I had never considered how often we are told to be resilient, and what that actually means: to suffer in silence. True resilience is a community feeling and attribute, not an individual trait. I suppose I had never considered this angle before and that’s what I think what Bloomfest is all about- looking at the tropes we are told and digging deeper into whether they make sense.’
It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Image Credit: Bronac McNeill
One of the most pertinent examples of fearlessness at Bloomfest was that of EMEA HR Director & Global Head of Development, Anjali Oldfield. Invited to participate in the panel ‘The Gift’, which explored how hormones can be harnessed as a superpower, rather than an inconvenience, Anjali was open about not yet being comfortable with the topic:
‘I was amazed when I really reflected on the topic of hormones after being invited to join the panel. The truth is I am not at all comfortable talking about hormones, and it’s been really interesting to reflect on why that is. I feel like I’ve been a bit of a passenger with my hormones.’
In the audience for this session and throughout the day, UK Country Manager Dan Ginns found the viewpoints expressed and topics covered gave him a new perspective on the women in his life, saying ‘As a male attendee and Bloom Exchange mentor, plus a husband and dad to two young women, I’m always learning and this was a great event, full of thoughtful content’.
Stepping out is not stepping back
One of the F words that kept cropping up throughout the day was Family – not surprising considering that in the UK, over 75% of mothers and 92% of fathers with dependent children are in work. The role of fathers, co-parenting strategies and challenges associated with going on parental leave were all topics discussed in the afternoon panel session, ‘The Other Half’. Senior Account Manager, Suzi Adan, shared her thoughts:
‘As a new mother, my favorite session was about the return to work and what my unofficial mummy mentor calls the JUGGLE. And what a juggle it is. My key takeaway was a point about not viewing maternity leave as taking a step back, but taking a step out.’
F is for Fortitude
Image Credit: Bronac McNeill
As in previous years, the closing session of Bloomfest was the notorious ‘Booth of Truth’. This format invites attendees to anonymously share their feelings and experiences on the F words that served as inspiration for the event. In the live session, the moderators read out selected submissions and invited the audience to discuss, expand and contribute their own experiences to the conversation.
The topics covered in the Booth of Truth submissions do not make for light reading: they cover experiences ranging from sexual harassment in the workplace to depression, the struggles of balancing parenthood with work, and the implications of staying silent in the face of abuse of power.
What amazed me in this session was how willing the people in the room were to bare their souls, whether in an anonymous note or holding a microphone in a room full of 300 people and live broadcasting to more. There was a unique feeling in the room that this was a safe place in which to be truthful and open, to debate respectfully, and to find allies to move forward with into a brighter future.
A proud moment for Taboola
I couldn’t be prouder that this year, making Bloomfest happen could be part of my day job as UK Marketing Manager at Taboola. I worked closely with the incredible team of Bloom volunteers and was amazed by their passion, creativity and resourcefulness in putting the event together.
Bloomfest was one of the first industry events that I attended with Taboola after joining the company in 2019. That was the first year we had partnered with Bloom, and I remember being incredibly proud to see Taboola’s logo as I flicked through the programme. Each year since then, our partnership with Bloom has grown, and finally blossomed into hosting the event in our office this year.
At the end of the day, with a celebratory cocktail in hand, I felt an overwhelming feeling of pride at what had been accomplished. On this day, we had demonstrated that Taboola is the kind of company that gives an F. The kind of company where we both celebrate the progress that we’ve made and acknowledge the immense amount of work still ahead. The kind of company where members of the leadership team are eager to take time out of their calendars to attend Bloomfest sessions, take notes and put their learnings into action. And the kind of company that cares about making a contribution to real change in our industry and the world.
You can learn more about the Bloom UK Network’s initiatives at https://www.bloomnetwork.uk/. All profits from Bloomfest are donated to Women’s Aid, an organization working to end domestic abuse against women and children. You can make a donation to Women’s Aid at https://www.womensaid.org.uk/get-involved/fundraise/come-together-to-end-domestic-abuse-donate-today/.