Sometimes the road to the seat at the table isn’t always straight—actually, most of the time it’s windy, unpredictable, and full of bumps.

While it might sound daunting, those bumps often make you better. In fact, they’re necessary, especially for shaping the mind of a future leader who makes a big impact on his or her organisation.

How exactly do you get there? We sat down with three women leaders in marketing and advertising to talk about their journeys, challenges and advice for the next generation for this International Women’s Day.

Isobel (Izzy) Sita-Lumsden, Senior Marketing Director, Oath UK

female leader marketing (1)Isobel, otherwise known as Izzy, Sita-Lumsden loves her job, and specifically advocates for finding happiness in work, so you can find happiness in life.

When it comes to being a leader, she’s found her path by choosing what was meaningful to her.

  • First Job: Local Bakery, Age 15 (Best part—free baked goods!)
  • Role Model: Mark Eaves, Founder of Gravity Road
  • Motivation: Producing great results that exceed expectations and working in a passionate, smart, talented, fun team—”when the two come together, it’s magic!”
  • Biggest AchievementIzzy lead a marketing campaign for HuffPost UK that went on to win multiple industry awards. Outside of her day job, Izzy launched CSR initiatives and charity partnerships, leading a group of employees on the inaugural trip to Kenya to volunteer with the charity WE.

How did you become a woman in leadership?

“Once I moved into the role of Director and had a seat at the leadership table, I felt I had the confidence and support to thrive as a leader. Visible success in my team and nurturing good internal relationships across the whole business were important factors in gaining executive sponsorship that helped get me to that point.

You don’t need the promotion or team to be a leader in business—there are always opportunities to lead projects and initiatives that positively impact the business, and if you get the chance, grab it.”

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and how do you make it happen?

“Work is life. I need a career that fulfills me, because work is so important—we need to seek value and happiness in our jobs to feel that we have balance in life.

Managing stress is an ongoing challenge, but I take ownership of my time, set boundaries and stick to them. I advocate for flex-time in the workplace so my employees stay happy and efficient too.”

Tell us about a time you wanted to make a real change at work. How did you do it?

“After my first maternity leave, I felt passionately about fostering a great culture for working parents. I did some market research on the benefits and cultural initiatives in place in our industry, and set about proposing an overhaul of the maternity process with HR.

I also led some cultural initiatives for working mums in the business. Being a leader certainly helped, but any employee who feels passionately about an issue can make a difference—research it, propose it, make it happen.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge for women in leadership roles in 2017?

“There is more support for women than ever before—networking groups, events, clubs, courses, mentoring schemes, and even more targeted content—and all of this is encouraging more women to move into leadership, which is marvelous.

I do have an ongoing concern that maternity discrimination is still too present, and that with only 1% of men taking shared paternity leave, we’re not seeing a big enough shift of balance in parenting that can be more of an equaliser for working mums. I hope we start to see a significant shift in 2018.”

Alexandra Taylor, former Marketing Director, Eve Sleep

Work with what you’ve gotAlexandra Taylor doesn’t have any misconceptions about how she got where she is today.

She has a system for work-life balance that has worked for her thus far.

  • First Job: Waitress, Catering Company
  • Role Model: No one in particular, but she doesn’t think you have to be a CEO to be inspirational
  • Motivation: “Collective culture and belief in the company and people I work for.”
  • Biggest Achievement: Joining Eve, and taking them through IPO from a position where the brand was less than two years old.
  • Advice for 18-Year-Old Self: Get used to change and don’t take things personally, adapt and roll with the punchesand stay tough, there will be tough times, but it’s business, not personal.

How did you become a woman in leadership?

“Being totally honest it’s something I fell into. I’ve been very fortunate to have grown up in my career amongst some very successful yet grounded women and men, who set a great example to shoot for whatever I wanted regardless of gender or age.

One thing always sticks with me though—you need to pass that attitude on to the people around you whether you manage them directly or they’re simply people you work with. We should all encourage our friends and colleagues to aim high.”

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and how do you make it happen?

“It’s always going to be hard to work in a senior position and have work-life balance. Not necessarily just from a time perspective, but it’s also hard mentally to give yourself respite from the stresses of the day.

I’m a big advocate of balance, and am also very proud when it comes to my work. So, my attitude is that when I’m at work, I apply myself 110% and make sure I get everything done I need to get done, and when I leave the office I switch off all forms of work communication and give myself headspace to switch off and recharge. Obviously there are always going to be periods of time, projects or campaigns when you quite simply need to be on it outside of work more, but making time for yourself is vital.”

Tell us about a time you wanted to make a real change at work. How did you do it?

“You’re never going to be able to change everything, no matter who you are and what level you work at—but if it’s something you really believe in and you think is going to have a genuine impact on the business then quite honestly the best way to go about it is to pull a case together and sell it in to the powers that be.

Once, the organisation of my company changed I was left in a situation where I wasn’t sure of my role, so I took it upon myself to look at the existing landscape. What areas needed more effort and resource applied? How could I reinvent myself to make the best of my skill set and also still bring a lot of value to the company? I came up with a plan that I was happy with and that would resolve some key issues within the business, and presented it to my bosses. As long as you backup whatever the change is with rational thought and explanation, you will almost always be considered.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge for women in leadership roles in 2017?

“In my experience I don’t feel that my gender has held me back from opportunities. What I have seen over the years is that you’re still quite often going to be in the minority. Having confidence in yourself and asking for what you want or quite simply deserve is very important.

Over the years I have come across a lot of female friends and colleagues who have been shy or lacked in confidence to push for that. Regardless of your gender, no one is ever going to hand you what you want on a silver platter, you have to earn it ,and more importantly have the confidence to ask for it.”

Angela Morgans, Managing Director, UK, MetrixLab

female leader marketing (3)Angela has always been ambitious and competitive, and it’s that same drive that supported her career as she rocketed to the top.

  • First Job: Working odd jobs, like garage sales at 8 years.
  • Role Model: There is no one person, she was inspired by a former co-worker who was down to earth and kind, and a previous boss who knew how to have fun at work.
  • Motivation: Competitionand an innate sense to be the best and solve the problem.
  • Biggest Achievement: Becoming an MD before 40, and the opportunity to manage a large amount of revenue.
  • Advice for 18-Year-Old Self: Don’t worry, you’ll figure it all out..

How did you become a woman in leadership?

“I was always ambitious, and from a young age, I had clear vision on how I wanted to be successful and accelerate my career. I believe in putting in the “hard yard” when you are young and it will pay off when you’re older.

The second thing I believe in is to change jobs every two to three years. Fast track your career by changing companies as this allows you to move up faster. I had seven promotions in nine years. I also saw how others were doing the role and thought “I can do better” —not enough women think that way and that’s why more men are MD’s.”

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and how do you make it happen?

“Honestly, it’s a personal choice and it’s up to you. We can all decide how many hours we want to work. For me, quick decision making proves the best way to help get through the day efficiently.

People that work too many hours will get burnt out, won’t manage their time well,  time management and will have a hard time asking for help. You can’t blame a company for an employee’s poor work life balance—organisation is key.”

Tell us about a time you wanted to make a real change at work. How did you do it?

“I once did a satisfaction survey with my team and one group was not as satisfied as I would have liked. I took it quite personally and took it on as a mission to turn it around—I was going to make a difference with real change.

It wasn’t easy—I had to break rules to make this change. We had an offsite with an external consultant, and big changes were made as a result of discussions during this meeting. The atmosphere within that team has really improved within a six month period because we tackled the problem head on and just dealt with it.”

Taboola has been working with Oath UK and Eve Sleep since 2014, 2015.

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