I love this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #choosetohallenge because it recognises the responsibility we all have for our thoughts and actions, both conscious and unconscious.
When I think about my own life and career, I have always chosen to challenge inequality by never seeing or accepting a reason why I can’t achieve something because I am a woman.
This was easy in my younger years with parents who encouraged extreme independence from a young age and taught me, my brothers and my sister to push for what we believed in and what we wanted in life, regardless of our background or our gender. It was also easy enough as a young, single woman starting out my career in media and working my way up through the ranks based on merit and with few barriers.
It became harder when I became a mum. That’s when it hit me that life and circumstance don’t always make it easy for women to achieve everything that they want, especially if what you want is to be a great parent and be present for your kids as well hold down a big job and continue to progress in your career.
I chose to challenge the assumption that to be an MD or CEO, you need to work full-time and be out entertaining multiple times a week. I chose to do it my own way, working part-time when I became Managing Director, being ruthless with evening and breakfast events unless they were absolutely essential and always prioritising the kids’ sports days and show and tells.
My learning was that if you have the energy and desire to overcome the obstacles, and the right support, then anything is possible. Leadership and work looks very different now to a decade ago, and will look very different again post-COVID, I believe the balance between work and non-work life will be impacted positively.
My commitment moving forwards is to continue to challenge my own assumptions and be an active ally to all under-represented groups at OMD. For me, this means more active sponsorships, asking questions and never assuming I know the answer. As leaders, one of the most powerful questions we can ask is: ‘What can I do to remove the obstacles in your way?’ and I intend to keep asking that question until we achieve genuine equality for all.
By Laura Fenton, CEO OMD UK