our womanifesto

birdsoup is the product of our own experiences. Like rolling stones, we have gathered moss, picking up information and insight along the way. More than that, it’s a reaction to those of our friends and colleagues too. We share a common narrative our observations and many, many conversations with people from the marketing world.

read our womanifesto

Launching birdsoup has been exciting; a new brand, a shiny website – it’s like stepping out head to toe in new clothes. After the fanfare comes an important question though, that we must start to answer: how are we going to fulfil our womanifesto?

It’s fantastic news that diversity – and gender diversity in particular – is the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment. The wider marketing industry is not unlike many others – pay gaps exist, fewer women make it to the top, many women leave when they become mothers – you know the score. These issues are well documented and researched. Where information is thinner on the ground, however, is evidence of ways to redress these imbalances. Lip service is the phrase we hear all the time – this usually means the organisation knows it has to do something about it, but isn’t really devoting enough time and resource to programmes that will change things. In fact, more recent articles are bemoaning the failure of attempts thus far, saying they have the potential to create a bigger divide.

At birdsoup, we are determined to change things. We need to find the right partners to do this; those who want to shake things up and aren’t scared of tipping the applecart all over the street. No one has cracked this yet, but that doesn’t mean a solution isn’t out there.

When we talk about gender diversity, we walk a fine line. In an ideal world, we would like to work with any employee in an organisation regardless of gender. Being realists however, we see that women are the group that need the most help right now. In our view, organisations find it difficult to sustain a focus on inclusion. They dip their toe in with one-off programmes, which by their very nature won’t be sustainable; they don’t walk the talk with their male heavy senior leadership team. If real change is going to happen, it needs effort over time and a high degree of self-consciousness from every employee.

The changing nature of work shows us that we all now need to manage our own careers. We must develop our own ideas of career success and mark out our pathway to achieving that. The evidence shows that women and men do this equally well throughout formal education and into the early part of their careers. At this point the workforce is broadly a 50/50 split. So what happens 10-15 years on? The picture becomes very different, where the imbalance doesn’t just tip the scale, but shifts to a point where only 20-25% of employees at board level are women.

There’s an obvious reason for this, we hear you cry – women have babies. This is undeniable, but do over half of them really want to stop working to stay at home? We think that the motherhood transition is a key one which needs some serious attention, but we know other things are at play.

Below you’ll be presented with six areas that we believe organisations in the media, advertising and marketing industries could focus on to improve their womanagement, and finally shift the gender dial.

Parenthood

For both genders, the impact of becoming a parent lasts forever. We’re not just talking about their personal lives – it has an effect on their working lives for the entire length of their career.
There are green shoots of change here in terms of legislation– shared parental leave offers more flexibility to parents when their child first arrives. However, these new rights present potential problems for parents…
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For women the way in which the entire maternity leave is handled can dictate the likelihood of a woman returning to work or not. Our extensive experience of coaching mothers at work during this time, has revealed that the legislation can, in fact, get in the way of a smooth transition. This is often a time when communication is limited or non-existent as both mother and organisation attempt to manage the significant changes maternity leave brings without giving too much away. Coaching with the mothers is a proven way of maximising the chances that a woman will return to work; beginning prior to their maternity leave and continuing as they return.

New fathers can often feel that taking parental leave is not acceptable in the context of their organisation. How do senior leaders talk/behave around this? Are their colleagues supportive or not?

For both genders, the impact of becoming a parent on their working lives lasts forever. The needs and demands of their children change throughout their lifetime, but the duty to ensure they are cared for remains. Once again mothers and fathers encounter different problems. It is still much more usual for the mother to take care of a sick child, collect them/drop them off at childcare. (add sports day, nativity play etc) Why is this? Fathers are increasingly keen to play an active role in their childs upbringing. Why are many loathe to take days off to do the childcare? Surely, if both parents take an equal share of the childcare then the impacts on the organisation will be reduced? Does unconscious bias play a part in this?

Through parental coaching, unconscious bias training and a review of processes, it’s a conversation we’ll help you tackle.

Resilience

We live in strange times – the past year has seen a range of world events that no one saw coming. This made us consider the notion of resilience and the impact this can have on the performance of an organisation.

We all know how we perform when we feel low in resilience and we began to wonder how much this could impact on an entire organisation full of individuals feeling more or less resilient on any given day/week.
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There is a growing body of work in the area of resilience and career resilience in particular. It encompasses many factors including positivity, health and well-being, mental elasticity, meaning, self-belief and emotion. The world of work will only become more challenging and in an industry where people are so important we feel that developing a sense of ones own resilience can only benefit an organisation as a whole.

We look at the different measures of resilience to gauge your organisations resilience level and find areas where resilience is low and the underlying reasons for this. Do certain teams / levels / job roles suffer more?

Flexible Working

Asking for a part-time role is like putting on Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.  It can feel as if you cease to play a serious part in an organisation. In reality, you’re just there to do a specific, hours-limited job.

We’ve got a bit of a beef about the image of part-time working. Our colleagues over at TimeWise are doing a great job and working with large companies to find well-paid and skilled, part-time roles.   However, we still feel that some obvious points are being overlooked…
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Retention & Recruitment – offering part-time roles to former full-time employees is a great way to retain staff you have invested in.  It’s also very attractive to future employees

Skills – put in simple terms you will be able to access a highly skilled person without stumping up for the full time salary.  This experience doesn’t live in a hermetically sealed bubble but can be shared across the organisation so all can benefit

Performance – there are so many measures of performance at work but in the context of part-time work your employees will be happy and happiness helps drive performance and engagement

Flexibility – having part-time employees allows you to be more responsive to sudden changes such as a pitch or new business win

Talent – for many, a part-time role is not forever.  By supporting a mother when she needs to work part-time you increase your future talent pool.  She will feel vested in the organisation, connected and up-to-date and an addition to your talent pool of the future.

The key to part-time working is to make sure the employee is using their skills, still visible and being heard and that performance can be measured fairly.

Confidence

Most women will admit they lack confidence in certain situations. This isn’t something we hear from many men it has to be said.  That’s not so say there aren’t any men who suffer crises of confidence, we just hear it from pretty much every woman we meet…

Research has shown that at crucial career moments women are often not as confident as men.  For example, putting themselves forward for a promotion, asking for a pay rise, speaking up, managing senior leaders, and presenting.
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In fact, if we had a pound for every time a woman has told how she’d talked herself out of all of those scenarios we’d be loaded!  We believe that half the time, the reason women are not well represented within the senior management of organisations is because they don’t know how to be confident.  The talent is there all the time, it’s just hiding it’s light under the proverbial bushel.

We provide training courses and coaching programmes designed to help women of all levels manage their anxieties and overcome their lack of confidence.  We deliver these at group level as well as individually.

Mid-Level Careers

Much of the focus of gender diversity has been directed at senior level women – or the lack of them.  We know that this issue is well-served by executive coaching and mentoring.

We have been passionate for many years about the mid-level women in organisations.  They are, after all, the potential future leaders and yet they receive so little support. In our meetings with millennial women in the industry, we were dismayed to hear how they were struggling to manage their own development whilst learning how to do their jobs.
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We are well aware of the pressures the industry is under, the drive for further efficiency and productivity but we also know that ignoring this group reduces the talent pool. Many are looking ahead and planning to jump ship – the grass looks greener elsewhere. This isn’t good news for gender diversity.

The work we do with mid-careerers is based on building self-awareness. Starting with developing a deeper understanding of their personality and the impact of that on others we then move on to help them develop confidence where needed, improve impact, be more self-directed and plan their careers. We have worked with mid careerers for the past 7 years and seen the ways in which this can improve performance and engagement amongst this group

#bemorebird

#bemorebird is our campaign for this year. When asked, 80% of the millennials we spoke to stated they would rather work for a man than a woman.  This made our hearts sink… Women as bosses were described as ‘bitchy’, ‘mean’, ‘overly demanding’ and ‘unrealistic’.

We did some soul searching and had to admit, we had at times described female bosses in these terms ourselves.

Why do we do that when male bosses can be equally difficult? Why do many women default to using derogatory terms in response?  We believe that women should in the first instance help other women and we are calling for all women to pay attention to how they describe each other, especially when annoyed.

OUR BELIEFS

Personal development is the responsibility of two people: the individual and their organisation.

Everyone is “talent” not just the chosen few.

Women don’t have a shelf life, they have families: don’t lose or underuse your women

Prepare your business for the workplace of the future: act like a people business, improve recruitment, retention, happiness and creativity. Why? It’ll improve your bottom line.

Don’t pay lip-service to making change in how you approach gender equality. Talk is cheap. Listen to what people want, don’t just allow bitching in the kitchen.

Change requires bravery, are you up for the challenge?