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| 22 minutes read

CMO Series REPRESENTS - Embracing Equity: Bringing authenticity to professional services marketing

On the second episode of CMO Series REPRESENTS, we continue the conversation with leading women in professional services marketing. This week, we discuss the importance of bringing your authentic self to the workplace.

We’re lucky to be joined by some leading voices in the industry as we delve into how firms are embracing equity and why women should bring their value and unique qualities to their roles. And by doing so, encourage others to be themselves to help build a more equitable environment where everyone can thrive.

Sharing their unique perspectives and personal insights on this topic, we catch up with Katie Cramond, Director of Business Development International at McDermott Will and Emery, Tamara Costa, National Director, Brand and Marketing Communications at BLG, Lucy Rao, Business Development Director at Boodle Hatfield, Claire Farrelly, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Forsters, Sherry Vance Allen, Chief Marketing Officer at Butler Snow, Sarah-Jane Howitt, Business Development and Communications Director at Weightmans, Kim Perret, Chief Marketing Officer at Jones Walker, Ana Margarida Craveiro, Director of Communications and Public Relations at Morais Leitao, Vikki Whittemore, Group Marketing Director at Gateley and Julie Stott, Chief Marketing Officer at Travers Smith.


Charlie: Welcome to the CMO series REPRESENTS, where we discuss key topics around diversity, equity and inclusion in professional services marketing and business development.

I'm Charlie, and on the second episode of the series, we continue our conversations with women in the industry about how firms can truly embrace equity within their culture, and why bringing authenticity to your role will benefit both you and the organisation you work for.

Our first guest shares the importance of embracing your unique qualities and owning the value you bring to the workplace. We're delighted to welcome Katie Cramond, Director of Business Development International at McDermott Will and Emery.

Katie: My experience as a woman in professional services marketing and BD has been, interestingly, a lot of people not always being accepting of young females, and sometimes youth, as well as gender, can play a negative role. The other thing I've also never really understood is why more women don't support women. So there's a quote that I use a lot, that Madeleine Albright said; “there's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women”, and for me personally, it's so important to empower and support other women. I'm all about girl power. I've also been incredibly lucky to have experienced such fantastic male senior partner mentors that have supported me on my career journey. I talk about him a lot but Stephen Revell from my previous firm was fantastic when I was particularly out in Asia, and now at McDermott, the managing partners across Europe have been so supportive of me and my team. I'm also really proud that our Chief Business Development and Marketing Officer at McDermott is a woman and a fantastic leader and she's someone that I really look up to emulate.

So in my opinion, law firms embracing equity and embedding that in my culture is much more than just diversity and inclusion. Equity is about treating people properly and not tolerating bad actors even on the smallest misdemeanours. So having a culture that deals with the negative, also encourages to spread the positive and the message to everyone becomes really clear.

My one piece of advice for women entering the industry is to be your authentic self. So in my case, that is being kind and empathetic, even - and frankly especially - when you feel like it least serves you. 

Charlie: Next up, we hear from Tamara Costa, National Director, Brand and Marketing Communications at BLG who reveals her approach to managing challenging behaviours and how firms can take concrete steps to embed equity.

Tamara: So my experience in professional services marketing is that it comes down to your mindset. Any human will face challenges and struggles throughout their career, and although as women, we undoubtedly experience the additional challenge of sexism, I personally don't allow those unfortunate interactions to impact my sense of self. I take the view that when people behave poorly, that's a reflection on them, and with that perspective, it becomes more difficult for somebody else's bad behaviour or a negative interaction to impact or erode your confidence.

The best way for law firms to embrace equity is to model it and align their actions with words. So for example, addressing pay gaps and biases in hiring and decision making, which we know are universal, measuring results and openly reporting on them. This can be challenging work, but having leaders who understand the importance of equity and transparency, and also putting qualified people in charge of these initiatives will yield progress over time.

My one piece of advice for anyone entering the industry is to be authentic and confident in who you are and allow nothing to damage your sense of worth. For example, you know, I have always been a very direct and honest communicator and that has worked against me in some cases. Maybe in part because some people believe that women should be a little bit more demure or soft-spoken. But overall, I do find that people appreciate not having to interpret what I'm trying to say. I try to make it quite clear. So interestingly, I have noticed that post-pandemic, this quality seems to be even more appreciated. So I think that's something that has changed over time, but what is really apparent to me is that women in general offer the inherent skills to lead the way to more balanced and equitable way of working. They typically bring empathy, openness, and unique perspectives that are valued in the world of work today.

Charlie: Juggling parenthood and a career is a challenge many people face regardless of their gender. Our next guest discusses the impact of having positive role models within her firm who have shared experiences of managing a healthy work/life balance. We're delighted to welcome Lucy Rao, Business Development Director at Boodle Hatfield.

Lucy: So my experience as a woman and also as a single parent in professional services marketing overall has been mostly positive, but however, being human and the negative sides and bad practices do stand out more than those positive sides. I think overall, and certainly as I've got older, I've been a lot firmer on my boundaries and more confident in how I juggle my day and structure my day. At my current firm, I've been really lucky, so I now work in a firm where 50% of the partners are female and there are some amazing role models in this firm both female and male. Particularly what's been really impressive about my current firm is there is a real openness for everybody at every level to talk about what happens outside of work, be that children and pets and holidays and extracurricular activities of learning and things that they do. You know, there's, there's no fear about being judged for sharing all that. And so hearing male and female partners, particularly for me as a single parent, talk about having to get their kids from school or where their kids are ill and so they're working from home is really refreshing when you're looking up to the partners and can see that they live and breathe the culture and the diversity that this firm has generated.

I think some of the worst practices that still get my goat so to speak is where day-to-day bad practices are passed off as banter. Many jokes or just badly placed words, you know, actually do have lasting ramifications that can really affect a lot of women, particularly junior women as well. I think that sort of really does do more damage to the firm's culture than all the positive stuff that they could possibly do, and as I say, I've worked with some amazing people and have some brilliant experiences.

Law firms can embrace equity and embed that in their culture through a variety of ways. I am really lucky to say that in the firm I work in, I sort of live and breathe it at the moment, and it's been a number of conversations that we've had recently. I think reflecting for this, it was really about having those role models. Having women in senior management so decisions are being made with, you know, being made in a diverse way, in a diverse manner, and having diverse senior management really does change the culture and the decisions and the drive of that firm. And for me, as a single parent looking up and seeing similar role models as well as it shows me that it can be done and that there's nothing bad about being a single parent and in senior management. 

I think having sweeping management statements about culture and diversity can be good. However, what I have seen in previous lives is where actually that is just not replicated on the ground day-to-day and that can be so damaging because then no one believes what that senior management directive is because they know that that's not actually the true culture and equity isn't really embraced. And so really making sure that whatever is coming out, whether that's a campaign or statements from management, it is actually true to what that firm is about and they do actually mean it that they want to embrace equity and embed that. I think also making more accountability, which kind of goes back to some of my negative practices, but where there are known people who have bad behaviours, you know, there is accountability and that is dealt with in the appropriate way because otherwise, that bad behaviour does breed more bad behaviour.

So my advice for women entering the professional services industry. Sort of a few things, one is sort of being really confident in who you are and the value you bring to those organisations. I'd also say that it's really important for you to seek the right firm out with the right culture. And if you've got, you can find that right culture for you, you know, you'll thrive in that industry and in that firm. So many times I have been in businesses where I've looked up and the role models are either all male or they are women who have chosen not to have children or don't have children. And it can be quite hard to sort of see myself in them as a working parent. And when I now look up and can see working parents left right and centre and that they juggle their days in similar ways that I do and that's okay, that is really refreshing and makes it a lot easier for me to sort of be comfortable in doing my job and executing it well.

Charlie: Next up, Claire Farrelly, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Forsters, also discusses the challenges facing working parents, and why you should always bring your authentic self to work.

Claire: My experiences as a woman in professional services marketing span over 23 years and in that time I've worked in real estate, accountancy and the legal sector. Things have obviously changed dramatically and particularly in the last 10 years. I've had the full range of both positive and negative experiences, and I always draw back to the start of my career when I worked for a property management business that was largely run by women. This was in the 90's and I think it was quite unique at the time. It was a really positive experience to be surrounded by senior experienced focused, high-powered women who are doing great things in what was at the time, a very male-dominated sector. 

I’ve obviously seen some bad things too and had some very negative experiences, and I would say that one of the worst, and I feel reflecting on it now is important, that in a male-dominated environment, I had to watch one of my female colleagues, a senior experienced big business winner, being told that she was not welcome to come back to work after her maternity leave because the business did not feel that she was able to focus on her role and to be a mother at the same time. At a lower level, and I'm sure other women have experienced this too, often, and you know, obviously not in the last few years, been told to make the drinks or take the minutes at meetings because I was the only woman present. So to balance the negativity of that experience, I think it's worth saying that in my time at Forster's, which in total is nearly 10.5 years, I've been witness to some formidable women. Our partnership is 50% female and the business is run by two amazing women. I've seen excellent examples of where women are encouraged to balance a career, ambition and childcare. And also for those that haven't decided or are not yet at the point where they're seeking to have children, to also have the same level of flexibility within their lives. I think that's really inspirational. And I've heard from many of the senior and older women in my business about how they juggled childcare and raising families often in far more challenging circumstances where maternity leave was a lot shorter or where the demands placed on them by men outside of the business were huge. 

I'd say the key points from my experience are a flexible work environment, and noting that - I'm a huge follower of Mother Pukka and Pregnant Then Screwed, both of whom have campaigned tirelessly for this - to be able to support working parents and particularly mothers who are often marginalised and held back from promotion or in the worst case, sacked for having a baby or a family. I think it's also important for men to be allies and to understand that feminism will benefit both genders and to embrace equality rather than seeing it as a threat to the outdated status quo. I also believe that women need role models, we must see and learn from and get support from the trailblazers, the women who smashed the glass ceiling and the women who challenged the patriarchy to enable the current and next generations to be able to thrive.

So my advice for women entering the industry now, there are lots of things I want to say. But in the interest of time, I'll keep it short. I mean, 23 years ago, you couldn't bring your whole self to work. And we say this a lot of Forsters and in fact, it's something that really drew me to the business: do bring your whole self to work. Whatever that might be; the way you dress; your personality; your sexual orientation; the makeup of your family; your background, whatever it might be, be really proud of who you are. And I think we're at a point in history now where you can do that comfortably. I grew up in relative poverty, you know, single-parent family in a really, you know, poor and marginalised part of London. And I've never let that hold me back. And that advice was given to me by my mother. I also think that if you are a woman entering the legal sector in a professional business context, you should have a mentor, someone who can support you and guide you. And ideally, that person should be outside of the organisation you work for. I'm always eternally grateful to my mentor from my time at Berwin Leighton Paisner, a man called David Ruff who was incredibly kind and gave me time and help to make my career progress.

Charlie: We are honoured to welcome Sherry Vance Allen, Chief Marketing Officer of Butler Snow, who shares the good and bad practices she has experienced in her career and her approach to navigating and overcoming challenges.

Sherry: In my career, I've really been very fortunate to have worked with some amazing men and women. And one thing that I've always tried to do is just to work hard. I know that sounds simple. But whether I was working with a team of men or a team of women or a mixture, I've just always tried to be credible and responsible and to do what I said that I was going to do and also tried to be highly responsive. And that is really a core of our law firm is making sure that we are communicating, you know, with our clients and being highly responsible. So I tried to mirror that behaviour and I've always had the philosophy of trying to earn the respect of my colleagues and to also make sure that the people I was working with and the people that I'm responsible for, that I treat all of them with respect.

And I think sometimes that can get lost. And I think if you have those as sort of core philosophies you will definitely be successful. I also early in my career, had a poster that really summed up how I have tried to live my career. And the poster said, ‘don't get so focused on your next job opportunity that you forget to do this job well’. Everybody's looking for that quick fix, you know, that next opportunity. But I've always just tried to think about it in terms of do this one well, and then the other opportunities will come your way. And then in regard to some poor examples, I can remember early in my career and this was primarily with a group, group of men, not always, but primarily. We had a standing meeting to talk about business development. And I would throw out an idea and everybody would just kind of sit there and look at me and then not say anything. It was very awkward. And then about 10 minutes later, one of them would repeat exactly what I had said. And I just found that very interesting and it happened time and time again. So I always share that story with my team members, you know, who are younger and are, you know, looking to advance because you've got to make your voice heard out there. And so, I made a point of coming back to that saying, “didn't I just say that a few moments ago?” But I did find that strange. And after a while I think we settled in and they realized that you know, that I did have a voice and they looked at, you know, at me more openly, but certainly that was an early experience in my career.

I believe that equity and diversity and inclusion, inclusivity are all intertwined to me. I really don't think you can speak of one without speaking of all of them. And these are issues in my opinion, that have to be promoted by the very top people in leadership within any organisation, certainly in the legal industry. And it can't be approached as a so-called, you know, one-off or a campaign. I think that's basically insulting. It has to be the very fabric of an organisation and it has to be lived every day. So often women hesitate to ask for a promotion or a pay increase. But you have to find that courage and you have to be prepared to show what your achievements have realised for the organisation. Not every conversation turns out in your favour. So you may have to be willing to make a move and have the courage and the wisdom to walk a new path with an organisation that does share your values and that does appreciate your worth. We spend a great deal of our lives at work. And so I think it's very important to just be authentic, be who you are and love what you do.

Charlie: Our next guest shares her experiences in the industry and why owning the value you bring to your firm is key to success. We welcome Sarah-Jane Howitt, Business Development and Communications Director at Weightmans.

Sarah-Jane: In my experience as a female leader in marketing and business development, it's kind of been two aspects to it because I think MBD is quite female-dominated and always has been, so from that perspective, in terms of the peer group, it's been, you know, kind of in some ways quite straightforward because you, you've got a lot of other women in leadership roles and so kind of, that's been quite easy to deal with. I think within the kind of firms themselves though, obviously, when I started out some time ago now, it was even the partnership structure was quite male-dominated. And so the people that you were dealing with tended to be men in senior positions. And so that kind of put a different spin on it and, perhaps it was harder to use some of those softer skills that maybe women have a bit more than men naturally. And so you had to, I always felt you had to think slightly differently sometimes about how you would portray something or project something to make sure that it landed in the right way with what tended to be a male-dominated leadership group. 

For me, I would say, be yourself and don't compromise, you know, don't feel you've got to do things in a certain way or to fit in, just be yourself because the power is you as you and that's really important. So bring yourself and don't compromise.

Charlie: Open and transparent processes and actions are critical to promoting equity. Kim Perret, Chief Marketing Officer at Jones Walker joins us to discuss the importance of authenticity in firm culture.

Kim: So it's been very interesting this year. My firm is seeking Mansfield certification and one thing that we really learned that is critical in achieving equality is transparency. So, you know, both attorneys and professional staff need to understand how they're being evaluated and selected for advanced advancement. So, you know, what is the criteria for, you know, becoming a partner? What, you know, how do I become a, you know, a practice group leader or how do I get on the, you know, the board? So all those things that, you know, we're looking at to make sure we have job descriptions and that they're transparent. But really, you know, in order to, you know, embed that in the culture, you really have to reward, you know, actions and processes that move us toward the destination that we're trying to achieve. Because, you know, if you're, you know, you have to be authentic. So if the firm's values and strategies don't live up to how it operates, then, you know, you have failure. So I think that authenticity and transparency are really key in that move toward equity.

I really have kind of three little adages. One is to be patient, you know and learn your position well, before seeking advancement. And as my friend, Jim Durham always says, you know, been dealing with the attorneys, you know, “give them what they want so you can get them what they need.” I mean, often the request you get is, “oh my gosh, we need a brochure” and it's like okay, we can do a brochure but then you really have to dig and find out, you know, what are they really trying to accomplish? So sometimes we have to do things that we just want to roll our eyes and go ‘oh my God’. But, you know, if that kind of builds trust and the relationship, then we can maybe dig deep and find out what, you know, what they really need. Second thing is, be really resourceful, you know, do your research, be prepared for meetings, you know, network with your peers and others even inside and outside the industry to really, you know, to understand that, you know, your firm, your practice, your industries that you're working with. And then finally be brave, don't be afraid of making a mistake. You know, we all make mistakes and I think that you know, the research shows that you learn a lot more from making mistakes than you do from getting everything right. 

Charlie: We welcome Ana Margarida Craveiro, Director of Communications and Public Relations at Morais Leitao, who shares her approach to tackling unconscious bias and why being your true self is conducive to both you and the firm.

Ana: Well, the first thing about being a woman is that normally when we look at this profession, we do have a lot of women but men tend to be the leaders, which is, well, I'd rather say a bad practice. When it comes to good practices, it's funny how we've been all, over these last few years, being taught to look at bias and all the possibilities of unconscious bias, which we do have and practice daily. We are responsible in business development and for marketing, and we have a responsibility in coming up with new leaders. And we sometimes reinforce these stereotypes. I think it's about recognising that this is a women's and men's topic. We had, a couple of years ago, we held a survey at our firm and we've noticed that it's around 30 the age in which women try and women completely give up on a partnership track, for example, because it's usually the age at which they get married and start to think about children. And so I think it's important to look at career plans, to look at parental policies and make sure that they include men as well because men do have a role here. And I think we all have this duty to nudge equality and to nudge a more even playing field. 

Be your true self. That means do not conform and use your voice, wherever and whenever you need. I know it's old-fashioned to talk about 70's feminism. But Betty Friedan once wrote that these women's issues were about the discrepancy between the reality of our lives and the image to which we're trying to conform, and you shouldn't have to conform. And that's what being your true self means. Ultimately, this is a business issue. You will be better at your, at your work if you are fulfilling yourself.

Charlie: Reflecting on her career and the progress that has been made, Vikki Whittemore, Group Marketing Director at Gateley discusses the importance of recognising areas for improvement when it comes to embedding equity in the firm.

Vikki: My experience as a woman in professional services, I joined in 2000, but I guess my experience has changed in that 23 years. Maybe the lowlights are at the start. We were very much seen as administrators, kind of maybe not as professionals or marketers in our own right really. So it wasn't taken seriously. It was very much “can you make this look pretty?” And I think it actually sadly depended on your involvement, and your kind of promotion really depended on more about how you looked and that kind of thing. And it was very much, can you be some kind of glamorous addition to an event? Which sounds archaic now. And you look at how professional our colleagues are who do this job. I guess the bad experiences as I started my professional career as a chartered accountant before I moved into marketing. And I remember using that qualification as a chartered accountant to demonstrate credibility when talking to fee earners to show that I had been a fee earner, I've been a professional, I was now marketing. I would never dream of doing that 23 years later. So I think we've really changed and moved the dial and what people expect from marketing professionals. And I guess the good thing over that time is that I work with Gateley, they're very open-minded, very inclusive. I think they accept you as you are. And I think that's great whether you're a woman, whether you’re at the start of a career, whatever you bring to the party, they're very inclusive. So I think that's great.

For me, it's really important for law firms to, in order to embrace equity and, and build their culture in that they encourage conversation at all levels. And with everyone, this isn't an issue for women in our profession. I think we need an open conversation about what's working and real transparency and a recognition that we know the sector isn't where it needs to be. That open transparency is really important because we have to embrace the fact that we're on a journey which sounds very cliche, but we are. And unless we embrace that and recognise that we've got more to do, we won't get it done.

My one piece of advice would be to be yourself and don't try to be something that you aren't.

Charlie: Our final guest this week urges firms to be creative when it comes to equity, and look at offering more flexibility to retain the talent within their teams. It's a pleasure to welcome Julie Stott, Chief Marketing Officer at Travers Smith.

Julie: Law firms, in terms of embracing equity into their culture, I think need to look at things a little more creatively and be less wedded to traditional structures and think more about flexibility and adaptability. For me, I have a lot of women in my team who are at various stages of their careers, be they new parents or towards the end of their careers, their carers for other people and, recognise that the skills, the experience and the knowledge um can be utilized in more flexible ways. You don't have to stick to your traditional structures. You can still keep all those brilliant women in your organisation. If you can think a little more creatively and a little more flexibly.

So anyone entering professional services, actually, probably any women entering any workplace, actually most that I've met anyway, my piece of advice would be ignore your imposter syndrome voice. I have met so many brilliant women and you will always find them saying ‘ah but, ah but’ and ‘what about this?’ And having some thoughts about whether they can or can't do something. So I'd say, completely ignore that voice. Embrace your values, your traits, your knowledge and your experience and just go for it.

Charlie: Thank you to all of our guests for joining this episode of CMO Series REPRESENTS. Stay tuned for part three of Embracing Equity where we discuss carving a path in professional services marketing with female leaders in the industry.

You can subscribe to CMO series REPRESENTS via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Thanks for listening.


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