We don't need to dig too deep to uncover why there is still a need for greater representation of marginalised and underrepresented communities within the professional services industry - and across wider society - whether it's gender, sexuality, ethnicity or socio-economic status.
‘Do we still need to mark International Women’s Day?’ ‘There are lots of women in professional services marketing and BD.’
These are just a couple of remarks you may have heard in the run-up to International Women's Day in recent weeks.
With Forbes reporting that men in the legal industry earn an average of 59% more than women, there are clearly still massive disparities in gender pay. Huge pay gaps are also reported between different ethnic groups, with UK Government data highlighting a mean ethnicity pay gap in hourly pay of 22.6% between white and BAME staff. These disparities are often the result of unconscious biases that run through the fabric of many business cultures.
It was of no surprise to me that when our team reached out to women in professional services to ask them to talk to us about their real-life experiences for an International Women's Day episode of the CMO Series podcast, they flocked to join the conversation and have their voices heard.
I take my proverbial hat off to all of these incredible women for their honesty and openness (and courage!) in sharing their personal stories, it’s not always easy in a public forum, and we were well aware that some may feel uncomfortable sharing anything too damning or too difficult. But what we found was, over and over again, women shared similar stories, similar anecdotes of bias and prejudice experienced over long, successful careers. From highly experienced women being dismissed after maternity leave - or not being visible enough while on maternity leave to get the promotion - to being talked over in meetings or worse still, completely ignored and their ideas passed off by a colleague in the very same meeting.
I’m sad to say that none of this was particularly shocking. What became clear was that women from varying backgrounds in different roles and at varying stages of their careers have witnessed poor practices and unwelcome behaviour. But what we also heard about were the incredible role models, mentors, allies and supporters that these women have encountered throughout their professional careers. Despite these inspirational stories, many women considered themselves ‘lucky’ to have been supported in this way. The notion that this is seen as good fortune implies that for others it is still not the case.
In a space of a few weeks, we recorded interviews with 56 women. 56 talented, experienced professional women who took time out of their busy schedules to share candid insights on their careers in professional services marketing. Frankly, we were blown away, and in all honesty, slightly daunted by the can of worms we had opened.
What was designed to be a one-off CMO Series Podcast Special to mark International Women's Day turned into the most successful content-generating initiative I have ever been involved with. And we didn’t need to ask anyone twice.
There had already been discussions among the team about running a spin-off of the CMO Series featuring leaders from underrepresented communities within the industry to share their lived experiences, so it was an easy decision to make to launch CMO Series REPRESENTS on International Women’s Day. A platform for discussion on key issues around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Beginning with these 56 remarkable women.
The voices we have featured have already woven a rich tapestry of what it’s like for women in the industry, what has changed and progressed and what is still to be done.
Over the coming weeks and months CMO Series REPRESENTS will feature professionals from different backgrounds to share their personal stories and highlight many other issues relating to DEI that need to be brought to the fore.
We’re honoured to provide this platform, to make a collective difference with the collective voices we represent. We hope to help drive positive change in the industry we operate in and are proud to serve.