As we reach the one-year milestone on the coronavirus pandemic, data has started to emerge about the economic impact on businesses and the toll it is taking on our mental health. The headline? The pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality. Women’s jobs have been more vulnerable to the crisis, and they’re taking on the burden of caregiving and dealing with the mental load. Just another setback for equality.
Against this backdrop, it’s fitting that this year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Choose to Challenge.’ We should all choose to challenge gender bias and inequality to create a more inclusive and diverse society.
At Rooster Punk, we view diversity, inclusion and a sense of belonging as business-critical, not a nice-to-have. We want to practice conscious and candid self-reflection to initiate actions that overcome biases that reinforce the status quo. And honestly, when we look at our diversity, it’s still not where we want it to be. The makeup of the agency leadership team is currently 20% women, but we want you to know that we’re working on balancing the scales so that it’s a 50:50 ratio. Our sister agency ‘Flamingo Punk’ that we launched in 2018 was quite deliberately 50:50 led, and it’s something we are also building into Rooster Punk as part of our 5-year plan.
Why? Well, it’s enlightened self-interest. Our long-term plan is to grow the company and be acquired by a larger entity to take our mission of HumanizingB2B global, and as part of that our succession plan hinges on a diverse management team. We’re already a good way to put that into place – because a more diverse business is a more profitable one. Think of it as a virtuous circle, where we create an environment that helps talented women succeed in leadership, and as a result the company is more successful. So that’s why it’s a business priority, not just a HR or recruiting priority.
I’m proud that we are one of the very few agencies to have a female creative director – as it currently stands 83% of creative directors are men. But metrics won’t close the gender gap alone.
That’s why we want to set out the changes we’re introducing to the agency to make sure we create the right environment where women can thrive, make an impact and feel visible. So, without further ado, here is what we’re working on in the background:
1. Redefining leadership
We want to look at what leadership means and what it looks like, so we’re going to formalise what the new, more ‘human’ leader looks like and the variations around that. We believe emotional intelligence and listening is key to this.
2. Working ‘remote-first’
As life slowly goes back to normal and a ‘hybrid’ working environment becomes normal (we were 70:30 office/remote previously, we’re now expecting to be 50:50), we’re conscious that ‘dialling into’ meetings where most are physically present can marginalise those not there in person. It’s critical to ensure remote employees have their input heard and have the same prominence. One way we will prevent this happening is to adopt a remote-first attitude, so if any are dialling in, we all dial in – even if some are in the office. We want everyone to have the same experience and we don’t want to lose the positive levelling impact that we’ve seen with a fully remote model.
3. Providing support for progression
We want to create progress and positive outcomes from equality initiatives by providing training to help you put yourself on the front foot and communicate with confidence. We’ll do this by reviewing our career development framework and bringing in OKRs that help with progression mapping. We know advancement can sometimes be driven by who shouts loudest, and we believe by having clear roadmaps and goals we’ll reduce or remove those biases.
4. Introducing processes and scheduling to enable everyone
A lot of time working in an agency is spent trying to work out what you’re doing. That’s not anyone’s fault, so we invested in a very experienced and excellent Operations Director last year – and her 2021 priority is updating and improving our processes – with one of the goals being to not just hire diversely, but truly enable diversity.
5. Updating our handbook to clarify expectations
It’s time to update the handbook to reflect that the team has grown and how are working practices have changed in light of the pandemic. We don’t expect everyone to be ‘always-on’ and available at all hours the day. Now is the time to reset and redefine expectations so we can help you switch off when you need to.
6. Using tools that level the playing field
We want to give you the support mechanisms to succeed, so for instance we’ve started to use workshop tools that allow everyone to put forward their ideas anonymously, because it’s not about hierarchy when it comes to input and ideas.
7. Thinking family-first and health-first
Your big rock isn’t Rooster Punk, and that’s okay. We understand that everyone is juggling life and work, so we are formalising that our people should have control over their day. Health and family need to come first. We’ve embraced mental health days for some years and in the last two years have also invested in retaining a mental health and wellness expert as part of the team.
8. Giving you soft benefits
These have been in place for a while, but we want you to use them! We offer a mental health day, free Audible subscriptions, a volunteer day and £100 towards a course that gives you a new professional or life skill. And now we’re introducing finishing at 4pm on Fridays to help you unwind for the weekend.
This is an exciting time to change the landscape for equality, but it won’t be without its challenges. We just want you to know that we are working on forging a new and more diverse future at Rooster Punk, and we’re excited to bring you along for the ride.