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International Women’s Day: our experiences of inclusivity, allyship and the task ahead

Greentarget | 08.03.2021

To mark International Women's Day, Greentarget colleagues ‘choose to challenge’ by sharing their experiences of working in a diverse workplace and discussing allyship and what still needs to be done to improve gender equality in the PR industry.

When I moved to the UK over 15 years ago, International Women’s Day was associated with socialist societies, so I am positively surprised at the speed with which the date has been repurposed to bring attention to gender equality in the workplace, as issues such as the gender pay gap and representation of women on boards have risen to the top of corporate agendas. This is an area where, somewhat ironically, some of the more progressive and financially successful nations still lag behind.

As a business leader, I have always tried to foster a culture where women can believe in themselves. In my experience, most women do not look to be treated like an exception – they want to be recognised on the basis of their abilities and achievements. This is why my colleagues and I at Greentarget have created a strong culture of meritocracy and transparency, which allows everyone, regardless of gender, to achieve professional success. We believe that cognitive diversity together with meritocracy are the critical ingredients which allow our firm and our people to thrive, and we will continue to promote those values not only today, but every day.

Of course, achieving cognitive diversity and meritocracy in the workplace is impossible without having frank conversations about difficult subjects. This International Women’s Day, we ‘choose to challenge’ by opening up the conversation on what it is like to work in the PR industry.

Dafina Grapci-Penney,

Co-Managing Director, Greentarget


Jeff Watt, Co-Managing Director

Throughout the 20-plus years I have worked in agencies, I have been fortunate enough to work in very gender-diverse teams.  In fact, for most if not all of this time, female colleagues have outnumbered male.  Despite this, it is important that I continually spend time learning about the dynamics of gender and to be aware of and understand different gender-based situations in the workplace. By doing this I am able to contribute to creating a positive and supportive work environment for everyone.


Melissa Rowling, Director

When I think back to my early career in financial PR I find it hard to comprehend how women were treated: there were certain City bars that would only let women in wearing skirts or dresses and certain City clubs where women weren’t even allowed in irrespective of what they wore.  I’m glad to say that is now a thing of the past but it’s important not to forget what we had to get through to be where we are today and there is still a long way to go to achieve equal opportunities for women.

If I had two pieces of advice for women starting their careers in financial services PR, they’d be: wear your gender with pride and if you want children, never let your career dictate when you have them.


Jamie Brownlee, Director

As a father of two very little girls, I am very much outnumbered at home and often look forward to a conversation with my own sex! At Greentarget, we have created an environment that allows every single person to be their best, regardless of race, creed or gender. Our female colleagues are intelligent, confident and vital to any success we have had or will have in the future. We ensure that our conversations (be it personal or professional), retained clients and work practices are inclusive of all genders and we never engage in any work or activity that would exclude members of our staff. I firmly believe Greentarget’s success can be attributed to the way that we judge only the professional attributes of our staff, and not their race or gender.


Harriet Leatherbarrow, Associate Director

As a woman working in a female-dominated PR industry, fortunately I have never experienced gender bias or subordination in my workplace. While it’s true to say that the financial services industry has traditionally been populated mainly by men, over the years I have witnessed increasing numbers of women choose to enter into financial services and that’s very encouraging to see.

I’ve been able to continue to advance my career post having children due to a flexible working policy. Looking forward, I would hope that the financial services sector and others will continue to see the benefits of allowing mothers to work flexibly. Failure to do so will only lead us back to a place where the old mantra, ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ once again becomes the norm and that can be good for no one.


Tom Engleback, Account Director

Gender diversity is one of the PR industry’s greatest assets. Financial services can have a reputation for being male dominated, but I’ve been lucky enough to work with many inspiring women during my career. It is important to address ‘boys’ club’ perceptions and make clear that our industry is supportive, nurturing and respectful of women regardless of age, background or situation. Diversity is essential for creativity, culture and the work we deliver to our clients – the more we can do to highlight inclusivity and continue to push for progressive working practices, the better our industry will be.


Alice Gasson, Account Director

Being a woman has never held me back in my career and I am aware that this fortunate position is not one that generations before me can easily relate to. In the UK, we live and work in an environment that has zero tolerance for a workplace that does not strive and set goals to achieve equality. This has taken years of groundwork and while it is empowering to see how far we have come, it is important to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go. It is right for women to feel heard and know that they deserve equal opportunity, with no justification, and we must strive for the next generation to be able to enter a workplace where gender diversity and equality is the norm not the exception.

I feel very lucky to work with such inspiring women and men. To get to work with a team that encourages and supports change and recognises that gender diversity and equality is a work in progress and on a constantly evolving trajectory is really fulfilling. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we are all on this journey together, and I am excited to work at Greentarget, a company which dedicates time and resources to achieving these goals.


Nick Scott, Account Manager

In an ideas-driven and creative industry such as communications it is important for us to foster and encourage new ways of thinking. I think the key thing for us to remember is that gender equality is not solely a female issue, so wherever possible we should always be listening to and acting upon the perspectives of our female colleagues to foster change for the benefit of the workplace as a whole.


Vanessa Phan, Account Executive

Unpacking my experience as a woman in the workplace is complicated. My first experience of the working world as a graduate was as a trader at a global investment bank, where the majority of my colleagues were male. While I was never discriminated against for my gender – and in fact, I sometimes received more networking and mentoring opportunities because of my gender – being the only woman in a roomful of men often meant that I stood out. As a young professional, this felt daunting and it made me less likely to put myself out there. I have frequently heard people say that being different can be a superpower, but when you’re new to the working world, it can be difficult to lean into your differences and easier to sit out.

I transitioned to working in PR in 2020, and the difference in gender diversity and work culture is like night and day. At Greentarget, for the first time, I heard my colleagues – male and female – talk frankly and frequently about their experiences as working parents juggling children and client calls, and I work directly with multiple women at career levels ranging from account executive to managing director. Seeing women at my place of work take maternity leave and be encouraged to work flexible hours is reassuring to me that a positive work environment is possible. Having coworkers who encourage and empower me to further diversity and inclusion initiatives makes me excited to show up for work as I am and bring my best.

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