To celebrate International Women's Day, this week we are putting the spotlight on inspiring women in digital leadership roles. In this instalment, our own inspiring leader, Forward Role’s first-ever female Associate Director Rachel Wheeler, chatted with Isabel Calabria Holden, Digital Marketing Manager at Pall Mall.
1. Please can you provide an overview of your role?
My current role is Digital Marketing Manager. I work at Pall Mall, a private medical and cosmetic company. My role is presently focused heavily on the new website that we will be launching this year. Website management is a key part of why I was interested in this most recent role. I look at the website through many different lenses to ascertain the best way to build the website so that it serves the patients and customers. I look at user experience, content, SEO and conversion optimisation to ensure that the website remains a key tool for the business to reach its commercial goals. Other parts of the job include digital comms like email marketing and automation.
2.What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
Unfortunately the biggest challenge has been quite a stereotypical one - a situation I truthfully didn’t expect to find myself in. Before going on maternity leave with my son, now 1 year old, my previous employer hired a maternity cover. He was great and I could tell I was leaving my work in safe hands while I took some time away to bring my second child into the world. Upon returning to work after only 16 weeks off - full maternity entitlement is 52 weeks - the company made the decision to keep my cover on as the workload was enough for two people. Great, we got on really well and he was a great asset to the team.
Through normal conversation and increasing discussions about the current cost of living crisis we were all experiencing, I came to learn that my male counterpart was earning significantly more money than me. £11,000 more to be exact. Subsequent discussions with managers didn’t go as I’d hoped and I knew I had no choice but to leave. Leaving a company, job and colleagues that I genuinely loved, because my employer didn’t value my work was extremely frustrating, and certainly challenging.
3. Let’s be more positive! What are your biggest success stories?
Coincidentally, my biggest success is what came next. I made the decision to leave the role I loved to pursue something that made me feel enthusiastic and challenged and ultimately valued my skills and work. Within only a couple of weeks I had found Pall Mall and it was a perfect fit, I had the skills they needed and they appreciated and valued the work and knowledge I was able to bring to the team. I needed something new, challenging and exciting to reignite my passion for the work I do and Pall Mall’s exciting growing digital ventures were exactly what I was looking for. I ended up getting a job that I feel excited about, joining a team that is hardworking but so fun, and getting the financial compensation that was fair. Taking the leap of faith on principle was scary, but landing at Pall Mall was a true win.
4. What advice would you give to women who aspire to get to the top of their game?
Don’t wait to be given what you know you deserve. Ask for it, then demand it. And if they won’t give it to you, walk away and find someone that will. We don’t need to accept the decisions of those above us. Our skills are what make us valuable contributors and ultimately gives us the power. If you’re not valued, take your skills somewhere else.
5. What factors do you think have caused a gender imbalance in the workplace, specifically amongst Senior Leadership, Board and C-suite roles? What do you think we can do to overcome these challenges?
Reintegration back into the workplace after having children is a real barrier for women. Many women cannot return to work after having children as the cost of childcare is simply too high to make returning to work a financially viable option. This contributes massively to the gender pay gap as women are more likely to take extended time out of the workplace while their male counterparts continue to make professional strides forward.
Maternity leave is viewed as an inconvenience by employers who see hiring women as a risk. Paternity leave is short and the pay is unlivable. Women are seen as mothers and not employees. Men are seen as employees and not fathers. Extended paternity leave and an increase in statutory pay for parents would place value on families and allow them the time to settle as a new family and subsequently return to work in a better physical, emotional and financial position so they can perform to their best ability.
Having to leave early to collect children from school or take time off because a child is ill is perceived as being less committed to the role. As women are typically the main caregivers, these types of situations disproportionately affect them. Flexible working would allow everyone, women and men, the freedom to facilitate their family’s needs while also working during times they are able to be most productive.
The three key changes that would improve these situations are flexible working, livable maternity & paternity pay and affordable, quality childcare. Workplace adjustments to accommodate families benefits everyone.
6.Lastly, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s important to me that I am continually aware of the hard work and amazing achievements of women around the world. It inspires me to see women fighting for their place. It’s also important to me that successful, brave, powerful women are visible for my son and daughter. So they can grow up seeing women changing the world in the same way they will see men. International Women’s Day is about making space for women who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have a platform, listening to their stories, learning about their businesses, their struggles, challenges, successes and achievements. And giving them the recognition they deserve. It also serves as a reminder to me that there are more battles to be fought for our children and to lead by example so they can exist in a world that values them for who they are and feel they have the voice to speak up for themselves and achieve what they deserve.
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