I founded Fusion Unlimited back in 1998, when the landscape in digital was quite unrecognisable to how it is now. It’s been incredibly refreshing to see some amazing initiatives born in recent years to support in promoting more women to join the industry. The refining balance of the workforce in our sector speaks for itself as to the great change this has made, although we all still know that dial can be moved even further forward.
On International Women’s Day, I’m very proud to be able to say that 60% of the team here at Fusion are women, also making up 50% of our leadership team.
To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I sat down with just five of the many great women here to gather their thoughts on what it means to them to encourage more women to join our great industry.
You’ll hear from Katie Harling, our Client Services Director, who joined me 18 years ago and has since played a huge part in growing the agency to what it is now. Secondly, Hira Nasir and Louise Barber, who both joined us from University as their first roles in digital. I’ve also caught up with Danielle Wright, who joined us during Lockdown pt.1 with two years of experience in the digital arena. And last but certainly not least, you’ll hear from Helen Hargreave, our Head of Content with 10 years in the industry, the past eight of those spent here with team Fusion.
In your opinion, why is it important that more women get into the digital industry in the future?
KH: It’s important to have a diverse team, and people should be encouraged to join any industry they have an ambition to be part of.
I find a diverse team creates new ways of working, thinking and learning, which in an innovative industry, is important. This is key not only for the work we produce, but also for us as an agency team. Thriving off of this naturally creates an exciting atmosphere, and builds a happier more stable collective team.
For me, diversity should be celebrated. We need to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and the same treatment.
HN: It’s good to have a mix of genders in every industry really! I think having more women will help the industry flourish even more with more ideas as women are a huge part of the consumer audience, so having their insights and how they would approach the digital media landscape will help the industry flourish with more existing and creative ideas.
LB: The single fact that 75% of the digital workforce are male is enough to down tools and get involved in this industry.
DW: It’s important that women don’t feel intimidated to get involved in an industry that maybe was once heavily dominated by men. There are a lot of different career options and no matter your skill-set, there’s something for you.
HH: Equality in business, scrap that, in anything, is a fundamental right. For businesses to speak to all customers we need balance from the people telling the story. So as consumers, for our voices to be heard and for us to be seen we need the people behind the scenes to understand our struggles, our concerns, passions and what we enjoy too. Joining the conversation and the work therefore becomes an opportunity to shape the conversation.
Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to digital?
KH: I think in certain areas of digital there are stereotypes, but my own personal experience has been very different. I have worked for the same agency all my career, where talent has been supported above all else, a key reason why I’m still here. The team has always been well-balanced, but on the premise of providing an opportunity to those who show ambition and desire to be part of a forward thinking team…that’s all.
HN: I think the technical side of SEO is associated with men, there’s not many women within that sector. But having said that, the industry is changing and that stereotype has started to peel off.
LB: Of course. It’s a geeky white male. Days like International Women’s Day are active opportunities to challenge this stereotype and create space for others. That’s why I thought it was important to get involved in this piece, share my experience and encourage women to join this industry.
DW: I think historically there has been, but I think I’ve certainly seen promising signs of improvement. I’m very lucky to work with a group of very talented women at Fusion and it’s really encouraging.
The industry can still do so much more to support and encourage women in the field. There’s a balance to be found between hiring and supporting women because they are talented and hiring a woman because you need a token woman to improve diversity in your male dominated team.
HH: Probably, but perhaps not for the reasons you may think. Starting my career working in content marketing and social media 10 years ago I was surprised how many people perceived the channel as ‘the fluffy stuff’ and that bothered me. The fact I could be perpetuating that stereotype bothered me even more. But was it the work itself or that I was a woman doing it? It was hard to tell. To effect change and deliver real results I felt like I needed to work even harder to make people listen up – to challenge the work I was doing was just as important.
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in the search industry?
KH: There have been occasions where I’ve walked into a room and felt judged – be that because of my age or my gender. However, having confidence in what I do, being able to adapt to requirements, and maintaining faith in my ability, I have always remained true to myself and represented Fusion in high regard.
HN: I started off as a photographer/videographer and in my first few projects I was only working with men which sometimes used to be a bit daunting but I feel like there’s a demand for women within content creation and maybe even within digital advertising in general (as more and more people want to see a woman’s perspective within a certain project) – and that’s why my journey in regards to getting in the industry has been pretty straight forward.
LB: I feel privileged to say I don’t think I have seen any barriers coming into this industry. Fusion is the first agency I have worked in, and I think I was really lucky to find myself in an environment where women are really well represented across the team. As a result of this, I have felt supported, encouraged, and heard from my first day. Hearing that this isn’t the case across the entire industry makes me appreciate my experiences even more.
HH: Aside from immaturity, inexperience, imposter syndrome, and confidence in my craft (!) the main barrier I wanted to overcome was being heard and being heard for the right reasons. I wanted to be able to walk into a room and connect with others no matter their age, status or gender but there are A LOT of big personalities out there.
The power of rhetoric was key here, being able to choose when to speak up, delivery and how to connect with a person was a huge learning curve in my early days. I educated myself, I watched powerful women, binged on TED talks and let myself be vulnerable too (the discovery of Brene Brown’s ‘Power of Vulnerability’ was eye-opening for me) – all of this let me get over my biggest barrier – myself!
On International Women’s Day, what’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in digital marketing?
KH: I was brought up in a loving family that educated me to work hard, (play hard), and don’t let anything hold me back. They told me to go after what I wanted and I did! I was so focused on succeeding for myself and that’s what’s key – do what’s right for you and do what makes you happy. Stay focused – with determination and passion, nothing can hold you back.
You get one shot at life…do what makes you happy. If that’s a career in digital, do it, it’s an amazing industry and we would love to see you become part of it!
HN: I would say just go with it! I think there’s a lot of people willing to help, especially women and it’s definitely a lot easier to get in the industry compared to 10 years ago and there’s quite a few digital marketing agencies that are founded by women so the future is definitely looking good.
LB: Don’t be afraid of getting into digital – even if it doesn’t match your background. There are many attributes that are valued within digital marketing, from written ability, analytical thinking and just general confidence. Skills can be taught – there is so much room for growth within Digital Marketing. And p.s. it’s not all geeky white males!
DW: Do it! Digital is always changing so there’s always something new to learn. It’s an exciting industry to work in and can be very rewarding.
HH: Know your craft, stick up for yourself, leave your ego at the door, give credit, be vulnerable, be human, and be kind.
If you found this interesting, check out the Fusion blog for the latest thought leadership from our team. We’re always keen to speak to ambitious people looking to get into digital, so I’d also encourage you to take at our careers page to see if we might have something for you.
by Mark Curtis