Diversity and Inclusion
An Exclusive Interview with the authors of The Glass Wall, Kathyrn Jacob OBE and Sue Unerman
Women are still under-represented in the executive suite, especially in tech.
In this interview, we spoke with Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom, and Kathryn Jacob, OBE, CEO of Pearl & Dean, where they share their insights on success strategies for the woman at work from their book “The Glass Wall“.
With more women than ever in the workforce, but still too few in the boardroom, now is the time to address the assumptions and miscommunication holding women back. If you’re looking to rise through the ranks or help others do so, Sue and Kathryn give women the tools they need to master any situation.
FIONA: Our guests today are the authors of the Glass Wall, Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob OBE. The glass wall is the critically acclaimed book with success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business. Sue Unerman is currently chief transformation officer at MediaCom, one of the world’s largest media networks with 7,000 global employees. And Kathryn Jacob is the CEO of Pearl & Dean, the British cinema advertising company which was founded in 1953 and in 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to the promotion of equality and diversity. For those outside of the UK, an OBE is an officer of the most excellent Order of the British Empire. An honour conferred by the Queen herself. Welcome.
SUE: Glad to be here.
FIONA: Thank you. Can you give us a quick overview of your respective roles in MediaCom and Pearl & Dean?
SUE: Yes, so my role is Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom is to ensure that both the agency and our clients are head of the changes that are affecting all of us in these volatile times to make sure that we take note of and take action on all of the opportunities there are with all of the transformations that are going on around us all the time.
KATHRYN: And my job as chief executive is to ensure that cinema stays top of mind with clients to get help brands get the most out of cinema and also to spin plates across the various different bits of the organization and make sure that none of them fall crashing to the ground.
FIONA: Well thank you both. So today I will be talking to Sue and Kathryn about their thoughts on gender equality and the work that they have done to build inclusiveness in their careers. I’m excited to hear some inspiring wisdom for me both. First though I’d like to ask you the question we start with for every guest on our show. Can you tell us how you first became evoked to inclusion, diversity and gender equality issues? When was the moment you first realized it matters in business and in society more broadly?
SUE: I think it’s an interesting question. I mean I have worked for MediaCom and its predecessor the media business for a long time now since we were a very small company and who billed just 44 million pounds in the UK and now we bill over one and a half billion in the UK and as you said a worldwide industry, but by far the market leader in the UK. And most of that growth has been organic growth. Most of that growth has become because we’ve driven competitive advantage for our clients and if you were to say to me and had said to me at any point what was it about MediaCom that led to such a successful growth in the business and market leading position? My answer would have been diversity.
So I think that the strongest part of our culture is our attitude to inclusion and it always has been, but in fact, we didn’t really do anything specifically about either inclusion or gender diversity until another forms of diversity until relatively recently. I might almost say it was so embedded in our culture that it was only when we became very large over the last few years that we realized that we actually actively had to have an agenda for inclusion which we do, in fact, now have. So we have inclusion in gender and events. We have the Glass Wall Network, but if you said to me when did I realize that you had to really be conscious about these things, I think it was when I was thinking about writing the book in the first place. I’d written a previous book called Tell the Truth about marketing and I went to my Boss a guy called Nick Lawson and said to him,” I’m thinking of doing a follow up to the book. Would you support me in that?” And said, this must have been in 2014, and he said to me,” Yes, of course, I’ll support you but that’s not the book you should be writing.” He said to me slight to my surprise you should write a book about women and business and I thought it was a terrible idea initially.
Sheryl Sandberg had just written Lean In which I thought was very interesting, it didn’t kind of emotionally kind of respond to every all other things in it because I’m very introverted and I think that’s a book for an extrovert. I think she might even acknowledge now but I really haven’t thought that there was room for another book but I thought about it some more and I thought about the fact that in the UK MediaCom at that time was at one of its most successful periods and four out of the five client-facing people on the most senior exec were women and three out of those four women worked part time and that happened despite us not doing anything about gender or about inclusion and I looked around and I wondered why it wasn’t like that everywhere else. It’s kind of sort of statistically impossible for the only talented women in the UK to have turned up at MediaCom’s offices and have stayed there.
They must be those women of those of that talent who could have those sorts of very senior roles must be everywhere else, but not taking those jobs, not taking those jobs in city firms, not taking those boardroom roles on the FTSE 100, the FTSE 250, the FTSE 350 as we were just talking about affair. There are still only six women CEOs on the FTSE 350. What is it? I said that’s stopping those women coming through everywhere else and that’s where I went to my good friend Kathryn and I said please would you write a book with me about it.
KATHRYN: And, of course, I said yes.
FIONA: Well, the right answer I think. I loved reading it. So hopefully our listeners will check it out as well.
KATHRYN: I have a very different experience to Sue which is that predominantly my life has been in a very male environment and I think that I don’t think I think evoked is the wrong thing for me. I think it was this gentle realization that I was being treated somewhat differently. So when I took my first job in National Newspapers, I was the first woman they’d ever employed directly and I got given to media agencies and on the basic fact that they might be more suitable for me. One was because they had the Sandbridge major account, so obviously being a woman I’d understand supermarket shopping and the other one was an agency that was in Knightsbridge in between Harrods and Harvey Nichols because I could go shopping before my appointments. And it was all done in a very gentle and well-meaning way but there was definitely this thing of you know there were there were two partisan, all of the managers were men. There were very few managers who were women. I think I was the first female group head, and I was the first female group head at The Telegraph and that was just some kind of amazing and I think in my mind I just thought you know, well this is a bit weird, isn’t it because there’s loads of really amazing women and I always had you know I’ve known Sue for so long that we can’t actually remember meeting. I always had friends who worked in other places, so always had a bit for women’s network but not one internally and I think it’s just that thing which is you think oh well this the way it is and then after a period of time you don’t [Unintelligible] you just go well why is this like it is and what kind of a what kind of a example are we giving to all those really talented women who come into media and advertising by just going oh well that’s the way it is. So it’s interesting and I think in the subsequent thing of doing the talks around the book, we’ve done 150 now. The realization that in some places, in some sectors it is even more entrenched about the female roles and the male roles as is quite scary actually. It’s like going back in time, which is very strange.
FIONA: Which sectors do you think are the worst from your experience? Or perhaps the earliest on their journey it would be the better way to put it.
KATHRYN: Law. Because it’s quite a lot about billable hours and so what happens is if you’ve got a huge amount of experience and you scoop off again to have your first baby at 33 and you’re not putting the billable hours in and the irony, of course, being is that if you turn that thing on its head which is if you said to most people would you like to have a lawyer who’s got 10 years of experience and will handle your case in a certain way but we can’t, it’s the difference between advice and monetizing your people and most people rather have a lawyer who knew their way around certain cases and could bring a level of wisdom, but instead what happens is that women just get kind of quietly dropped off the partnership path because they’re not making enough money and the irony, of course being, is that more people would probably pay more money for fewer hours because you’d get a better outcome. It’s just a very weird kind of, it’s very weird.
SUE: I think tech companies probably famously– Martha Lane Fox has commented on the fact that it’s extraordinary for an industry that’s so young to seem so old-fashioned in terms of gender diversity at senior level and it seems quite entrenched in those companies as well.
FIONA: So I’d like to switch gears a little bit and just to ask you both to tell us a bit more about the Glass Wall. So what does the title mean? And you already spoke a bit to this but what made you want to write this book?
SUE: Well the Glass Wall, we kind of went into it wanting to change the world, small thing and-
KATHRYN: We have small ambition.
SUE: We have small ambition. What did this change look? It became very clear as we did the interviews for the book and we did lots of them. So we did about 100 interviews between us and then quant research in UK, US and Russia as well. And what became really clear is that there are some aspects of how you get on at work that are gendered and so you might go we treat everybody the same, but not everybody responds in the same way to that treatment. So one of the examples would be and it’s probably quite a famous one but there’s the Hewlett-Packard Test as it’s become known which is the…
…if a woman can fulfil eight out of 10 criteria on a job advert, she will think that she’s not qualified to do that job. If a man can fulfil five out of 10 of those criteria, then he will apply for the job.
So the very first level of job applications women are ruling themselves out. Then some of the wording in job applications can deter women in a way that it doesn’t deter men. I’m not sure I might not even like this fact. A lot of facts that I don’t like but it comes up over and over and over again. So that if the job specs us something along the lines of we’re looking for people who are experts in their field. Men are more likely to go oh yeah I’m an expert in this field, whereas women are more likely to go, well I know a lot about it but would I really call myself an expert in it. So there’s a kind of whole level of deterring, that’s going on there and then the other thing that we found, so this actually came up at one of the presentations that we gave during the Q&A impart and it was at an international bank and a man put his hand up and he said I haven’t got a question he said but it was predominantly women audience. He said but I work in the recruitment division for this bank and he said I am usually handing out six-figure salary jobs. He said whenever I offer the job to a woman, say for a hundred grand, so I say great you’ve got the job then the woman will go, that’s absolutely amazing. I’m so delighted. Thank you very much. He said whenever I have exactly the same conversation with a man, the man will say thank you very much actually I need 125,000 for that role not 100,000. What are you going to do about it? And he said so before women even start, they’re out of 25% of deficit. So look, you have to know what you’re worth. You have to be almost overconfident to compensate for the natural, I don’t know just-
KATHRYN: Dividend is the word, which is a thing about you know, no one ever will say to you know the great Christmas in Gaza just stop showing off, whereas if boys-
SUE: And basically we have, we have to stop showing off. It is time to start showing off.
KATHRYN: And then the Glass Wall comes from the fact that actually men and women on the opposite side of this Glass Wall.
They can see each other and they think they’re in the same environment, but they’re not because they’re not communicating probably because I don’t about you but you know if you’ve ever been to one of those offices and you’re just saying to someone, can you get me a cup of tea?
People who say [Unintelligible] you know there’s just and so why Glass Wall? Because glass ceiling also implies as well that women on this you know trajectory to smash the glass ceiling and we all want to be—see it’s actually quite a lot of people, men and women don’t want to be CEOs. What they want to do is have the best career that they can have with the fabulous world life balance and to be able to compete in triathlons or you know knitter version of the Statue of Liberty or something you know in their spare time. It isn’t this onward projection thing about you know more money a bigger office, you know having 43 million people working for you.
SUE: I mean the other reason why we don’t think it’s about the glass ceiling either is that the glass ceiling implies that that happens to you when you reach the top levels of your career, as though it’s going to be alright from level one to lever two to three to four to five, it’s maybe when you get to six, seven, eight, nine whereas every bit of evidence that we’ve got is that the glass wall can come down and kind of slap you in the face from the first day you enter a new job, from the first day you get a new boss, from the very first day you start your first job where women and men there are different expectations and also women and men relate differently to the expectations that they are given of them. So the big secret in this book is to unpick what everybody is actually thinking and what their meaning and I love the story you tell about the text the 18 year old boys.
KATHRYN: Oh yes, I mean it’s so it’s this thing which is I have a teenage son and so you know in his and his various friends you know they’re all hanging out in the kitchen and just chatting and when Archie has female friends there, so if they you know been chatting to go and had coffee with boy and then they just go you know great seeing them boys text and say see you later. Boys just generally mean see you later and my son has sat there with female friends, when you say see you later so that means, just that just mean see you later, it means see you later. What does it mean? I don’t quiet have an understanding of what it is that they’re trying to say and so Archie’s just saying it just means I had a nice time and I’ll see you later. No but when does later mean? That that mean see me again. Women have this wholly kind of nuanced thing of me we can never look at anything and think it’s just a casual throwaway remark. We spend all of our time saying well when they said that did they really mean-
FIONA: And I think you know-
KATHRYN: When they say that’s a great piece of work-
SUE: We could all relate to that.
KATHRYN: They didn’t say it was excellent did they-
SUE: So you can tell it’s a great piece of work into but that’s awful because he it hasn’t said it’s blown his mind.
KATHRYN: And whereas men go, great piece of work, see crushing it. We’re doing this whole kind of nuanced internal kind of dialogue thing and it’s the thing where you just we are I don’t know if it’s because we are more you know we just we’re just more aware of emotions and nuance than men or but it is this whole thing were just sort of no that’s just what they you have to kind of its unpicking the rules of the game, so that women understand where men are coming from because I’m not quite going you know men are from Mars and women are from Venus because that’s weird, but it is the thing of.
If you come into the workplace thinking as a woman thinking that the expectations or the measurement systems are the same for men and women and the way that you behave is the same. It’s saying it’s not necessarily true and I’m and it’s usually not true and it probably should change but it won’t because how do you say to people well it’s not very fair if you’ve got women working for you who’ve got children that quite a lot of the post work cheque goes on in the pub or after work drinks or you-
SUE: Or the five-a-side football you have someone say to you-
FIONA: Or the hospitality at Lords or-
KATHRYN: Yes but you know I did I did a talk today, big tech firm and we were doing speed mentoring and there was someone who just sat there with her arms folded and literally she would rather have been I don’t know having a toenails removed from being there and I said to you know what’s this and she said I work in [Unintelligible] she said and my work is just as good. She said but I work with two guys who play five-side football every Tuesday with chief exec. Who do you think when they say oh you know people in this part of business who’s going to do well? It’ll be it’ll be David and Jamie because our boss knows them. I’m never going to play five-aside football. What do I do? I do I turn up on a Tuesday and just sitting watch football which I hate and it’s something where it’s not open.
SUE: And I think our books made I mean we know that our books made some women angry because we don’t go on about the fact that it’s not fair. We don’t I think I think there’s a lot of much more militant stuff out there that does talk about that. I mean feminist Fight Club is probably and what our book is we’ve coined the term pragmatic feminism. So this is the situation whether you like it or not.
Don’t be blind to it. If you want to come win at it, here’s a set of tactics that you can deploy and usually what we’ve tried to do and there’s over 40 case studies in the book. What we’ve tried to do is give enough case studies and ways around them so that you don’t have to start behaving in a way that is alien to you. We’re not telling anybody that they should be behaving more like a man, but what we’re saying is that it’s kind of like if you think you’re playing football but you’re applying the rules from tennis then you know there’s a mismatch and you won’t win, whereas if you understand what’s going on, if you want to pick the ball up and go home with it because it’s your ball, that’s fine.
Or here’s how you get around the offside rule and score a goal.
KATHRYN: Very good.
KATHRYN: Football is actually growing as we do more talks.
FIONA: I love that and I loved how the book was so practical too as you alluded to and I’m curious to know so when you think about kind of like what you were just speaking about Kathryn of some of the mistakes we accidentally make. What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see women make that hold back their career?
KATHRYN: Not showing off enough. Being I think I don’t think it is mistakes, I think it’s just it’s about how you learn the tactics, which is so it’s not showing enough off enough. It’s about being resilient and it’s also about the fact that it’s it is the thing around knowing your own worth and being willing to defend it. So you know one of the you know one of the things that we talk about in the book is when you go and ask for pay rise, men will go in and say the reason why you need to give me a pay rise is because I’ve done this, this, this, this and this. Women tend to kind of sidle into the room, not make an appointment and do that really kind of I’m going to really really quickly because I’m really embarrassed and you don’t want to be talking about money [Unintelligible] anyway, thanks, bye and walk out again.
SUE: And it’s actually not about the first time of asking, it’s about what happens when you hear a no, because probably the no you got a no everyone get a no the first time and it’s about, when do you go back after the know because we’ve certainly had one instance where a man was back in within three months to ask again and an equivalent woman took a year to go back and you just need to be aware of all of those things I think I mean-
KATHRYN: Yes and the fact that if you go into your boss and say I’d like a pay rise, the likelihood that they’ve got you know load of money just loitering around, they go yes I mean if you do go to your boss and say can I have a pay rise and they say yes then clearly they’ve been massively underpaying you for a period of time.
SUE: And we’ve got examples of that as well. Women who’ve kind of finally you know made their case gone in and a woman actually said this to me, a very high-powered. She went in she made her case, she was like she’s really geared herself up for it and her boss went yes and she immediately thought my God, I should have asked for more. I must have been so relatively.
KATHRYN: And you know that virtual thing you can see her going God you know I thought I’d have to pay x amount more and I got away with x minus.
SUE: So I mean definitely you know you know your value. I think also there’s always a way around. So sometimes what happens is that women do work themselves up, ask something that they think they deserve, hear a no and think that’s it now. A no is a no and usually a no is a no to that but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t another way around and I think being a strategic in that respect is asking for advice, asking for help shared experiences. I mean the other reason why we wrote the book and we really wanted to write the book was because I think we’ve certainly both felt this in our careers, but I think every woman kind of runs up against something and you think it’s you, you think oh my God it’s me that’s it my career’s over and actually it’s not you, it’s just the world and usually, however, bad it is and as you all know we go into some quite troublesome kind of areas in the book. We’ve actually called chapter called trouble. It’s happened before, and there is a way out of it, however, dark it seems today. There is bright light tomorrow.
KATHRYN: Yes and the other thing is quite often that the obstacles you up against might just be a combination of circumstances that period of time. It doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Just because you get turned down for a pay rise now, doesn’t mean you’re never going to get another one. You need to wait until someone comes out and says we’re handing out the pay rises, form a queue. So if you go in and say can I have this and you get a no, then go back and say okay well fine, if you can’t give me this now could I have-
FIONA: Something else?
SUE: Five extra days of annual leave.
KATHRYN: Or something that I wanted with an understanding that we’ll review it in six months’ time because it is quite often particularly if you’re-
SUE: Is there a way that I could generate some revenue in a different way and that would help you give me this.
KATHRYN: So it is something about thinking around it. Putting yourself sometimes in the because the other thing as well is if you if you’re going to your boss in that kind of mid mid-year period when no one’s where your budgets set and there isn’t a lot of money sloshing around you go. What I’d like is another 100 million pounds. They likelihood they’re going to go yes is really minimal unless they’ve just won the lottery. So what you have to say is and they’ll say well you’re not going to get unless [Unintelligible] What you could go in and say right, okay if I could have 25 now that would be really great and then I’d like to find a way of working with you to get myself up to that within a considered period of time. So it is the thing about not it is something about you know understand nuance behind, see you later as well as no rock no because no sometimes means not yet. In the words of Taylor Swift, we are never ever getting back together again, talking about your pay rise. So it is that thing about understanding that there is a different set of rules and girls are you know women in general we’re used to being the people who hand our homework in on time. They’re really organized etcetera etcetera and when you go to work and you hand your homework in on time, no one comes out and says Sue can I just say you’re going to be and you know-
KATHRYN: Prefect because you handed your homework in on time and you played really nicely with everyone else. It isn’t about that. And also the key skill is women about resilience which is in the words of someone that I used to work with is if girls you know if you’re not getting enough if you’re not getting enough yeses you’re not asking enough girls. So and at least the story about most boys will probably ask ten girls out and think well if one says yes that’s really great. Do you know of any woman who’s ever asked more than one man out and if you said no, they’ll go home body weight in you know Ben and Jerry’s if you watch Sex and the City.
SUE: I mean has that changed at all. I don’t think that’s changed. That was like true in sort of 1837 and it’s true.
KATHRYN: But except you’ve been eating ice cream back yes, but you would have read the novels of Jane Austen, but yes so it is that whole thing about. No doesn’t mean no that’s it. It just means not yet. You just need to have the last bit on there.
SUE: There are some areas of life where no means no.
SUE: Pay rises and career progression.
FIONA: I think that’s great advice and I love that section of the book. Actually, I was going to ask you about it, so thanks for covering that. So recently in December 2018 Michelle Obama was quoted as telling an audience that…
Would you agree or disagree and what do you think about that?
SUE: So I think you can’t have it all. I just think you can’t do it all. So I actually yourself question was how do you personally do it all and the answer is you can’t personally do it all. So you can have a balance designed for your own you know for your own happiness and looking after yourself is the most important part of that and if that means work and career and you know becoming a CEO or getting promoted but also family and not just family but you know time spent communing with nature or traveling. You can create that balance, but you’ve got to have very kind of strict boundaries to it. You’ve got to understand what you’ll say yes to and what you’ll say no to. You can’t say yes to everything and you have to have help and you have to have a network and with the right help and with the right support and with the right network and that’s not just other women, that’s everybody, then I think you can have it all actually but you can’t do it all and in respect of how I personally do it all is I am surrounded by people that support me, without whom none of it would be possible.
KATHRYN: I think you underestimate yourself, but then again, I always say that’s Becky.
SUE: Including this person that sitting with me now who she is doing it, but you know without the right support there’s just no way that you can-
KATHRYN: I think there’s that I think there’s two definitions of having it all. I think there’s the have it all oh look he is, whoever, was who ran Verizon Merissa Mayer you know in vogue you know with her getting up at 5 a.m. and having a tennis lesson and then bloody bloody blah. That’s really great if you’re a tech billionaire, for most people who are kind of chugging in on the Northern Line from Clapham like me the likelihood I’m going to do that is isn’t possible. So you just have to go what’s important-
SUE: There’s an opening in tennis.
KATHRYN: There is an opening in tennis, I know that could have been me. I could have taken over Mandy Marie. It is a thing about decide what’s important to you. So fundamentally I don’t get it I mean you know clearly you know I am not I am not a gym bunny, I walk everywhere instead because for two reasons. One I don’t have time to go to the gym because I work really you know I’ve done two films in a day yesterday. I go back and do my work and then go and do something else. So I did two films in a day yesterday to see them before they came out. So I walk everywhere and the other thing about walking everywhere is it gives me thinking time. So I walk from my office to here. I walk back to here. Quite often I’ll leave work in the evening and I’ll walk halfway home because it gives me thinking time that you don’t get at work.
SUE: And you have to protect that.
KATHRYN: And you have to protect that and you have to now it’s lovely that you’ve come into my office at 5:45 to have a chat about your life, but actually I need to leave now because I’d like to get home and see my daughter before she finishes her homework etcetera. So that whole thing of you know you can wear a three-and-a-half-thousand-pound Valentino gown and play tennis and run a billionaire tech company. That is all just cobblers frankly and you just need to make your life work for you and not live up to the standards perpetrated by media other people who you know-
SUE: God don’t take it out on Instagram.
KATHRYN: Yes, exactly.
SUE: Oh, I gave that up years ago.
KATHRYN: Instagram probably taken about 43 people doing the lighting and what have you. All of that kind of thing is you’ve got to decide what is important to you and you’ve got to decide what’s important to you and just be very clear about what’s important to you and just say well this is the way that it is. So, when Sue asked me to write book, my three four closest colleagues I said I’m going to be writing a book. So that’s what I’m going to be doing and it means that I might lose some capacity but it’s what I really want to do and everyone went great and they were all really proud of me and it is the thing about being firm but fair about more you’re expected to do. So I have to leave home at 5:00 a.m. next Wednesday to go to Dublin for a meeting. I am then turning around and saying if I get up at 5 a.m. to go to Dublin for a meeting, I am then not you know doing x later on and someone else’s and also the other thing as well if sometimes things I can’t do I’ll say I can’t do it but could my colleague Clare do it. And actually that gives them a step up because they go and you know the artist otherwise known as Katherine Jacob, I have Depp’s who do things for me and I say they’re just as good as I am if probably better, so off you go rather than do this frantic kind of you know-
FIONA: Juggling act.
KATHRYN: Having to do everything because actually most the people who look like they’re doing, I was at the Golden Globes on Sunday because I was you know. No they weren’t or they were at the Golden Globes but then basically you know they flew by private jets and they went struggling through lax you know with recalcitrant small children. You’ve just got to separate the hype from the reality and I also think Michelle Obama also did a very interesting thing which I thought was quite funny was when she said about Lean In, she said yes, people have had enough of that shit [laughs] I thought that was quite funny.
FIONA: That made some ripples on Twitter.
KATHRYN: I just done the Michelle Obama thing which is that she is you know have you read Becoming?
FIONA: No, not yet.
KATHRYN: I read at Christmas and she’s completely honest about the traumas that she faced.
SUE: I heard some of it actually on the radio.
KATHRYN: And is that thing about and it was just the whole thing about I married this man, he’s really extraordinary but she wasn’t going to the gym and she knew that everyone’s looking at so her beloved mother used to get to the White House at 5:00 a.m. or come down from her flat in the White House at 5 a.m. so she could go to the gym because no that’s the thing and it is that thing about, it’s the support network thing. And the other thing is always don’t be you know if you’ve got a really good network, I have I have a thing with Sue which is if I’ve got a problem and I sometimes fancy up and I say have you got five minutes. I’ve got this and I don’t know what to do. So I could do A, B or C and still got your D.
SUE: Sometimes I’ll say DD.
KATHRYN: Oh God I wish I thought of that, but it is that thing about you’ve got to have a-
SUE: You’ve got to have to go to people.
KATHRYN: You’ve got to have to go to people and Sue is my go to person because we are very different but you know in the words of Tom Cruise, you complete me, because we are just very different but I know that Sue will come at it from a different angle in a way that our respective male partners would just go well you know they’re horrid aren’t they. No matter what we say that but Sue kind of gets it.
FIONA: You need someone to bounce the ideas off of and to give you the nerve sometime too, a nerve-giver.
SUE: You do, yes you do.
KATHRYN: You know that if you’re just meant to go into that meeting, you know that they’re going [Unintelligible]
FIONA: Your amazing. Yes, I love that. So I think I have a feeling Sue, I know what you’re going to say to this one, based on your intro, but could you tell me about the most inclusive culture you’ve personally seen in your career and what made it so great?
SUE: Obviously, I feel as I’ve experienced at MediaCom and I hope everybody that works at MediaCom experiences actually. We try and put as much effort as we can do into keeping the culture inclusive and we have a mantra of people first and we really do mean. It’s not something that’s outsourced to one team or one department is something that senior management spend an awful lot of time talking and thinking about and I actually feel like I’ve benefited from it and it’s probably a bit boring for me to be going huffing on and on about you know how great it is to work at MediaCom, but I would honestly say that I felt you know for a long time here and it’s one of the reasons that I’ve stayed so long to coin a phrase that my chairwoman Karen Blackett uses when she speaks.
It’s the Avengers assemble, so Karen’s got a son who’s a big fan of the Avengers and as you all know with the Avengers is a assemble team, that when they cooperate together, when they complement each other rather than compete with each other.
What they do is they give out just a team that that can’t be beaten and if I have something that I know I’m not going to be any good at then I will be very honest about that and I’ll go and seek advice from someone within our broader team who I know is good at that kind of thing and they will help me out and it does mean that it’s very hard to have a bad day at work when you got that around you because even a bad day is a day when someone basically will then help you out of it. So I do think it’s very important and I think it’s actually a kind of switch in attitude that if we had that across British business or more inclusiveness a sense that you didn’t want people like you as your teammates but you wanted people who were kind of different from you as your teammates that you wanted people that would add to your playlist not just duplicate your playlist, that it would give Britain a competitive advantage which is something that we’re probably going to need quite even more than usual going forward. But I think-
KATHRYN: We’re not allowed to say the B word [laughs]
SUE: Also you know I would give it I would give it as a recommendation for any business that wants competitive advantage and I will just finally say one thing which is that Kathryn and I when we give our presentation and included in the book are many statistics proving the value of diversity at board level to better decision-making and better profits. I don’t think there is anything else where we could present such very clear evidence where a change wouldn’t be made almost overnight. So we’re sitting here you know in a meeting room with a window. If I went if I could prove to business that having two windows in a meeting room gave you a 21% improvement in profitability, then I would I would bet that most businesses within a year’s time would have two windows in every meeting room. We have been presenting those statistics to businesses about diversity and I said that one that particular one is McKinsey one and yet the change across the FTSE 350 is slow if yes, it’s improving but very very slowly.
KATHRYN: Well I won’t talk about parenting because it’s you know my child a third child but we have people who cry when they leave and we’ve just got this ridiculous thing where it’s kind of it’s like Hotel California can check out buy you never leave.
FIONA: Alumni network.
KATHRYN: I love what it is there in the fact that you love that if I can’t stay and I think so no I won’t talk about parenting I think I really love the skies and because it is, I don’t know if you felt it when you come to MediaCom, but you know when you go into certain places and you just think oh hello this is all, I feel it when I come to MediaCom. There is always someone at MediaCom, everyone smiles as they leave the building because they’re kind of quite happy and it’s all kind of you know there’s a bus?
FIONA: Yes. Absolutely.
KATHRYN: Culture and a funny culture. I love going to Sky because everyone at Sky is and I can talk about this because they’re your client. Every time I go to Sky it is just they are open and Jerry Derek has spoken very frequently about the fact that they want to reflect society. They run training programs for schoolchildren. Where you can go into the newsroom. So it opens up that whole thing around television. So most people think I’m going to get on television if I stand near the right people. They run a diversity program there that is embraced by everyone.
So Sue and I have done some talks at places where they’ve started a diversity program at the board level and it’s just kind of stuttered and kind of died because it gets stuck in the mechanics of gets stuck in their wheels and cogs of the day-to-day. So everyone says it’s really great, I don’t know it’s too difficult to do it. At Sky is there really it’s like a it’s like a driving force that and the creativity and the focus they have, and you can just feel it you know if you do if you go and talk to people at Sky, they’re really passionate and proud of the fact that there’s such an open culture and have people who feel really invested in that level of changes. Remarkable, so Sky I think I’ve got a huge amount of time for them.
FIONA: Thank you and just one final question, so although your book is geared to women, men, of course, play a huge role in advancing women as well. What are some tips or things our male listeners could do right away like this week to support the women in their life whether that’s inside or outside of work?
KATHRYN: Can talk to them about what they want. Have 50/50 shortlists of every job and 50/50 interview panels and look at the way that you write job specs to take out the word and a bit well ambitious is a very nuanced word for women, so I think just look at it as if so it’s less like gladiator in your you’ve got to come here and fight and win and achieve and more like together we’re going to achieve stuff. I think that would be a very great thing.
SUE: No more by standing. So I think we’ve all been bystanders. I’m sure we’ve all been bystanders. There was a question that we were asked a little while ago and it kind of shocked both of us. It was it was a question from a woman who just joined a new firm. She went to a meeting with her CEO, there were seven people in the meeting, there were only six chairs. She was the only woman and when she walked in her CEOs said,
“Oh they don’t seem to be enough chairs. Do you want to come and sit on my lap?”
And she said to us what would you have said Sue and Kathryn and we sort of said what we would have said I’m a bit shock and you know we asked what she did say? Look the main thing for me about that is not her CEO, not what she should have said or what she shouldn’t have said, but the fact that those other men didn’t do anything. So one of them could easily have said why not I go and get a chair. That didn’t happen. One of them could have said I don’t think that’s the way you should be talking to her. That didn’t happen. There’s a thing in there that they talked about in the Obama administration of women speaking up for each other, so if there was more than one women in the meeting and a woman got tipped over, then the other woman would say oh did you just hear that point that great point that Kathryn just made. That doesn’t have to be women for women that can be all of us for all of us. So I would say if everybody made a pledge that they would never ever let one of those moments slip, if they don’t ever go I can’t be the one that says something this time because it’s a bit embarrassing or you know I won’t be popular if I do it. If everybody spoke up men on behalf of women, women on behalf of women, women on behalf of men. Then we would all be working in a better place.
FIONA: I love that. Everyone for everyone as you said that’s brilliant. So thank you so much for sharing those lessons with us. I’m sure there’s a lot for our listeners to take away from this episode. If anyone listening wants to stay connected with you and find your book, what’s the best way for them to do that?
SUE: So the book is on Amazon, the Glass Wall success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business and our Twitter feeds are you are @SueU, I am at @SueU and I am @cinemalover.
FIONA: Brilliant. Those are easy to remember.
SUE: And if you like the book please tweet us and let us know.
FIONA: Thank you.
Check out our other interviews with inclusion’s change-makers, thinkers, and influencers.
Never miss another interview. Get notified every time we release a new interview and hear from leaders, influencers, bestselling authors, and entrepreneurs, as we uncover more true stories on making inclusion work. Subscribe to our newsletter below.
An Exclusive Interview with the authors of The Glass Wall, Kathyrn Jacob OBE and Sue Unerman
Catch up with more Inclusion Works podcasts
Check out our other interviews with inclusion’s change-makers, thinkers, and influencers.
Fiona Young (she/her) >
Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.
Sun Life Financial and Hive Learning win the Gold Award for ‘Best Advance in Diversity and Inclusion Innovation’ at the 2021 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Awards
Tampa, Florida 10th December 2021: Hive Learning and their client Sun Life Financial were awarded the gold award for ‘Best Advance in...
Legal and General and Hive Learning win the Gold Award for ‘Best use of social and collaborative learning technologies’ at the 2021 Learning Technologies Awards
London, 24th November 2021: Hive Learning was recognized alongside Legal and General for their work embedding behaviors at scale over the...