International Women's Day: The Women that Make Freedman

To celebrate International Women’s Day we’ve interviewed a few of the powerful women that make Freedman a diverse, inclusive workplace. Read on for an unfiltered conversation around the challenges women face in the advertising industry, inspirational women and what it’s like to be a woman at Freedman.

Laila, Group Account Director

  1. What are the current challenges for women in your industry?

I haven’t really come across these challenges personally but when you get to very senior positions it tends to be male heavy – it seems to encourage questions in your mind as to why that is. Women have families and that can impact their career. As a woman you do have to really consider the right time to make personal decisions as to not affect your career. From what you hear and what you read you also want to make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth rather than being underpaid in comparison to male counterparts.

  1. Is enough being done to promote women in your workplace?

Yeah. We’re a very female heavy company and there are several female leaders in our office. Senior roles are mainly covered by women. Things aren’t being done necessarily to “promote” women, it’s just a given that we’re treated equally. At Freedman your gender doesn’t actually matter, your work does!

  1. What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your industry?

You shouldn’t take things personally, be confident and resilient. The industry is very fast-paced, demanding and challenging but will teach you so much that you can use not just within your career but in your personal development. You will come out a stronger person, but you have to be up for the challenge.

  1. Would that advice be any different to a woman looking to start working in your industry?

To women I would say don’t see yourself as a woman see yourself as a person. If challenges come your way that you think are gender specific challenges don’t be disheartened by them, prove yourself by just being yourself! Work hard and show them what a woman actually is.

  1. Who is your biggest influence?

My dad. Funnily enough!

  1. Who are your female icons?

I have a soft spot for strong women. Oprah, Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez… how can you not? Also, the people at work are very inspiring to me. Strong women that stand out for the right reasons and shrug off the stereotypes.

  1. Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your workplace?

There is equality I definitely think so.

  1. Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?

I like it but at the same time, I don’t. It’s almost like we’re considered a charity. Why do we only have one day to celebrate being a woman? I think it’s another example of positive discrimination. We should be celebrated all the time and equally, not just on one day!

  1. Can you recall a particularly sexist moment in your career?

I would say there are always general sexist comments made, from both sides. I don’t think I have had anything severe but in general it is there. However, I can’t remember a specific time. As a woman you are used to a lot of in-built sexism within the workplace, using sayings such as “grow some balls” or “don’t be a girl.”

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I just want to be happy! In my career I am successful; I work hard, I’m confident and everything I do is to give myself a good life in the future. I just want to be free and happy.

  1. What advice will you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine. Stop overthinking. However, if I knew that then I wouldn’t be where I am today because the fear can also push you.

  1. Do you feel like you’ve had to behave “like a man?”

I feel like I’m not allowed to be emotional. It will be held against me. If a woman is emotional it’s got stigma against it but if a man loses his cool, he’s been pushed too far. 

Ella, Lead TV Producer

  1. What are the current challenges for women in your industry?

In production it’s more common to work with men than women. It seems to be a “boys’ club” sometimes. It is slowly changing! Our industry is affected in the same way as other industries, with gender inequality in pay and opportunities. The higher you get the harder it is as a woman; less management positions, less respect in your job role and less respect when managing men. I mean film production only has 5% women directors!

  1. Is enough being done to promote women in your workplace?

I’m not sure anything is done for women at Freedman specifically, but we are a small agency with plenty of opportunities for employees in general. If you’re good at the job and put yourself forward it gets listened too and evaluated on the proposal rather than your gender. We don’t just promote women, we are considered as employees and human beings first. It’s an equal treatment.

  1. What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your industry?

Be prepared to work hard but never doubt your skills.

  1. Would that advice be any different to a woman looking to start working in your industry?

To any young woman starting in production I would encourage them to stay strong and to have as much confidence and trust in your skills as possible. I get that a lot from my colleagues. Female employees will always question their quality of work and skills. I usually work with overqualified women in under-qualified positions.

  1. Who is your biggest influence?

My Boyfriend – we work in the same industry. He is an editor. Sometimes I can come to him with technical problems and general industry issues and he understands. We do believe in “work is work but let’s also live.” So, we share our passion for running and is a big de-stressor for us.

  1. Who are your female icons?

People like Michelle Obama, I love her she’s great. Women like Davina McCall for her fitness and life story and I like that she’s not young! I’m fed up with plastic 20-year olds. I’m appalled by the statistics stating that young girls self-harm due to social media. I appreciate real, experienced and wrinkled beauty!! Its inspiring and teaches you that you can do it if you trust in yourself. You can achieve anything, you just need to believe in it. I’m also working on a documentary in which we filmed 8 female activists in Vietnam – incredible women and when you look at the challenges they are going through and the way they deal with it, it is so inspiring.

  1. Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your workplace?

At Freedman, yeah! My line managers are women. Our second in command is female. There are lot of females in high positions.

  1. Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?

Yes definitely, absolutely. It’s a reminder of what still needs to be done. Making things more equal. A lot of men still question it, but the situation is still off balance. It’s one day a year where we get to shout about it! Let’s be given more – a month dedicated to women’s rights and opportunities!

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I would like to change the world, I am a dreamer. I love what I am doing but I would like to own a TV network and put the right stuff out there, positive body images and equality.

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be scared, it will be OK. I think I could have got where I am much quicker and could have had more impact on the world. The only thing that held me back were my own insecurities. After turning 30 I gained more and more confidence.

  1. Do you feel like you’ve had to behave “like a man?”

A couple of times. I hate losing my temper and shouting – it’s not effective and only shows weakness. In the stereotypical “male” world, it’s considered to be a strength. I have had to use this with disrespectful men in our industry. Responding to interruptions and aggressive behaviour, I have had to shout and lower myself to their level which was an awful feeling.

  1. Can you recall a particularly sexist moment in your career?

I recall quite a few moments – when I was young working in Italy, I was sexually harassed many times, not physically thankfully. For example, following a business meeting I was asked to go to bed with a 72-year-old man in the middle of nowhere, in a hotel. I was also harassed by many men usually in their 50s when I was in my 20s with the promise of job opportunities and new clients. I’d say 30% of my business meetings in Italy ended with the question “What are you doing after work?”

Nkem, Senior Project Manager 

  1. What are the current challenges for women in your industry?

It’s definitely a male dominated industry. At Freedman the gender ratio leans towards female. However, other places I have worked have been mainly male dominated, females have to work slightly harder to prove themselves against the “boys’ club” culture.

  1. Is enough being done to promote women in your workplace?

Not only women but people! I’m a mother and Freedman push flexibility and it suits my life very well. They try to work for your needs and make women feel comfortable. Women feel included because everybody is!

  1. What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your industry?

Try different fields and agencies so you can know if the job is right for you. It’s fun but it is hard work. If you are passionate it’s the industry for you. It can be very demanding but it’s so satisfying to see the outcome of your hard work. Believe in yourself and go for it!

  1. Would that advice be any different to a woman looking to start working in your industry?

The only thing I would add for a woman is don’t get put off. If your team is male dominated or there’s a lack of a female presence; do not get scared! Stick around. Women’s influence can add so much to a team dynamic and to a company.

  1. Who is your biggest influence?

My mum! The reason being, it’s not until you become a parent that you realise how much hard work goes into it. She is my support system and I can go to her for anything. She has had to sacrifice a lot for us and now I’m a mother I want to do the same for my children.

  1. Who are your ideal female icons?

My sister! I find her very inspiring I got to her for everything.

  1. Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your workplace?

Yes! But we all know there can always be improvements in any agency!

  1. Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?

Yes, just to highlight the struggles that women have had to go through. Some people can get a bit uptight about the word “feminist” but it helps us to understand what has paved the way for women to be in the position they are in today and reminds us there’s still a long way to go yet.

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I started out in law as a solicitor! I packed it in because it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Corporate wasn’t for me. I used my law skills to get into project management but I feel like I am still growing up. I would love to be my own boss and work on my terms. I would love to have my own team to encourage and nurture.

  1. Can you recall a particularly sexist moment in your career?

Definitely in the law industry everything is male male male, so there was an consistent undertone of sexism. In comparison, advertising agencies are a bit more relaxed, so it is slightly better.

  1. What advice will you give to your younger self?

Don’t doubt yourself, just go for it and don’t care about what anyone else is doing. Don’t conform!

  1. Do you feel like you’ve had to behave “like a man?”

That’s not something that I have to do but I can see and understand why other women may have to do that. To conform to the patriarchal view and escape female stereotypes in the workplace.

Eleonore, Marketing Manager

  1. What are the current challenges for women in your industry?

In the advertising industry there’s still a “boys’ club” culture whereby there are a lot of women but it’s easier to get to certain positions as a man. Advertising traditionally has been quite sexist in terms of the actual creative messaging. I have seen some improvements in recent years and very positive campaigns, but I still feel like the way brands address women needs to change.

  1. Is enough being done to promote women in your workplace?

I don’t think there is anything done to promote women specifically but there is an equal treatment of men and women at Freedman. I am happy to see that a lot of the more senior people in the office are women. It’s inspiring.

  1. What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your industry?

Try and get as much experience as you can, quick. There’s so much to learn. Also, work at as many agencies and places as possible. Don’t restrict yourself to a role straight away. There are so many options out there that you can take – it could be production, account or project management, client or agency side. Try and see what career path fits your personality. You can succeed no matter the route you choose.

  1. Would that advice be any different to a woman looking to start working in your industry?

I would add that they need to believe in themselves, as I often see women kind of belittling themselves and lacking the confidence and its quite the opposite with men.

  1. Who is your biggest influence?

My mother! Because she was a single mum and had to raise three children in quite difficult circumstances. We ended up alright in the end!

  1. Who are your ideal female icons?

I like funny women! People like Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Phoebe Waller Bridge – they don’t portray women in your classic, stereotypical way. They are flawed and funny. I love that. I like mindfulness too. Sharon Salzberg is just so inspiring, she was one of the first to bring mindfulness to the west. French cinema also celebrates ageing actresses that I admire such as Isabelle Huppert – they play roles that are challenging, and they are not just there to be pretty.

  1. Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your workplace?

Yes, I believe so!

  1. Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?

There shouldn’t just be one day for women, but I guess it is the opportunity to shed light on successful women and on the disparities that exist between genders.

  1. Can you recall a particularly sexist moment in your career?

I can recall a few but there was one agency I worked at with an oppressively masculine atmosphere. The majority of employees were men and they would have extremely disrespectful, sexist banter all day. I love a good joke, but they went too far. So much so that I went to HR and complained – I didn’t give names, but just said that the overall atmosphere made me feel uncomfortable as a woman. I left that agency shortly afterwards but hope that they addressed that issue.

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I would like to pursue my career in marketing, but long term I would like to set up my own business and have time for art and my creative passions.

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t limit yourself. Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious.

  1. Do you feel like you’ve had to behave “like a man?”

I guess, yeah, you can’t show your vulnerable side. Not that that’s a female trait but it’s perceived as such. When it comes to displaying emotions such as anger, if a man does it its OK but as a woman, people (men and women) expect you to behave in a certain way. There are different standards for men and women. Thankfully, with the MeToo movement things are finally changing.

Nara, Head of Creative Adaptation and Transcreation 

  1. What are the current challenges for women in your industry?

Age may be an issue not so much gender. Language seems to be a female dominated industry and has always been embraced by women. If you dissected it, from the linguistic creative side it would lean more towards men, but when it comes to translation and language project management, it’s run by women!

  1. Is enough being done to promote women in your workplace?

Yes! I think so! There are more women than men at Freedman. Sometimes I find this topic trivial to discuss. It’s 2019 and we’re still talking about gender differences and reinforcing the divide. A good workplace, like Freedman, is about the skill set, not the gender of an employee – and that’s the end of it. The gender part of the application form shouldn’t matter and doesn’t to us at Freedman.

  1. What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your industry?

Make sure that you find the key person in the company,  who will become your mentor and try to absorb as much knowledge as possible right from the beginning. Be open to their knowledge and learn the best practices right from the offset. The industry is ever changing so be up to date and keep learning. Don’t rush. Don’t try to impress.

  1. Would that advice be any different to a woman looking to start working in your industry?

No. It would be the same. Knowledge is everything no matter what gender you are. Be yourself, be natural, do not try to be “a man.” Find your own way, don’t be scared and don’t follow other people’s parameters.

  1. Who is your biggest influence?

My son. Without a doubt. My child is the reason I do what I do. He’s makes me see things in a different way, with fresh eyes. He’s a great inspiration.

  1. Who are your ideal female icons?

“Everyday” people. People that achieve something and have done it by rising above bad situations. I have a lot of respect for them. Historically women are givers more than takers, I’m not saying we’re better than men, there is good and bad in all of us, that’s why I look up to everyday people. People that just get on with it and achieve things through knowledge and skill, they are my icons.

  1. Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your workplace?

Yes – they are human beings not males and females.

  1. Can you recall a particularly sexist moment in your career?

Not as forward as physical ones but more in a vocal way, yes. “Banter” that underlines the divide between females and males, the usual “not just a pretty face” kind of comments. They don’t bother me too much, but I have never experienced comments that have gone too far.

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I wanted to be a vet, then an astronaut, then a petrol station attendant when I saw how much money was in their wallets! In 10 years’ time I would like to go back to my origins. I miss the contact with nature and the land. The city is good, but it takes a lot from you, I come from the country and I miss it. I would like to give back to society, sometimes I feel like I take too much and I feel a little bit soulless. I want to give back, I don’t know what but something! I sponsor children abroad at schools but I want to do more when I am older and have more time. I would like to dedicate myself to giving!

  1. What advice will you give to your younger self?

WAKE UP! There were times where I was sleeping with my eyes open. I wasted a few years here and there with procrastination. I am a little bit of a late bloomer. Find your passion, stick to it and work at it. Oh, and party less….

  1. Do you feel like you’ve had to behave “like a man?”

I’m a tomboy! I grew up with my brothers in the country. We were not sexualised. We were not allowed to be sexualised. We were in competition to be clever, not to be sexy. I never felt pressured to behave like a man because I don’t even feel like a behave like a woman, I just behave like myself. A human being.

Sarah, Account Director

  1. What are the current challenges for women in your industry?

Juggling their personal life with work life.

  1. Is enough being done to promote women in your workplace?

Yes, I would say so. There are equal opportunities in the office as there are many female leaders.

  1. What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your industry?

Take every opportunity that you can, work across a variety of accounts, work with different clients and industries and make sure that you are up to date with the digital world. Don’t fall behind, don’t rely on excel. Look for new tools and new ways of working. Talk to people – find out what others are doing!

  1. Would that advice be any different to a woman looking to start working in your industry?

No!

  1. Who is your biggest influence?

My children get me out of bed every morning, literally and metaphorically.

  1. Who are your ideal female icons?

I’ve been listening to a podcast about living with cancer with Rachael Bland, Lauren Mahon, Deborah James – what they are doing in terms of communication and raising awareness is fantastic. They are articulate and put themselves out there. They are very inspirational. People who can make the best of their situations. And Michelle Obama!

  1. Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your workplace?

Yeah, I would say so. It’s not a sexist place to work. There have been times when there’s been many men in senior position but that’s swings and roundabouts and comes and goes.

  1. Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?

Yep. Definitely!

  1. Can you recall a particularly sexist moment in your career?

I recall that for a pitch someone said “put someone pretty in there” because that’s just what we’re there for isn’t it! Comments like that that are not very common. It’s not overtly sexist here but there will always be moments as a woman where this is mentioned.

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want my family to be healthy and happy that’s the ultimate goal and that’s my priority.

  1. What advice will you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry it will all work out. Go and seek out different opportunities.

  1. Do you feel like you’ve had to behave “like a man?”

Work is work so I behave like me. I don’t think I behave like a man, I behave like myself!

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Hannah Anast
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