Exclusive all-female members club, WACL, is made up of the most powerful and pioneering women in business in the UK. Members include, amongst many others, Facebook’s Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn and Children in Need's Chairman Stevie Spring.

Each year, WACL awards bursaries to help women pursue further training and education as part of the WACL Future Leaders Award. This year, out of 230 applicants, 30 received the award, three of which work here at Ogilvy UK: Emma Nicol, Georgina Purdy and Zoe Cooke.

We caught up with our winners to find out more about them and how they plan to use their bursaries to develop their careers.

Firstly, congratulations! How does it feel to be chosen for the WACL Future Leaders Award?

Zoe: Still a bit bizarre to be honest! It feels great to be in the company of some amazing ladies, and I feel very privileged to be chosen. I wasn’t 100% convinced that they’d let someone in Finance apply, so very grateful.

Emma: Exciting and delighted. And, if I’m honest also a bit nervous about ‘going back to school’ after such a long break since studying.

Georgina: Some hugely impressive women are part of WACL so I’m honoured to be named by WACL as a Future Leader.

Tell us a bit about why you applied?

Zoe: WACL is such a prestigious group, and I really liked the idea of being part of a network of women who are pushing boundaries in their disciplines, and the opportunity to do more management training. It took a few people telling me to apply before I got over the nerves of doing it, so I’m super grateful to them, and would encourage everyone else to put themselves forward.

Emma: The bursary offered was a big draw for me as I'm keen to develop my own understanding of behavioural science, which would introduce me to new creative solutions to improve my professional advice. 

Georgina: In addition to this being an opportunity to meet amazing women at WACL and applicants of the Future Leaders Award, the chance to be granted a bursary to pursue a course which would help push my career to the next level was a huge driver.

Part of the award includes a bursary to pursue further training and education – how do you plan to use this to further your career and aid your role at Ogilvy?

Zoe: I’m doing a course called Achieving Leadership Excellence at London School of Economics. I wanted to do a course that takes management theory and applies it practically to the way you lead a team. This course also has a huge focus on wellbeing in the workplace, which is incredibly important to me.

Emma: I’ll be completing an Executive Programme in Behavioural Science at University College London. I believe that everything we do - as an individual, with others, inside and outside the workplace - is a result of psychological influences. This course will give me an insight into these mental processes and so improve my self-awareness, my own behaviours and triggers, and increase my confidence. These elements will help me become a better objective evaluator of myself and consumers.

Georgina: I'll be studing front-end web development coding at the General Assembly. We’re constantly being reminded that digital is the future, almost everything we do is governed by technology. Well, technology needs to be coded therefore coding is power. From bots to apps, smart technologies to IoT, these concepts are already having a huge impact on our lives and will undoubtedly steer the future of communications. Coding is a language, the language of the future, and having a competent understanding of basic programming can only make me a better communicator.

What's your big ambition for the year ahead?

Zoe: I’ve been doing lots of work with the team at 50:50 Parliament, who do amazing campaigns working to get gender balance in Parliament – I was even pictured in Stylist with them! This year my big ambition is to get more involved with their #AskHerToStand campaign and convince some awesome ladies to run for office – which you should all consider!

Emma: I am excited to be working at the vanguard of organisational change and employee communications. I believe we are at a tipping point for workforce demographics. As baby boomers begin to retire, millennials now make up the biggest part of the workforce and Centennials arriving. I’m hoping the next year will be full of big project challenges.

Georgina: My course starts this month and will be intense, so that is my only focus for the next few months. I’m looking forward to it and excited to start, but it will be a big challenge.

Any advice for future female (and male) leaders of tomorrow?

Zoe: It’s super clichéd but just do it, most of the time the only person who’s holding us back from something is ourselves. I always try and ask myself ‘if not you, then who?’ which usually is enough to prompt me to action, or to find someone else better suited to it.

Emma: Networking leads to opportunities – take every opportunity, with every individual you meet, to network (but in a genuine way). Your network gives you support, energy and ideas.  Nobody reaches the top without help and support from others – enjoy that support and be that support. I owe a lot to mentors who game me hard feedback and also supported me to be better and think bigger.

Georgina: Don’t be late. Better 3 hours early than 3 mins too late. Unless it’s a party…


Interested in applying for next year’s award? We also spoke to our Chief Marketing Officer and WACL member, Nina Jasinski, to find out more about the award, what she looks for as a judge and her advice for future applicants.

Tell us a bit about why WACL’s Future Leaders Award is so important.

Diversity remains a top priority and with that comes the fact that we need to make sure our talent pool is armed with the right skills to move upwards.

The WACL Future Leaders Award is the only industry training bursary that gives individuals 75% of their course costs. Many of the applicants go for areas that boost their confidence – but course choice does vary hugely from those that want to learn more about balance sheets to coding.

The process of application is also very helpful as it makes the individual examine where their skill gaps are and also asks them tough questions on where they want to be – both personally and professionally in 5 years time. A lot can happen in 5 years – so if you want to be CEO by then, what skills are you going to need on the way?

As a judge, what do you look for in a WACL Future Leader? Is there anything that particularly impresses you about an applicant?

Honesty and ambition. The more open they were, the more you wanted to read about what they wanted from their career. Some had amazing application forms – winning international skating competitions or surviving an abusive relationship – but it was how each woman takes all the influences of their life, and how they bring it to their work and beyond, that always impresses me. I felt very privileged and honoured to meet so many talented women in the industry.

Any advice for women applying for next year’s award?

Think hard about what your greatest achievements are. Don’t be shy in coming forward! Also, when describing yourself and your role, do not say you are a “people person” – unless you really do have a great angle on this – it’s too done and too much of a cliché.

Remember to think about how your course is going to propel you to the next level. And make sure you are giving back to the industry already - if you are going to be a future leader, you need to start thinking and behaving like one!

But the biggest advice is to just go for it – everyone says even the process is helpful and whilst the interviews are nerve racking, no one is looking to trip you up. And maybe you could be one of 30 or so chosen to be a WACL Future Leader!  


For more information on applying for next year’s WACL Future Leader’s Award, click here.