By Clare Russell, Senior Art Director at Ogilvy UK
Humans don't like change. We are generally creatures of habit who like order.
So an event that that focussed purely on change would be destined for failure right?...
The WPP senior female empowerment team hosted it's fourth #stellaignite event on the 16th May, bringing together 15 speakers from around their organisation to give their view on what change means to them.
And what a line-up they selected. Topics included making the most of your spare change, how to cope with burn-out, life with OCD, art history, leaving a career in education, starting a school in a deprived country, loving yourself, life-swapping and so much more.
I was honoured to be one of those 15 speakers. Selected simply because I had an opinion, and because I really do want things to change.
My topic was entitled 'Council class' and was inspired by my personal story of growing up in social housing. My aim being to promote social mobility and highlight the continuing lack of it in professional services, especially in our progressively diverse industry.
This is not a 'woe-is-me' story. Far from it. I grew up very happily on a council estate and now, after many years of soul-searching, believe this has been the making of me. It has made me determined, resilient, creative and the kind-hearted person that I am today.
However I am very aware that I am one of the more fortunate. I had two loving parents, a very supportive group of friends and family who believed in me, a whole bunch of teachers that had my back. Not to mention the several agencies, creative directors and advisors who let me in and showed me the way.
The creative industry needs to see the credit in disadvantaged children. Their grit, versatility and creativity is taught in unconventional ways but it does not make them less substantial. They approach life differently and bring fresh new perspectives to the table - in times of change surely this can only be a good thing.
There are three key things I believe we need to do in order to make significant change listed below in my mother tongue and translated to sound more professional:
1. Give a shit = Investment.
2. Give' em a taste = Opportunity.
3. Give 'em a chance = Recruitment.
Give a shit/Investment.
The biggest change needs to happen in education. Children from social housing and low-incomes do not have a network of role models guiding them towards a future career. Should their eyes be opened to the opportunities whilst they are learning they can harness their abilities and work towards a different future, one that they don't even know exists right now. Therefore organisations need to invest. By giving time for their workforce to give-back to these communities and working with underperforming schools to help offer better career advice. Providing inspiration and ambition for today's disadvantaged youth. I passionately believe this is where the most amount of work needs to be done.
Give 'em a taste/Opportunity
Businesses need to open their doors. Work experience is key to understanding and forging networks. It is the best way to find out if a particular career path is right for you. Therefore we can no-longer allow it to only be an option for a friend-of-a-friend of the boss. It needs to be more conscientious; an open-minded, dedicated programme that children from any background can access and more importantly are made aware of.
Give 'em a chance/Recruitment
And finally be actively diverse in recruitment. I am not suggesting we tick boxes, but I am suggesting we resist filtering applications by institution and agency experience. This is a safety-net companies have fallen into which is resulting in more of the same. Let's open our minds to different backgrounds and hire on ability not association, this will result in new perspectives and create a workforce representative of the nation, not just the middle classes.
So easy peasy right....pah ha ha, if only.
I am not the first to talk about this issue and I will not be the last. But as long as we keep talking about it and turn the heads of a few people in positions to make change we will make progress and create an even more vibrant and rich creative industry that each and every one of us can be proud of.
Thanks for reading, if you want to do something about this or already are, please get in touch, I am eager to harness any interest/insights to create a network of people who would like to give back.
And finally I would like to thank Candace Kuss and Florence Betteridge from WPP who organised the brilliant event that inspired me to speak out.
"Let's change success being an outcome of who you know and where you have been but instead a result of who you are and what you can do"
#stellaignite #councilclass #socialmobility