This International Women’s Day, EVCOM and HBAA have come together to create a programme of content including virtual events and written articles. We begin this programme today with an interview with EVCOM’s very own board chair, and owner of events agency Pure Communications Group. She speaks to us about work/life balance, being a role model for her team and the importance of believing in your voice and your cause.
The events industry, unlike so many others, is a female dominated industry. But despite this there is still a lack of women at the highest level. Why do you think this is? What stops women taking that extra step or what blocks are in the way?
I think that our industry is an extremely stressful one and one which often requires a lot of travel. It becomes harder to balance work/life balance when women have children and they often stop at a Senior Project Manager level or Ops Director and then don’t get any further. I think that agencies run by men, don’t put many women in the C suite as they know the family balance is coming round the corner. Our industry is largely run by women but owned by men and some agencies which are owned by women become lifestyle businesses rather than leading businesses in the industry. The ones which are industry leading and owned by women are few and far between.
Where do you think the events industry is at in terms of gender equality and how can we work towards absolute equality?
I think that we still have a long way to go in this area. I think that more systems need to be put in place to enable women to be able to juggle home and work life and now with flexible home working being the norm, this might change things enormously.
Why do you think it is so important to have woman represented in business, and to celebrate that representation?
It creates an entirely different perspective to business, women and men have different strengths and weaknesses and it is important to have a mixture of both. There are challenges in many situations where men don’t handle working for strong female bosses and this is a hard dynamic to overcome.
You founded your own company, Pure Communications Group, in 2006. What inspired you to set up your own business and what did you learn from the process? And what might you do differently if you had the chance to start again?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs so it was in my blood to set up my own business from a young age. My parents are very inspiring people and have both been immensely successful in their own rights. My mother especially is a very strong woman and I think its important to bring up your children to believe that they can achieve and do anything if they put their mind to it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have fast tracked my personal journey, but being prepared to have the right people to give you advice who are ‘better’ than you is the key. My strength is strategy, sales and marketing, and I know that my team are much better placed than me to execute virtual, hybrid and live events, so I discuss the strategy with clients and they execute.
As an entrepreneurial woman, what challenges have you faced through your career so far and how have you overcome them?
I went through the 2007/8 recession and managed to survive and learnt some invaluable lessons then, and during this pandemic have had to adapt, evolve and become an ‘inspirer’ to people who are struggling. Both of these situations have been huge challenges. During this current situation, I have also had a baby, and only took 2 weeks off and was emailing on the way to the hospital to have my c section and was working again within 2 weeks of coming out. You have to do what you have to do when the chips are down and be the role model for your team. If I don’t set the right example how can I expect my team to work hard, feel motivated and be committed to my business.
Do you think the difficulties of the last 12 months will have a negative impact on the number of women starting their own businesses or reaching board level in companies?
No, but I think it will just slow down the rise of new businesses appearing as it will take a while to come out of this economic crisis. Although there are some grants available and within crisis there is also opportunity, I think that quite a few people may feel its too hard at the moment. I have noticed that a few female owned agencies have recently been bought by male owned agencies which is interesting.
What have you learnt, both as a Board Chair and a business owner, and what advice would you offer to young aspiring people in the industry?
I have learnt that you can push yourself to do anything if you believe in your voice and your cause. I am quite a controversial person but I see that as a positive as someone who is willing to challenge people and question things. I think that is why our clients enjoy working with us, because they know I will push the boundaries for them. I love being the Chair of EVCOM because I’ve met some very inspiring people (men and women) in film and live. I love hearing the variety of perspectives at board meetings and hoping I make a difference to the debate. I would say to any young woman, keep pushing the boundaries, don’t sit in your comfort zone, get a mentor and believe in your capabilities. There is so much chat about anxiety and lack of self confidence these days, with the right tools you can achieve anything and when you do, you will feel like ‘Queen of the world.’