SheSays is an award-winning organization running free mentorship and events to women in the creative industry. Why? Because they want to see more women at the top. The inspiring community focuses on the engagement, education and advancement of women in the creative industries. Founded in 2007, they have presence in 50 cities around the world with an estimated 45,000 members.
In our latest version of Down + Dirty, we chat to Fabiana Xavier, London President of SheSays and Creative Director + Marketing Head at Connectt to find out about the importance of networking, hobbies outside of work and speaking up.
Marketing Island: SheSays events are very inspiring and provide a place for women to come together, learn and network. The community attracts women from cities across the globe, but how important is it that men get involved with SheSays and advocate what the community stands for?
Fabiana: It’s important that men get behind what we stand for which is, as you rightly put it, to help empower women to get to the top of creative businesses. It’s even more important that men get involved in the process of empowering women and give women opportunities to thrive; as well as understand how a more equalitarian workplace will benefit them and achieve business growth.
Marketing Island: We hear this question come up again and again, but it seems women are still seeking a balanced solution. What piece of advice would you give to someone finding it difficult to raise gender-based issues in the workplace at the risk of feeling they may be perceived as, for want of a better word, a ‘winging feminist’.
Fabiana: I tend to feel that this is a three-fold answer:
Be polite, assertive and raise the issue regardless of the risk of being labelled a ‘winging feminist’. You might discover more women will back you up. And having to put up with gender-biased issues is probably worse than being tagged with short-term labels.
Secondly, I’d seek advice from a mentor (ideally within the business so they know the way around) or an external mentor or a paid executive coach who specialises in diversity and inclusion challenges. It’s a question of doing some research.
Finally, and recognising this is never ‘black and white’, if it’s a well-established culture, that is struggling to change itself there is no point in becoming even more frustrated. In this situation if they find it difficult to raise gender based issues even with the support noted in point two, the workplace is probably not the best one for them. We have to accept that for some people, some of the time, it maybe more productive to find another job where they can address those issues openly – or better still - they don’t exist.
Marketing Island: SheSays events can often be used as a networking opportunity, how important is this for females in the creative industry and what top tip would you give to people who struggle or shy away from networking?
Fabiana: Networking is important in business and for us as individuals in life generally.
In my experience, men have more opportunities to network informally than women. For example, they get invited to the pub and to sporting events more often. In these occasions, they have the chance to network and build business relationships that can propel their career forward.
One of the objectives of our events in London is to give women this opportunity to build business relationships with other women who could help them progress in their career, directly or indirectly. As Dame Cilla Snowball says ‘Business is relationships’! Therefore we encourage this wholeheartedly.
The best tip is to prepare for it as well as you would for any other business/career-related task. Look up the speakers, the organisation behind the event, etc then use them as open liners to start a conversation with someone you want to connect with or someone new. And remember to follow up on every connection you made.
Yes, everyone! You never know where good opportunities will come from.
Marketing Island: As well as being President of SheSays LDN, you are also Creative Director at Connectt. As a Creative what advice would you give to those in traditionally less creative departments who still want to be involved in creative communities, in and outside of the workplace? And, how’s the best way to get your ideas heard at work?
Fabiana: I’d recommend the D&AD courses. They have short-courses, workshops and boot camps to get you up to speed with the creative world. The tutors usually work in agencies or studios and have a very practical approach. I’ve heard good things about the City Lit courses as well.
Joining networks like SheSays and going to events like Good Girls Eat Dinner is also good as you get to meet other people with similar interests and pick their brains on how to develop your career.
Like anything you want to get into, the best thing is to start, it’s to get involved.
The best way to get your ideas heard is to speak up! It sounds obvious but most people don’t. They spend time looking for the best ways to do it when they should be doing it. It’s that simple.
The second best way to get them heard is to think about the consumer, the person you’re telling your ideas to. Think about what’s the most effective way to grab their attention and highlight how your ideas can benefit them. Look up ‘personality types in the workplace’ and develop your approach accordingly.
Marketing Island: Alongside being Creative Director at Connectt and President of SheSays LDN, you also get involved with stand up comedy. How did this first come about and how important is it to have a side hustle and hobbies outside of work?
Fabiana: Stand-up is the best hobby I’ve ever had. I used to do a lot of drama at school and have always been keen on comedy. In 2014 I went to the Edinburg festival as a punter and got inspired to learn more. I joined a 6 weeks course around the corner from where I live in Shoreditch and got hooked straight away. Writing and performing comedy in the open mic circuit in London is a great hobby. It’s a buzzy scene with loads of places to gig. And you also meet loads of interesting people. There are no strings attached, I can do it when I have time, as much and as little as I wish.
I find having a hobby a great way to add perspective to life.
When you have a demanding job, it’s easy to get bogged down by the pressures of work. Having a hobby allows me to step back and see the problems for what they truly are. And respond to them in a more measured, realistic way.
Interested to know more? You can follow SheSays on Instagram here and Fabiana's portfolio here.
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