Women’s rights have come a long way since the first International Women’s Day back in 1911 but there is still a way to go, especially as according to the World Economic Forum it is unlikely that gender parity will be attained within the next 100 years.
Women in business can be faced with challenges such as childcare, finding funding, sexism, fear of failure and a lack of mentors, which may explain why only one business in five in the UK is run by a woman. Recent reports have also suggested that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on gender equality e.g. the Fawcett Society highlighted that women were more likely than men to lose work and have been doing significantly more childcare.
I talked to Brianna Harvey founder of award-winning Digital Flamingo about some of the challenges that she has faced, the importance of empowering women and who her role models are. I started by asking Brianna about her journey so far….
1. Can you tell me a little about your career and how you got to where you are now?
I started my business with my laptop and dining room table!
I originally moved to the UK from the US to go to University here to study media, marketing and football (big football fan here!). I only came for a Bachelor’s Degree, but surprisingly ended up with two degrees and a husband…so I am still here!
But after university, despite doing all that I could to get experience while studying, finding a job was proving very difficult. My studies, although I looked a lot at sport, could be used towards basically any business wanting to connect to their audience, so I didn’t limit myself, yet it was so difficult. My neighbour knew about my studies and search for work. After a short chat, he gave me my first opportunity doing some work for his business as a freelancer. It was a small job, but probably my most important one as a business grew from that! He had faith in me and liked my work, and kept giving me more jobs that led me to think “Yea, I think this is something I can do!”
Since then, I have worked with businesses around the world on their digital presence, spoken at events, been recognised by renowned UK entrepreneurs, won awards, and continue to go from strength to strength. It’s definitely been quite a journey in these last five years!
2. Do you feel that you have faced any barriers as a woman in becoming successful in your field? If so, how did you overcome them?
The early days were a bit rough. Unfortunately, I felt that being a woman and new in the industry, it made a couple of early clients feel like they could talk down to me and demean my work and skills. They certainly didn’t talk to their male colleagues the way they talked to me. It made things very hard for me emotionally, feeling like I was never going to be good enough, and I wanted to quit. I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I persevered, and got new clients who appreciated me and my skills!
3. What do you see as some of the challenges facing women in digital marketing?
We’ve certainly come a long way in a once male-dominated world! And more young women than ever are going into marketing. Senior marketing roles are still dominated by men, and I truly think that will change in time.
There are several resources out there that suggests this is because women have focused on family and childcare and the senior roles haven’t been as flexible. Times are certainly changed though, especially in this last year alone, and flexible working has become the norm for so many now. I think this is going to pave the way for women not to feel the need to choose. We can have it all!
Unfortunately, the pay gap is still very real in the industry, as in so many others still. This is absolutely something that needs to be challenged.
4. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Days is #ChooseToChallenge – how do you think that we can challenge gender bias and inequality?
Never underestimate the power of speaking up. It is everyone’s responsibility – men & women – and all year long too, not just on 8th March.
I also see this as a reminder to challenge self-doubt. Women should know their worth and not settle for anything less! And when you challenge those negative thoughts and realise you’re totally amazing, then you have the confidence to speak out more.
5. I know that you are very keen to help others but how important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
There is something very empowering about women supporting women. It gives a certain special confidence boost knowing you have other women who believe in you and are cheering you on. One quote I love is “When women support each other, incredible things happen,” and I truly believe it in both a personal and business sense.
6. Which women inspire you or who are your female role models?
In a professional sense, I absolutely love Mari Smith, or the “Queen of Social Media” as she’s known in the industry. Not only is she out there making things happen while helping others, but she is confident, knowledgeable, kind and approachable. I just think she is fantastic.
I also am very lucky to have many women in my life, friends, family and peers, who have been inspiring to me one way or another, professionally or personally. Being surrounded by such strong women has really lifted me up to help me be where I am today and to keep going! From messages from my mom back home (who is probably my biggest cheerleader) to watching my friends going out there and smashing their own goals or overcoming something that has been difficult for them, it’s all inspiring!
7. What does success look like for you?
This was such a difficult question for me actually! I couldn’t pinpoint one thing that made me think “success”.
So I guess success is made up of so many different things for me – some seemingly small accomplishments compared to others, yet they’re all amazing and worth celebrating. Success includes going to bed knowing you motivated someone to keep going with their business when things were looking glum. It’s gaining that new client and you’re super excited to get to work with each other. It means being in a position to give back to the community and make a difference. It’s being asked to speak at an event because someone recognises you can inspire others and provide value to attendees. They all make up success to me!
8. What are your goals for the future?
Growth is the goal! I am so busy that actually working on the business itself is a struggle – but when I do, good things happen! But I can only do so much myself so growth is the only answer.
9. How do you maintain a good work-life balance and what do you do for self-care?
It is harder when working from home with the lines between work and life can be blurred, but I try to make it happen. It is so important to do so or you risk burnout real fast!
First of all, I set limits with work. Being self-employed (and working from home at that), it may seem easy to just keep working but it’s not a healthy habit. I make it clear to clients when my working hours are. And they totally respect that!
Then for self-care, I am that person with a face mask and a glass of wine! I also love a good box-set, book and nice walk. I do Zumba (virtually at the moment), and it’s a real mood-booster. In more normal times, I tend to have trips out with the husband or maybe an afternoon tea with friends. It’s always a good laugh and the digital detox that I need!
10. Finally, what advice would you have given to your younger self?
You’re stronger than you think! Know your worth and limits, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. And finally, it’s okay to say no – you don’t need to say yes to everything and stress yourself out to be successful.
Brianna Harvey is the founder of Digital Flamingo, providing tailored social media and content solutions which help businesses stand out in a busy digital world and "be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons". If you would like more information or a free no-obligation social media consultation then you can contact Brianna at firstname.lastname@example.org.