It’s harder to evolve as a company and an industry if you are surrounded by people just like you; diversity means a wider spectrum of ideas, experiences and skills and it makes the industry a more welcoming place for everyone interested in a career in print.
On a Girls Who Print panel in The Printerverse last year, female leaders from across the industry shared insights from their experiences in print. The panel was made up of Jillian Ramos of HP, Tonya Powers from Canon Solutions America, Heather Poulin from Ricoh, Erica Switzer of DirectMail2.0 and of course moderated by Deborah. Despite a variety of paths leading them into the industry and along their careers, as ambitious and driven women in a traditionally male-dominated space, it was interesting to hear some common themes in their comments.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
This piece of advice came up several times, and it’s a very weighty issue when it comes to women in the workplace. Some research suggests women are more prone to ‘imposter syndrome’ than men, which can play in part in making us doubt our abilities and can hold us back from taking risks. There’s the notion that men can ‘fail up’, but if a woman is in charge of something and she fails, it’s somehow connected to gender. Whether or not you agree with that statement, it can be a feeling that’s ingrained in women after centuries of being told what we can and can’t do, legally and otherwise. The panelists appreciate that it can be more of a challenge for women, but also list it as one of their top attributes when looking for someone to join their team.
Great mentors are crucial.
Mentorship is so important when it comes to finding your place in the industry. As Erica says, ‘If you are intimidated, look for those women in this industry who are standing on their own two feet, because we will grab your hand and lift you up and show you the ropes.’ It’s wonderful to have so many women supporting other women in the industry as there’s that shared perspective on many aspects, but a mentor can be anyone that empowers you in your role and helps you to make your own decisions and progress in your career. Tonya shared her experiences of finding there to be ‘a lot of people who care in this industry’, so remember that you don’t need to navigate your way in print all by yourself.
Progression is happening, but we can do more.
Whether it’s creating more of a buzz in associations, different groups that promote diversity being created and becoming more prominent, encouraging women into director leadership programmes, reaching out to young women and asking what they need from the industry, working with your agencies and customers to make sure they are working to match your high standards for women in key roles – there are incredible steps being taken. But what more can we do? Think about your role and your organisation, and how you might be able to continue the dialogue and do more for women in print.
Karis Copp is a UK-based writer, journalist and communications expert. With a background as an editor and public relations specialist in the print industry, she now works on a freelance basis covering events, writing on industry news and trends, and working with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppWrites.