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International Women’s Day 2019: What’s more important than balance is equality

International Women’s Day 2019: What’s more important than balance is equality

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance for Better which of course makes perfect sense. It’s what we’re all striving for and although we’ve come a long way in the last 12 months, there’s still a huge amount to be achieved.

So, if this year is all about balance it got us thinking about where that left us at Stripe. You see, our workforce is 80% female and although we have a 50/50 Executive Board, our Management Board in Scotland is 100% female. Does this mean we’re in the wrong? Should we be beating ourselves up for not having more men in our business? Some would say yes, that we’re creating an environment which is positively discriminating in favour of women.

I disagree. Balance is important, but what’s much more important is creating a level playing field for every one of our team to fulfil their ambitions regardless of their gender. What’s more important than balance is equality.

We didn’t start out to create a female led business but when two thirds of people employed in our profession are female, Stripe isn’t unusual. However with only 30% of women making it to Board level, this is an area where I’m proud we lead the way.  Whilst we’re far from perfect, we’ve learnt that the key to retaining senior women isn’t about HR policies, it’s about culture. Management teams need to create an environment where all staff are supported to have a flexible working day where they can be there for family when it matters and that their career won’t suffer as a result.

I also believe if you have female leadership in a business it sets the tone and positively impacts how women are recruited, promoted and retained. This is why it’s so critically important that women are equally represented at Board level, because without that cultural shift at the top nothing will ever change.

At Stripe our culture is everything. It’s not driven by gender but is dictated by the common values that we all share. Our values are universal, but emotional intelligence plays a large part in our decision making. We treat our people as human beings rather than employees – recognising that what goes on outside of work can hugely impact their performance in the office.

Don’t get me wrong we combine this approach with a good dose of commerciality. Last year we had our most successful year and grew by 35%. That doesn’t come without a huge amount of hard work, personal sacrifices and not being afraid to make tough decisions when we need to.

Over the years we’ve kept our heads down and worked hard, rarely taking time to stop and recognise what we’ve achieved. But when we thought about this we realised we weren’t just doing a disservice to ourselves and our people, we were neglecting the fact that we have an important role to play on International Women’s Day.

And that role is to inspire. No one should have to work in an environment where they aren’t treated with respect or where there isn’t an equal playing field and people need to vote with the their feet if that’s happening to them. By telling our story we hope to inspire all future leaders to build businesses where the only thing that defines you is your talent and your values.

So, this year we are standing up and are proud to be who we are and of what we’ve achieved. We may not have perfect balance, but we will always strive for equality and surely that’s what’s important.

Tackling the challenges of gender inequality through listening and empowering

Tackling the challenges of gender inequality through listening and empowering

Today the Marketing Society Scotland called for the industry to commit to building an equal and thriving community after new research found the sector to be rife with inequality and gender discrimination.  The research makes some stark reading but am I surprised? Sadly, no I’m not.

For me, Mind the Gap started a year ago when I joined a group of members to see if we could get something off the ground which would help us understand the issues relating to the retention of women and devise a plan to raise awareness and make a difference. I don’t think we ever imagined that we would be where we are today.  Whilst the state of equality in our industry is not something to be proud of, we are at least admitting there’s a problem. There’s no hiding from the fact that almost half (48%) of women in the marketing community in Scotland have either definitely or possibly experienced gender related discrimination compared to 16% of men.

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I feel incredibly proud of the Society’s openness to accepting where we are and more importantly, supporting a proactive plan of action to drive significant change.

In my career, I feel very lucky that I’ve always worked in environments where my gender has never been a barrier.  Sure, there are countless things that have been said or done which have been inappropriate or crossed the line, and rightly or wrong I’ve always just accepted that’s part of being a woman, but much more importantly I never let it distract from what I needed to do.  You see, regardless of what’s said or done I truly believe I am equal and as we know, lacking self-confidence is one of the greatest barriers to women’s success.

At Stripe this is an issue close to our hearts.  Like the rest of our profession the majority of our team are female. Whilst our Board is 50/50, our leadership team in Scotland is entirely female.  For us however, this is not about gender, it’s about culture.  We believe if we put our people at the heart of every business decision, we will create an environment where they are motivated to deliver great work and the business will succeed. When you run a small business, you experience the full spectrum of life’s ups and downs and we recognise that what’s going on for people out of work impacts the role they play in the business.  In the last five years 25% of our team and 90% of senior management have taken time off to have children. When faced with this challenge rather than viewing it as a problem we decided to treat it as an opportunity.  We set out to champion flexible working and the retention of women, so that first and foremost we could retain our talent, whilst hopefully setting an example for others.

I recognise that the Stripe culture and approach is unique. It isn’t just about a policy in a handbook, it works because our leadership team get it. There’s an unspoken understanding that it’s hard to balance everything, that you’re constantly making choices about what to prioritise and that sometimes you just need to be somewhere else. I believe more than anything it is our culture that helps women thrive. We listen and support, but we also try to inspire them to have the confidence to fulfil their potential, which from my experience is more important than anything. That said this is a business and it isn’t a one-way street. In return, we ask for their continued commitment and drive to help the business fulfil its potential too.

I’m not going to lie, we haven’t always got it right and we’re constantly learning, but we’re fully committed to creating an environment where all our staff regardless of their gender can balance their home and working lives and continue to have a successful career.

Quite honestly I don’t understand why any business would not want to help every individual fulfil their potential, so enough now. Let’s close the gap.

To find out more and pledge visit:  www.mindthegapscotland.co.uk

A new Stripe force in London

A new Stripe force in London

It’s official… We’re excited to announce the opening of our new London office and the appointment of Chris Stevenson as our London MD.

Chris joins us from Emanate and over his career has worked with some of the most respected agencies and exciting brands to deliver PR, digital and communications strategies for clients across consumer tech, entertainment, FMCG and sports. He brings his expertise and innovative thinking to lead the business and nurture and grow our reputation in London.

But that’s not all we’ve been up to, as we continue to develop our strategic, creative and digital offering. We’re excited to announce that we have three further new senior players to add to our team.

Anna Russell, former General Manager, Brand Marketing at Audi of America has joined us as Director of Strategy. Anna will be expanding Stripe’s strategic and creative services and continuing the digital evolution of the agency.

Lesley Morton was part of the original start-up team at Stripe and returns as Head of Brand Entertainment. For the last four years she has been working on global brand campaigns and brings communication specialisms across music, arts, film & TV from her previous role as head of the Music & Entertainment team at CSM Sport & Entertainment.

And last but not least, we announce Hilary Joiner as our new Creative Director. With 20 years’ experience in both traditional and digital arenas, Hilary will be responsible for developing and delivering Stripe’s creative capabilities and ensuring that great ideas continue to be a part of our DNA.

We’re kicking off 2016 as we mean to go on. It’s our tenth year and we’re as ambitious now as we’ve ever been. The demand from our clients for integrated communications continues to grow and at Stripe we’re committed to innovating and differentiating our business.

Watch this space…

What being Agency Employer Brand of The Year means at Stripe

What being Agency Employer Brand of The Year means at Stripe

Thursday night at the Marketing Society’s St Andrews Day dinner, we were awarded Agency Employer Brand of the Year. It’s fair to say we’re no stranger to winning awards for our work, but to be recognised for the way we treat our people was pretty special and here’s why.

When we set up Stripe we had an ambition beyond doing great work for our clients and that was to create an agency that genuinely put people first. In a business where your product is your people, it’s ridiculous to have to say it, but all too often agencies are driven by nothing but the bottom line. In my opinion that’s back to front. At Stripe, we believe happy people = great work = happy clients. This philosophy hasn’t just been good for our people, it’s also been good for business. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve achieved year on year double digit growth and consistently exceeded our targets.

That said, when you run a small business, making a commitment to your people isn’t easy and the investment in time is huge. We don’t have the luxury of an HR department, so it’s down to our leadership team to define and deliver our people strategy day in day out. In many ways I believe this is why we’ve succeeded – everyone owns it and everyone delivers it.

Ultimately our people are our brand. ‘The Stripes’ as they call themselves define our culture and we try to let them own it as much as possible. Beyond that our philosophy is simple – it’s about supporting people to be the best that they can be. We do that through all the usual stuff like regular and consistent communication, providing forums for two way feedback, coaching, training, flexible working, reward and recognition. More importantly, it’s about giving people opportunities, empowering them and pushing them to realise their potential. But we also recognise that employees are real people beyond the doors of Stripe and we try to help them balance their lives with work as best we can.

This isn’t always easy and I’ll be honest, sometimes we don’t get it right, we are human after all. We do however take our responsibility to our people seriously. When the life of every individual is so precious, surely every business has a responsibility to do that?

Say hello to a new look Stripe

Say hello to a new look Stripe

When you first start up a business, it’s amazing how much time you spend agonising over the name, creating the perfect identity and defining your brand. And whilst your external image is hugely important, you very quickly realise that it’s the people you employ and the work you do that defines you. Because brands are lived from the inside out, not the outside in.

In the nine years since we started up Stripe a huge amount has changed, not just for us as a business but to the market in which we’re operating. We’ve not only survived, but thrived during a recession, we’ve experienced phenomenal growth, won countless awards and have supported our people to grow and develop.

It’s not always been easy, but despite all the change we’ve always had a very strong sense of what it means to be Stripey both for our people and for our clients. This has been our constant and I believe it’s what’s kept us on track.

As we look towards the future, Stripe is undeniably evolving. With the worlds of traditional PR and digital blurring, we’ve made a huge investment upskilling the entire agency to become digitally equipped – providing clients with one team to deliver compelling content and engagement across their PR and digital channels. We are no longer a team of PR professionals, we are a team of digitally savvy communicators.

So now feels like the perfect time to unveil a new Stripe brand. It’s been shaped by our values, our culture and heroes what we believe sets us apart – our people. And whilst on the outside the way we look is very different, the essence of what it means to be Stripey remains the same.

As we look towards the future there’s no doubt that there’s even more change to come but we’re absolutely ready for it.