James Street is Co-Founder of Whalar.
Whalar is an influencer marketing platform that is on a mission to liberate the creative voice. They work with thousands of the best ‘creators with influence’ in the world to produce beautiful and engaging content for brands such as UNICEF, Adidas, La Mer and Apple.
Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have you witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?
I established Whalar in 2016 alongside my co-founder Neil Waller. We went from one female dominated industry to another, first starting out travel, then fashion and going on to win a week on Necker Island with Richard Branson as part of a Shopify business competition. The upshot was that we realised that influencer marketing was something that brands were really struggling with, and so we developed our own platform of influencers. It’s like a bridge between brands and influencers, and the brilliant thing is that everyone with creativity and vision has the ability to be an influencer. Women in particular make strong influencers as they not only have huge creativity but they also have other qualities like empathy and understanding that help them to really engage with their audience. 60% of the creators with influence on our platform are women, and women are a driving force within the company through to board level. Having this diversity greatly contributes to the success of Whalar.
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
Gender equality makes for better workplaces, and it also makes for better products and experiences. Around half of the people in the world are female, and when these female consumers are in the marketplace, they instinctively look to brands that understand them intuitively. It’s not about token policies or appointments but about creating from a place of true understanding. We’re at a pivotal juncture in the gender equality debate and as a tech platform, Whalar are right at the heart of it. Technology has enabled Whalar to create the influencer platform that women have adopted so wholeheartedly, and I believe this is just the beginning of a new wave of opportunity for women.
How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?
It really comes down to what they have to say, and if they are saying something of benefit and actually making efforts to develop gender equality within their own organisations. For Neil and myself, our experience has only ever been in these female centric industries and perhaps instinctively when we came to set up Whalar it is something that has filtered through into how we do things, like our all-female London office.
Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?
Men might take the ‘head in the sand’ approach with female focused groups but the same could be said of female focused industries or the gender equality debate overall. If they don’t get involved, then they stand to sacrifice staff productivity, wellbeing and ultimately business success. It’s up to men to contribute something of value.
What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
It comes down to the company culture. When we developed Whalar gender equality was a given, it’s woven into the fabric of the organisation and of the industry itself and this makes it into something of a non-issue. Gender equality is a given here, and everyone is encouraged to share their opinions and ideas. What we’ve shown with Whalar so far is that gender equality means better outcomes for organisations, for staff and for customers too.
Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?
Yes, there are a number of female staff that I mentor including Chelsea Carter, our Head of Content who started at Whalar as a freelance copywriter, Lauren Sherry, who is setting up our in house influencer management service, and Emily Sharp, our new Content Manager. This is just a small sample of the many amazing women working at Whalar.
Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?
Not really, we have a level playing field at Whalar and we’ve found that women are more than ready and willing to step up for opportunities and really make their mark.