In 2011, she moved into the world of PR and set up Magenta Associates, the communications consultancy which specialises in the built environment. She now acts as the organisation’s chairman. Devastated and inspired in equal measure by the death of her parents in quick succession, Cathy wrote her debut novel The Girl in the Maze about the experience of mothering and being mothered. It’s out on 28th October in e-book and 25th November in paperback and can be purchased here. When she’s not writing, Cathy loves pottering in second-hand bookshops, hiking and wild camping. She lives in Brighton – sandwiched between the Downs and the sea – with her husband, three children, a Vizsla puppy and two rescue cats – one of whom thinks he’s a dog.
I’m chairman of Magenta Associates, the communications consultancy I founded in 2011 which specialises in the built environment. But I’m also an author – my debut novel The Girl in the Maze comes out in October which was inspired by the death of my mother in 2016.
I set up Magenta in spring 2011 to plug the gap between the big PR agencies, which have huge expertise but not always the in-depth knowledge of the clients and publications, and the one-man-bands who are brilliant with their clients and the journalists but often don’t have the necessary skills and bandwidth.
My Magenta role followed a fantastically-fun career in B2B journalism which included founding and editing FM World, now Facilitate, magazine, and writing for titles as diverse as Marketing Week, Charity Finance, Soccer Analyst, Port Strategy, Director, Supply Management and Unions Today.
I also do a fair bit of volunteering in the sector. I’m deputy chairman of the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management’s London region and head of the CoreNet UK Chapter’s events committee. I’m also chair of governors for a local primary school and have three children of my own – my eldest is off to university this autumn.
I grew up in the 1980s, the era of big shoulder pads. As a teenager, I wanted to be a boss in a big corner office wearing a huge power suit. But I also saw myself writing and couldn’t decide between the two careers. So without really thinking about it, I went into a career where I could combine both. Magazine publishing and then PR have allowed me to indulge my love of writing while also enjoy leading a team and running a business. I haven’t yet got the shoulder pads or the corner office though – unless you count the corner of my kitchen table!
Juggling three children, including one who didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours until she was 15 months old, with a demanding day job has been interesting at times. And what I’m realising now as the mother of teens is that children actually need you more as teenagers than they do as babies. Supporting my two daughters navigate these difficult years combined with lockdown has been challenging at times.
Undoubtedly getting a book publishing deal. I spent summer 2020 being rejected by what felt like every agent and publisher in London. When Agora Books got in touch in the November to say that they wanted to publish my debut novel The Girl in the Maze, it was like my childhood dream coming true. I just wish my parents could have been alive to see the book published.
Routine. I’m a morning person and have always done my best work in the early hours before the rest of the household gets up. In the first Covid lockdown, I read The 5am Club by Robin Sharma and got in the routine of rising at 5am. It was the success factor in me finishing my first novel. I now get up at 5am every weekday and write until 7.15am, then get the kids up and get on with my day job. By sticking to a strict routine, I manage to fit in everything I want to. But it definitely takes discipline – and a 6am double espresso!
I’m a massive fan of mentoring. I’ve been fortunate enough to both be a mentor and mentee and get equal joy and benefit from both. It’s wonderful to be able to pass on advice to someone earlier in their career and really rewarding to see them grow and develop and far outstrip me. I was mentored by a more experienced female colleague when I took on my first board position in 2009, and valued the chance to ask the stupid questions in a safe space! I’m currently being coached by Anne Lennox-Martin, a senior professional in the facilities management industry, who is helping me to plot out what the next stage of my career looks like. Everyone should grab the opportunity to sit back and reflect on current challenges and future opportunities.
I think Covid will have a lasting, positive effect on gender equality. It will make flexible working less about working mothers and more about a general life choice that people at all stages of their career make. That said, I think people in senior roles need to work harder to create more diverse organisations. We all have an innate tendency to recruit in our own image and it takes conscious effort to recruit differently. I was listening recently to Deborah Frances-White, the creator of The Guilty Feminist podcast, and she takes it a step further. She talks about the difference between being included and belonging. Leaders need not just to include women in their organisations but make them feel like they belong by making them visible and publicly seeking their counsel. We can all make a difference.
Can I give myself two pieces of advice? Firstly, that it’s possible to balance running a profitable business and creating a supportive environment for employees and contributing positively to society. Profit isn’t a dirty word.
Secondly, to start writing earlier. It took me to reach 40 to feel that I had something to say.
I’m currently working on my third novel, which again explores a different aspect of motherhood – this time post-natal depression – which will come out in 2023. Within Magenta, we’re moving towards becoming a certified B Corporation, an organisation which balances purpose and profit. Longer-term, we’d like to become a social enterprise. I feel we’ve succeeded in creating an organisation that people want to work for and social enterprise status feels the natural next stage.
Cathy Hayward’s debut novel The Girl in the Maze is out on 28th October in e-book and 25th November in paperback and can be purchased here. You can find out more about Cathy on her website www.cathyhayward.co.uk or connect with her on social: