By Harriet Gisbourne, Group Account Director at KVA
‘Oh so you’re Harriet?!…You’re younger than I expected!’
This is an all too common reaction among our long distance clients after meeting me face-to face for the first time after months of online discourse.
It continues to surprise me – these preconceived notions that our male-dominated industry has about women – especially young women. While we work with many incredible clients who value equality, it appears that we’re still experiencing prejudice in 2019!
As the Group Account Director, one of my responsibilities is to drive growth at KVA (digital and brand experience agency) alongside the truly inspirational and forward-thinking Managing Director, Kelly Allison. We have successfully more than doubled our revenue year on year for the last three years.
In just three years I’m proud to say that we have expanded from just three people to 33, delivering successful, stand-out projects globally. Applying a creative, strategic approach to position our clients as innovators with a focus on solving business needs and maximising ROI.
With myself and Kelly both being modern, young, women, we have had a mission from the outset to lead the way in a male dominated industry. We constantly push for excellence and equality and we’re not afraid of challenging current ways of thinking, both internally and among clients. As they say, fortune favours the bold.
Internally, this involves taking an egalitarian approach towards managing staff, ensuring that equality is engraved into KVA as a core company value. Everyone who works for us is treated with respect and equality – whether you’re a junior exec or a director, your voice will be heard and valued. This approach can take some people by surprise as they are previously use to a ‘them and us’ culture, which couldn’t be further from reality at KVA. In our standard three month reviews for all new employees, it’s incredible to continuously receive feedback that the support and culture of KVA is like nothing they have experienced before. I believe this has proven to support and enable the growth of each individual to thrive. Therefore providing confidence that no matter your gender, age etc, it is your ability, hard work, skill and dedication that enables you and us, as an agency, to succeed. Recognition is paramount and ‘Thank yous’ include company trips to St Lucia and Spa days to name just a few. It is the team that make a company, and this is never forgotten.
People aren’t used to our mentality and ‘giving back’ way of working, however it’s this challenging of the norm that enables us to set a new standard of employment with a firm focus on equality and respect.
In terms of our clients, we strive to exceed the industry standard and consistently push for better. Whether this is the creation of a R&D world first, the utilisation of MX, VR, AR or holograms, or developing revolutionary platforms, systems, websites or apps. We utilise artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data and Systems Architecture to maximise efficiency and consistently evolve our client’s strategies by thinking outside the box to creatively broaden the horizon.
When clients have experienced our expertise, we often don’t encounter preconception challenges. It is when initially meeting with clients or potential clients that we experience prejudgement as young women.
We often find ourselves in meetings with large blue chip brands where we’re the only two women in the room of hundreds of people (you wouldn’t believe we are 50 per cent of the population!) It has somewhat become amusing to us over the years, walking into a board room and looking at individuals initial Impressions. Then watching this change completely as soon as we start talking and sharing our expertise.
I was discussing this issue with a client recently, a true leader in her field and it seems that, despite our experience, expertise and knowledge, women constantly have to prove themselves before they’re treated on an equal footing.
Madeline Albright once said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” and I believe that one action we can take is to support other women. At KVA, this is part of our innate being and what is exciting is that society is evolving, improving and changing and we’re the ones with a part to play in enabling this to happen. While some prejudice is perhaps inevitable, we have the power to make a difference and together we can enjoy leading the way to a new era.
About the author
Harriet Gisbourne is Group Account Director at digital comms and brand experience agency KVA. With a firm focus on innovation through investment in its own R&D lab, KVA offers cutting-edge, first to market, relevant technology solutions that secures ROI for clients. A true digital native, Harriet manages B2B and B2C digital comms and brand experience executions with the aim of leading her clients to be digital innovators whilst exceeding their business objectives. She is driven by pushing boundaries and providing limitless energy to create stand-out data driven solutions