NDA’s Digital Women series is talking to leaders from across our industry to understand the particular challenges, and opportunities faced by women. Next up is Charlie Ryder, Creative Production Director, Motion and Tech at creative agency ELVIS.
What is the biggest opportunity for women in your sector of the digital industry today?
In digital production, one of the biggest opportunities for women is provided by their ability to bring a different perspective to creative problem-solving. Everyone’s lived experiences are unique and it’s these amazing and varied perspectives that enrich our creative ideas. At ELVIS, as creative thinkers we constantly aim to create unexpected and unforgettable work.
Women are able to draw on a unique set of life experiences that should be celebrated and channelled into creativity, rather than deemed experiences that are ‘separate’ to work and often considered reasons for holding women back in the workplace.
What is the biggest challenge to you as a woman in the digital industry and how are you overcoming it?
From my perspective, it’s about women having a voice and being respected and listened to when they use it. This requires working in an environment where women feel psychologically safe to speak up and are able to see other women doing so with success. At ELVIS, our CEO and MD are both female and we have a balanced ratio of women and men in our senior management team, which helps women in our agency feel confident and supported.
In our industry and at work in general, women are often viewed differently to their male colleagues when it comes to things like demonstrating self-confidence, self-promotion and conversely failure. This becomes all the more important for women of colour or women who have other factors which may disadvantage them, such as their sexuality or class.
For me personally, it’s about working in a supportive and flexible environment where women are properly represented at a senior management level and helping to install a growth mindset approach to my own work and my team, where we all learn from each other.
What three things could employers at companies do to make the digital industry better for women?
Be flexible – ranging from working hours, remote working to interviewing more female applicants, even if they have differing employment backgrounds to their male counterparts.
Be relevant – At ELVIS we have policies that support female employees with breastfeeding, parental leave, menopause and much more. We also ensure there is relevant training available for all employees (such as the IPA’s Diversity and Inclusion Essentials Certificate) so that team members and line managers can discuss these matters openly and sensitively.
Belonging – In order for the above two things to really work in practice, employers need to create an environment of belonging for women, so that they do not feel they are the exception to the rule. For example, female employees need to see women in senior leadership roles at their own agency.
What support structures and organisations are most important and effective to you as a woman in the digital industry?
At ELVIS, being part of an inclusive senior management team is key, as is working with my colleagues to ensure we keep striving for even more diversity at all levels within the business.
I am also a member of the Elevate mentoring network where I met my now Mentor, Evie, who is a female leader in my wider industry, but outside of the sector I work in. I really value the advice she gives me; as she’s not close to the detail of what I do, she often provides me with a totally different perspective to that of my colleagues, friends and family, which is hugely valuable.
Something I came to realise recently though is that it’s just as important to sponsor women in the industry as it is to mentor them, particularly when people are starting out in junior roles. For me, that means actively putting other women forward in the workplace, helping people that reach out to me for careers advice and fostering introductions between peers in my professional network.
What is the biggest misconception about women and by women in the digital industry?
Not unlike one of the misconceptions around men in digital, people often assume you’re either in your 20s and constantly on TikTok or you’re a recluse who is coding 24/7.
The personalities, ages and experience of those working in digital are just as varied as the discipline itself. Roles can be technical and creative; focused on project management or a combination of these things.
For me personally, I’ve studied Marketing Communications at uni and set up my own ecommerce business. But whilst I do occasionally draw on this experience in my work, more often I’m utilising the experience I’ve gained outside of digital, working in client service and event production as examples. Essentially, working in digital production is about being inquisitive, being meticulous, enjoying working with others and learning new things.