10 Mar 2023
I’m Gemma Greaves, the founder of Cabal, a handpicked private members club and co-founder of Nurture, where we connect the dots between people’s ideas and experiences – both businesses built around my core belief that if you bring good people together, good stuff happens. Prior to that, I was the chief executive of The Marketing Society, where I led their global expansion and the brave agenda. But most importantly I am Mum to Joshie, my curious and brilliant seven-year-old. Oh, and I am now the very proud host of my new podcast, Are You Sitting Uncomfortably? https://areyousittinguncomfortably.lnk.to/podcastGG
I’ve had a long career in a fantastic industry, of course, it’s not been without its challenges, but I think that helps you grow as a person. Honestly, I haven’t had any experiences where my gender has held me back, I don’t think I ever considered that as a woman I wouldn’t get the same opportunities as a man but that’s largely down to always having the attitude that wherever I am, I want to be the best and most successful I can be and exceed all expectations. When people have doubted me purely because I am a woman, I’ve just ignored it and let it fuel me.
When I became the first female President of the Solus club, which in its 90-year history hadn’t admitted women members, it was probably the first time that I was acutely aware I was a woman in a man’s ‘environment’. And to top it off I was also their youngest-ever president and nine months pregnant! I knew there was a huge amount of support for me in the industry taking the position and helping to drive change, of course, there were also the traditionalists who let’s say were a little judgemental. For me, that pushed me more to not let the naysayers get in the way. It drove me to make sure I was even more successful in the role and not let anyone hold me back.
I’ve witnessed a huge number of challenges with equity which I have been able to start surfacing on my new podcast which is designed to talk about the difficult conversations that we tend to avoid because we don’t want to say anything inappropriate or have those challenging conversations. For me, it’s important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and share our stories, where we can address the stigmas and taboos and together start to drive change.
Take Sophie Morgan who was on my launch episode, she is a TV presenter and disability activist who uses her platform to evidence the daily obstacles of living in an ableist and non-equitable society.
I think we must recognise that it isn’t a case of one size fits all, we need to create spaces where people feel that they can absolutely be themselves and show vulnerability, because it’s when you are your whole true self that its where you will be your best self. One of my favourite sayings, is ‘be you, so others can be them’. Leaders need to recognise the need to create psychological safety and put their people first above everything else. Which means understanding who everyone is, and that we’re all different and have diverse backgrounds which is a great thing. We can all bring unique abilities and diverse perspectives to the table, and I think it’s when we recognise and embrace it, the magic happens.
If I think about everything that was unearthed with Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, I am acutely aware that I can’t possibly know how that felt as a black person because I don’t and will never have that lived experience but what I do know is that I want to be part of the change. As leaders we have the responsibility to admit that we don’t have all the answers, but we do have platforms to have these conversations so together we can learn, address what matters and equip ourselves and those around us so we can be better.
I guess this is twofold. Spearheading the brave agenda at The Marketing Society which became a global conversation to address important topics that are often considered taboos and ultimately encouraged us as an industry to be braver and produce more meaningful work that pushed boundaries. Which as marketers I think we have a responsibility to do, being the voice of the customer.
And my other biggest achievement is starting Nurture with Dan, my wonderful business partner right in the middle of the pandemic. We are building a meaningful business where we get to lead incredible projects to supercharge people and organisations and have a bigger impact.
The number one piece of advice I would give to anyone reading this is to be YOU and not let anyone or anything try to make you someone you’re not. Also, seize every opportunity (however big or small) and find mentors and role models that you can learn from and inspire you to grow and want to do more.
There is a brilliant quote by Theodore Roosevelt, ‘The man in the arena’ that literally guides me daily. I choose to stand in the arena, which is never going to be easy, but I would rather fail by being daring than be the critics on the outside who never try. So, I would encourage anyone reading this to stand in the arena, be accountable and take ownership. And together know we can be the change and let’s create a more equitable society we can all be proud of.
– Gemma Greaves, Founder of Cabel and Co-Founder of Nuture
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