Open & Honest Culture at VCCP: Sian Richards, Head of Diversity and Inclusion

We’ve all got rich stories to tell and our perspective is unlike those of our male counterparts, so I believe it’s important we keep these stories alive.

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?

VCCP has a very inclusive, open and honest culture. Whilst we are inclusive, I do think it’s important to encourage female events and networks to ensure we are supported throughout our careers. It’s also important these events are open to men to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn and expand their understanding. I think the entrepreneurial spirit that exists within our agency has helped people develop these platforms quite organically and our honesty has allowed us to talk about the challenges faced as a woman in the world of work.

In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?

Well, the biggest change has to be more women on the board, more women in creative departments, more women in the room full stop. Whether that’s enough, whether the glass ceiling has truly been broken or whether it still exists in fragments, could be debated further. I don’t think we should ever rest on our laurels to presume that the job is done. We seem to be striving for a 50/50 split in gender to achieve equality, but what if we were to actually look to achieve 60/40 in favour of women to really smash through that ceiling?

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

As a society I think we still have work to do in supporting mothers returning to work. Flexible working can still be taboo to talk about, and we must ensure that those who leave to go on maternity leave and return to work are afforded equal opportunity. This is something we are really focussing on currently at VCCP.

 

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance? 

I really value time with my friends and family. They fuel my soul and are so important for maintaining a perspective in life, so I try to surround myself with them as much as possible. I also value my own time and space so alone time is very valuable. Reading books, going to galleries, gigs, talks and debates helps me disconnect from email and the immediacy of work and keep the balance just right. Finally, it’s important to accept when the balance skews. It happens and sometimes work does need to be given more time. I think it’s important to recognise this is okay from time to time, and not let it cloud your perspective. Investing more hours in work than my personal life has made me feel guilty in the past but I just don’t allow myself to feel like that anymore because actually I love my job and it makes me happy.

 

What professional achievement are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of my role as Head of Diversity and Inclusion that I have taken on alongside my day-to-day responsibilities. Not only because I have the opportunity to help to affect change in an agency I have grown up in and love, but also because I took a real leap suggesting to my seniors that this was a role I wanted to create and a conversation I wanted to be at the forefront of. I feel very proud and honoured that they saw my potential and backed me.

 

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special? ​​

I have had, and still do have, a few mentors that have been very important to my career development and where I am today. They have often been my immediate bosses, and when we have parted ways the relationship has continued quite naturally. I think it’s because I have gravitated towards inspiring female bosses and when I’ve found them, I’ve clung on to them for dear life. They have become friends and supported me in both my professional and personal life, which is something I have to say I haven’t found from my male bosses and which is perhaps why the relationship has felt more special. They’ve also been honest; when I’ve got it wrong or just needed a talking to, to inject more confidence in myself, they’ve been there. Shout out to Georgia Mahaffie and Suzie Roberts – I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!

 

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

Keep talking openly and honestly about our experiences. We’ve all got rich stories to tell and our perspective is unlike those of our male counterparts, so I believe it’s important we keep these stories alive. In order to do so we host events and develop networks where we inspire and hold up more women around us, which can only help keep the next generation inspired. I’ve also just become a mentor myself, through a fantastic scheme called the Creative Mentor Network. What Isabel and her team are doing for students from low-income backgrounds is SO important. I’m really looking forward to developing my relationship with my mentee and help her broaden her horizons in advertising. Mentoring and coaching is an extremely important aspect of supporting the next generation.