As part of our support for International Women’s Day “Choose to Challenge”, we invited women in leadership to discuss their views on gender inequality and related issues. Besides talking to some of our own female leaders, we’ve also sought the views of inspiring women from other businesses. For this #IWD2021 Ringside, we caught up with Carol Whitworth, founder and CEO of employee experience agency Home.
Carol is the spiritual heart of Home. Permanently curious, her energy and enthusiasm inspires us to dig deeper and do better. Home’s founder, her role is now firmly focused on inspiration, innovation and creativity helping both Homies and clients alike.
Whether it’s playing with her band Doreen Doreen at Glastonbury Festival or speaking at conferences about her passions of communication, engagement, female leaders and the entrepreneurial spirit, Carol loves a big audience. So it was no surprise when she decided to take Home to the States a couple of years ago. She’s broken new ground for Home in almost every state, but whether she’s Home or away, her passion for making life better for employees is the foundation of what Home does. Drum magazine agree, voting Carol the 12th most influential person in design in the UK in a recent poll.
Carol, what’s been the driving force to get you where you are today, and have you benefited from having any personal mentors?
It’s a beautiful mix of talent, drive, determination, staying power, team building, build lasting employee, client and supplier relationships, respect, kindness, compassion, and authenticity and have fun and be brave.
I have had NO mentors along the way. I have been in business for almost 40 years, and I’ve mostly made stuff up as I have gone along. I’ve learnt many lessons through mistakes and good fortune, and met some pretty amazing people on my journey, both as team members and clients, I have always surrounded myself with interesting and bright people. My partner in life is my fiercest critic and my biggest fan; that keeps me on my toes, but also keeps me grounded.
Many of my contemporaries have been long retired, sold up or given up, or are simply not with us. I spoke to my friend Phil Jones of Podge back in November, and he said he couldn’t think of another women-owned business with this longevity still going! He called me a pioneer, I liked this a lot. “Carol, Pioneer Woman!”
What advice would you pass on to other women to help them progress and overcome issues associated with ‘the glass ceiling’ in your industry?
My advice for women in the industry…all of the above…have talent, drive, determination, staying power, team building, building lasting client and supplier relationships, respect, kindness, compassion, and authenticity and have fun and be brave.
I haven’t worked anywhere else, so I have no glass ceiling experiences, but I believe that there are issues in some of the huge agencies. We are a team of 24 people currently, 18 women and 6 men. I can’t think of many other agencies of our size with this ratio of men and women. There is certainly no preferential treatment towards the men in our business.
The most important thing though is to believe in yourself. Listen to your inner voice and be authentic. As you do this more, it becomes much easier over time. Your confidence grows as you start to see the impact you can have and the value you are bringing. Typically women have a different mindset and skillset to men – and as we start to hold more influential positions, organisations and people within them will flourish as our work experience becomes more human.
Are there any initiatives from inside or outside your organisation that you think make a substantive difference in addressing the gender pay gap and open up opportunities for females to progress in their careers?
Work hard, stand up for yourself and don’t use the feminine charm to get what you want from life, as you will never alter the dial that way. Be brave and stand up for yourself, and stand in your own light.
Why do you think we still have so few female leaders (vs. male as a percentage of total leadership) across so many sectors?
Things are changing now. As businesses are becoming more conscious they will keep on changing. We should celebrate every time a traditional “old school” business puts a woman at the helm. Also I was thrilled when I read about Bumble’s 31 year old self-made female billionaire Whitney Wolf-Herd, the picture of her with her baby on her hip as she rang the Nasdaq opening bell was magnificent. Her mantra for success is… “don’t take yourself so seriously!”
How has COVID-19 impacted your work life balance and responsibilities outside of work? Any words of wisdom you can share on how you’ve managed the past 12 months?
It’s not a work life balance, it’s more of a blend, and like most I am making it up as we go along.
Are there any specific topics related to women in the workplace you feel should be given more airtime and conversation?
Again, things are changing, a little bit slower than we’d all like, but there are changes. I have never been a fan of the government, either party, but particularly the current clowns. If there is not the balance and respect at the top, it’s hard to change things further down the line. We have to stick with it, keep on pioneering and speaking up. NEVER GIVE UP!
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on International Women’s Day and the topics we’ve discussed today?
Be kind and compassionate to everyone especially the women in your life. Be a magnificent role model for all the young girls and women.
We’ve heard much talk about how our new world of work will help diversify workforces. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the future and the impact this has on diversity and inclusion within businesses. Thanks to Carol for sharing her story with us.
We are just a few days away from International Women’s Day, and more #IWD2021 Ringside interviews are on their way.