Unconscious gender bias, though unintentional, is still an issue and creates inequality. We checked in with Rosie Holden, CEO at Cake, about how she challenges barriers of unconscious bias and the responsibility to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly.
Can you tell us a bit about your role and your journey to arriving there?
I am the CEO of Cake, a creative agency dedicated to making brilliant work in sport and culture. We work with brands and rights holders delivering integrated campaigns for our clients which means we get to create and make such a variety of things - from a multi-channel Xmas campaign for JD Sports, activating partnerships with BAFTA, Team Excel & Wembley for EE, launching a new brand platform for Major League Baseball, creating an iconic moment for Jaguar Landrover’s sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup in October or delivering a comms campaign for Team England during last year’s Commonwealth Games. I’m in my 5th year and I absolutely love it – it feels like the place my career and experience meant for me to be, having worked previously both in-house with global brands, Vans & adidas, and at outstanding London agencies where I really learnt my actual craft of running a company from the best! I manage a huge team of brilliant, talented, curious and passionate people and it’s those qualities which have served me well during my career.
What barriers do women still face in our industry and how can we challenge them?
Each woman’s experience is their own and unfortunately there are multiple barriers too numerous to call out here! Although I do think that a common barrier certainly felt by my peers and colleagues is that there is still an air of the ‘boys club’. It’s actually hard to articulate, but I would say that there is still a sense of being excluded from certain conversations because of your gender. I think this tends to operate at a sub-conscious level by men and this needs to be openly addressed and actively challenged – constructively – by all when it’s felt or seen. All workplaces would benefit from unconscious gender bias training.
How do you use your position to build equitable teams that are diverse and balanced?
One of the joys of being a CEO is that pretty much everyone has to listen to me, at least! I have always had a very strong moral compass and sense of justice. I can’t bear anything that feels unjust, and with that, and my senior position, now a sense of responsibility to those more junior than me to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly. We have a D,E & I team that keeps us honest in terms of setting KPIs and goals, however I think that a shared common value held by all of us who work at Cake is around that sense of fairness and always checking ourselves against that.
Who are your female advertising icons/role models and why?
Not strictly ‘advertising’ but a woman who created a super-brand, Anita Roddick was an absolute hero of mine when I was growing up. She combined business acumen, entrepreneurship and activism that effected real change in multiple challenged communities around the world. I still make a point of buying Body Shop shower gel, as when you learn the positive impact in the communities where the ingredients have been sourced and bought from – particularly on girls and women – then why wouldn’t you? She made it that easy to make a real difference to a woman’s life every day. And we all have a collective responsibility to do that for all women, throughout the world.