On Thursday 19th September, in Edinburgh’s historical Signet Library – over 300 women gathered at the first ever WACL event outside of London. WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London) was founded in 1923 and their purpose is simple – to push for gender equality in our industry through inspiration, support & campaigning.

The day was split into two events. With a raft of inspiring keynote speakers, 90 minute speed-mentoring and a Q&A session with esteemed panellists - the daytime event was ‘Gather Scotland’ for “women at the top”. At 5:30pm, after a quick turn-around of the room (and goody-bags replenished!) the evening portion kicked off. ‘Gathering’ was aimed at “women on the rise” and myself and a few of the Whitespace Women were amped for the evening ahead.

The speakers included Ella Dolphin (CEO at The Stylist Group) and Talat Yaqoob (Director at Equate Scotland) who both shared valuable insights into the great work being done right now to improve equality and challenge gender-stereotypes in the industry. After the speakers, a panel of talented and established women took to the stage to share their thoughts in my favourite part of the night. They each shared a short story, including “the things I wish I’d known” when starting out in the industry.

Shona’s advice is to surround yourself with people that will give you their brutally-honest opinion and that you know genuinely want the best for you. Don’t necessarily have just one mentor but instead hand select a group of people – perhaps an ex-employer, a friend in the same industry as you, people that you admire, and that inspire you.

At the end of the day, we all have our own personal brand – whether we know it or not. And just as we would with the brands we work with everyday in our jobs, we need to establish our own “brand values”. Define yourself, define those values and then most importantly – stick to them. Just as important, check back in and make sure they’re still relevant and reflective of the you you are today.

I love this one. It’s the “I’m all in” attitude. If you’re going to do something – do it well. Don’t just push things along or forward information from one team to another. Be invested and care about the work you’re doing and what the outcome may be. Put intention behind each action.

As an American, Joanna admits to realising just how hard most British and Scottish folk find it to talk about themselves. Yes, it can be modesty but it’s important to acknowledge those moments where you lead a team, or you pioneered an innovative solution for a client. There is a place for “we” but there is also a place for “I”.

After reflecting on these nuggets of wisdom, from these inspiring women, I realised that even in my six years in the industry, already I have a list of things I wish I’d known at the start – the most paramount being to “Always listen to your instinct”.

It sounds pretty straightforward, and is definitely not a revolutionary idea, or a concept exclusive to our industry. But there was this fear starting out that I didn’t know enough to have an opinion. That surely I needed to sit back and listen for the next however many years, before I was knowledgeable enough to speak out, or have something valuable to contribute. Perhaps more a fear of coming across as arrogant, or ignorant – but what we forget is - we’ve been consumers our entire lives. Our everyday experiences and attitude to brands, marketing and advertising is not something we only learned at university.

So what I soon realised, was that a fresh perspective, or a challenging thought, or even just a really naïve question – is the way young people, or those new to the industry, add value to projects or campaigns. They help to combat the “we do this because this is what we’ve always done”.

I wish I’d known to always listen to my instinct. Not necessarily to blindly trust it, or always act on it, but listen and acknowledge it. More often than not, my instinct has been spot on.

I am incredibly proud to be part of an agency that supports and pushes for gender equality in our industry. Our Client Services Director, Frances Irvine, was one of the women who dedicated time, energy and expertise into making this event happen. Here's what she had to say:

It's been truly humbling to work on the committee with the some of the brightest female leaders in our industry and have the opportunity to engage with the most successful business women in the UK. I feel completely overwhelmed every time I think about it!

Witnessing the pride and passion of over 300 women, 20 speakers, 30 mentors with a purpose to support, inspire and connect was incredible. Every speaker and mentor gave their time and wisdom for free and we raised thousands for NABS and MsMissMrs. I couldn't be more proud of everything we achieved. Having a delegate tell me that the event 'changed her life' is my personal highlight of 2019.

If you're interested in attending an event like this in future, keep an eye out for news of future Whitespace Women and WACL events happening in Edinburgh.