How to Bloom as a Business Woman
In the countdown to our second event, the Shake It Off Summer Party, I wanted to introduce you to our fantastic line-up. Next up... Gina Hood!
Gina is not only an extremely badass business woman, the President of women in communications networking organisation, Bloom, mentor, gender equality champion and artist and wearer of incredible lipstick, but she's going to be at our Summer Party delivering a talk entitled, 'Enlist a Sister: How to Create Your Squad to Support Your Cause'!
Please stand for Madame President...
Can you tell us a little about your background, what motivated you to lead Bloom, and what it’s about?
I’ve spent my 20s working in adland, building brands and producing campaigns - advertising is all about the analytic & business side of things plus creativity, which is a combination I love. I’ve also always been passionate about new initiatives, younger people’s career development, and gender equality; which I’ve explored both through running agency grad schemes, and via my side projects. These include being a part of Bloom (a women in comms network), FUTURES (a group focusing on getting women into leadership), and recently launching a grad advice website & podcast (watch this space!). I’ve been part of the Bloom network for a few years now, and am lucky enough to be leading the charge this year as their President. I have an absolutely fantastic team, who are at the top of their game both in terms of their careers, and their dedication to our cause of combating the barriers that women can face in the workplace.
For your day job you’re an advertising Account Director. How have you found taking the plunge from the large organization you worked for, to a start-up?
It’s been an exciting journey! When you leave a big organisation you also leave the network and connections that you’ve built, as well as the safety net that you have of being part of something on a bigger scale. However, being part of a team that is building something new means that you can help shape how it works and its identity, which is a great way to learn more about yourself, expand your skill-set, and also feels like a pretty special opportunity in one's career.
The recent gender pay gap reports have highlighted some serious shortcomings by companies in representing women in their leadership positions. Can you tell us about the work you do with the group ‘Futures’, and what you believe are the main changes companies should focus on to crawl out of this problem?
The gender pay gap appears to be a persistent problem across industries. Although equal pay is enshrined in law, the gender pay gap is symptomatic of the wider barriers women can face in the workplace. I believe these have two main causes: 1. Women being penalized by having to take time out of work to have kids (especially with shared parental leave still not widely being taken up), or having to drop out of the workforce as childcare is prohibitively expensive 2. Challenges women face in getting into leadership positions (which is demonstrated by the continued lack of women on boards). Passive behaviour is an important factor in stopping women progressing: we all need to be mindful of “boys’ club” informal meetings that can block women out, unconscious bias and perceptions around female versus male styles of leadership, and an inherently negative attitude towards flexible working. I work with the team at FUTURES to help members recognize these passive behaviours that may present barriers to them in their career, and empower them to find solutions.
In your spare time, you’re a painter! Can you tell us a little about your art, and what you like to paint?
Painting is my “me time” to relax: you focus entirely on tiny blobs of pigment and how they fit together, which leaves no brain-space to think about any worries. I love creating pieces that use lots of complex colour combinations and layers, but are rooted in some tangible imagery (lately I’ve been a bit obsessed by hands). I have a portfolio at ginahood.com if you want to have a look!
What would be your advice to someone looking to start their own organization?
Know what your aims are, and keep these realistic. Don’t do it on your own: get your squad together and keep them motivated. And don’t ever feel guilty - there are only so many hours in the day, and you can't do everything.
Which strong women of the world inspire you?
I always think the people closest to you are the most inspirational. My first female boss is an incredible person who taught me the value of always being kind, whilst being a tough nut and standing up for what you believe in. Plus my sister, who is incredible at giving advice and connecting people to help them be the best person they can be. I recently saw Helen Pankhurst (great-grandaughter of Emmeline) speak who was incredibly inspiring, and had important things to say on women working together to overcome challenges. And Serena Williams of course – an absolute powerhouse of a women who does things her own way.
What are you most looking forward to about Summer 2018?
I always set myself a number of random challenges for the year, and I’m excited to try to complete some of these this summer! So far I’ve run a half marathon, and made sushi, but still to come is learning to ride a horse properly and playing a gig. There’s so much to do in London, and summer is an excellent time to explore what it's got to offer and meet new people.