Tell us a little bit about your professional background and what drove you to disguise.
I spent all of my career in people jobs - mainly in HR, recruitment and development across a wide range of companies, from small businesses to large corporations like Disney. Then, twelve years ago, I decided to become a freelance leadership development consultant, which I still do today part-time. That is how, nearly four years ago, I came to work at disguise on a short-term basis, to set up its HR function. I remember, as I was nearing the end of my contract, I went to see Justin Timberlake’s ‘Man Of The Woods’ tour at the O2 in London with disguise CEO Fernando Kufer and he persuaded me to stay on permanently. I love my job at disguise and the impact I can make here all while having the flexibility to accelerate the development of other leaders and teams through my consultancy business.
What was your first mission at disguise when you joined?
When I first joined, disguise was very small. At the time the company didn’t have an executive team or any programmes for senior management development. So my first task was to build up the leadership team and create a programme to help develop leadership skills within each department. Shortly after becoming permanent I brought in our current Director of People, Emma Rudd, who has been pivotal in implementing HR processes and policies to help evolve our leadership and company culture. It has been wonderful to watch each team grow and individuals progress within their roles as a result. In the past four years, we have gone from a team of about 42 to over 260, with diverse leadership where women make up nearly half of our global team. We couldn’t have got to where we are today without the amazing energy and commitment that has trickled down across the board.
What have been some of your biggest achievements during your time here?
We have shifted our business focus to be more open and inclusive - I'm extremely proud of the leadership and HR teams for all the work they do around attracting and retaining diverse talent. Over the past couple of years, our main strategy was to create a workplace where everyone belongs and can do their best work. This is a continued work in progress and we always strive for better every day.
Then we have our belonging policies. Policy for policy’s sake doesn't mean anything. The goal of our HR function is to introduce policies that actually make a difference in our people’s lives. Last year we introduced a series of policies for parental leave, fertility treatment, adoption, menopause and mental health that don’t just impact the wellbeing of our people but also foster more openness and transparency around these topics. Some of our leaders have talked openly about their personal battles with anxiety, for example, which can make a big difference to those who may struggle silently. We want our people to feel safe to come forward and talk to their managers or peers and ask for help if they need it. Belonging, to me, is being able to have an open, transparent relationship with your managers and to talk about issues that impact you.
What is disguise doing to break the gender bias in the industry?
disguise is committed to creating a safe and supportive working environment for everyone. For example, I have conversations with women all the time about imposter syndrome. This is a serious issue that unfortunately is more prevalent among women than men in the workplace. So it’s absolutely crucial for our leaders to be able to make everyone on their team feel like they belong here, that they are part of disguise because they are expert at what they do.
In 2021, we launched the Lead Together programme designed to not only develop our leaders in supporting and nurturing their teams with feedback, coaching and self-awareness, but also to talk about emotional intelligence to create an environment where everyone understands their purpose and value. We also offer every woman in a leadership role with a 1:1 coaching programme, which also includes maternity coaching to help female leaders take control of their maternity leave, communications and arrangements, so they can be confident that the time out will not impact their career journey.
Finally, I’m excited to share today that we have just launched our mentoring programme. To celebrate IWD and grow our senior women, the first cohort is a group of senior women. Fernando has asked all of the men in the C-Suite to mentor these women and act as their allies.
Externally, we are partnering very closely with Rise, an award-winning global advocacy membership organisation supporting gender diversity across the media technology sector. Many of our employees participate in their mentorship programmes and we recently shared guidance on creating personal development plans to help women in broadcast shoot for the moon in their careers.
Who inspires you?
I have three children including two daughters who inspire and motivate me every day to make the workplace better for everyone including women. My teenagers’ spirit and energy around equality drive me to create a better workplace through creating opportunities regardless of gender or background. I’m sure that current inequality issues won’t change enough in my lifetime but that doesn't mean that we don't start and try to move forward one step each day.
I've also been really influenced by reading Maya Angelou and Alice Walker as I was growing up, which, for me, coming from a small town in Scotland in the 1970s, were extraordinary new worlds to learn valuable lessons from.
What initiatives have you got planned next?
In addition to our mentoring partnership with Rise, we are also working on launching mentoring programmes internally, for both women and men. We are also developing a global internship programme and a graduate programme that our Early Careers Talent Partner will be leading to help build up the next generation of creative and technical talent in an industry that is growing more rapidly faster than its talent pool.