The first International Women’s Day of the decade took place on Sunday 8th March, with this year’s theme being #EachForEqual, celebrating 'Collective Individualism'.
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, Dentsu Aegis Network is running an #EachForEqual campaign throughout March, which began with a day of live panel sessions last Friday. The panels featured a range of our people, our partners and our clients, sharing success stories and learnings that were streamed on Facebook Live, as well as DAN’s #OnBrand Spotify podcast series.
As part of the campaign, DAN UK & Ireland’s Chief People Officer, Anne Sewell, hosted a fireside chat with Anna Moulton, DAN’s Global HR Director, where Anna shared her career journey so far, the challenges she’s faced along the way, as well as advice for the next generation of leaders. Anna spoke in depth about identifying and maximising new opportunities, the importance of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, and why it’s key to make decisions that will benefit you in the long term.
Making the most of opportunities
Anna opened the session by explaining how she was encouraged from a young age that she could have a successful career, taking inspiration from two strong female role models in her life.
“I was brought up believing nothing other than it’s absolutely possible to have a successful career as a woman. My mother and grandmother made it clear to me that it was possible if I wanted that, and they themselves both had successful careers, and each raised a family,” Anna explained.
The encouragement Anna received was also grounded in the message that great opportunities will only come with hard work. After graduating from university, Anna stepped into the corporate world with a role in a major management consultancy, a move which led to her taking international roles to broaden and diversify her experience.
“I’ve always prioritised taking opportunities that I knew would help make me stand out as a professional, not just as a woman, and I’m a strong believer in taking opportunities that are right for you.” Anna said.
Going outside of your comfort zone… on purpose
But these choices didn’t come without their significant challenges. To be a strong leader, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is important, and Anna highlighted this behaviour as one of the key components of her career success.
“It was difficult moving to another country and working. One of the key challenges was to maintain the confidence and self-belief I had built up as I didn’t speak the local language and the power of communication is immediately taken away from you… so if I wanted to succeed, I didn’t have any other option but to get on with it and learn a brand new language to make sure I had a voice in the room.”
Anna went on to discuss that sometimes decisions don’t work out how you thought they would. And it’s at these moments that you need to be able to take a step back, focus on what your longer-term goals are and work out what the right decision is for you.
Focusing on the long term
“After achieving middle management level, I took a big step and accepted the top HR role in a small organisation. And on just the second Monday there, I found out I was pregnant which wasn’t ideal timing,” Anna explained, “I only took 12 weeks’ maternity leave and went straight back to work. I soon realised that the culture and type of business didn’t suit me, and I decided to leave and take a career break.”
It was during this time that Anna realised that to reach her full potential, she needed to join a larger organisation and learn from experienced leaders around her. Anna got this opportunity when she joined Dentsu Aegis Network as the Regional HR Director for EMEA. During her time in this role, she was able to hone her HR leadership skills, continue to grow her international experience, and succeed in another industry.
Anna now leads global HR at Dentsu Aegis Network, but still believes that the key to success lies in the same set of specific behaviours and qualities that have helped her at every stage of her career.
“Firstly, one of the most important things is that you’ve got to like what you do. But overall, I believe being a strong leader is a variety of things and means different things to different people. To me, it’s about honesty and integrity, combined with passion and enthusiasm.”
Empowering a diverse future
Anna concluded by reflecting on how society needs to let go of the attitudes of the past to invest in and inspire the next generation of even more diverse leadership talent.
“It’s about eradicating the damaging legacy stereotypes that exist today of what a leader is, and supporting people, regardless of their backgrounds, to achieve what they want to achieve and giving them the confidence and a safe environment.”
You can watch the full session here, and keep up to date with our International Women’s Day #EachForEqual campaign by following Dentsu Aegis Network on social media.