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What it takes to be a female leader

Having been in the industry for around 20 years, Nicky Greville, Managing Director at Spark Foundry talks how the landscape has evolved to champion females in the lead up to International Women’s Day on March 8.

Since entering the marketing and creative industry around 20 years ago, Nicky Greville has seen a shift in the inner workings of the landscape, from behavioural changes to pushing into areas that were previously taboo.

For an industry that originally was not female dominated when Greville first entered it, she has seen that the environment and leadership has changed dramatically over the years.

“I’d say the evolution has been prolific; how we communicate and behave, how we balance our whole selves, how we talk about and create policy for specific women’s issues, and how we celebrate women in our workplaces, have all come along in leaps and bounds,” she says.

“The level of support for women in their working roles has very clearly stepped up.”

When she first entered the market, Greville says the pathways for development was vastly different, with women finding it challenging to be heard, taken seriously or see clear pathways to the top.

“Having the courage to walk into some situations where I was grossly outnumbered, and often underestimated, was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time – I used to love seeing the look of surprise on some faces when people realised you had something smart to contribute,” says Greville.

“The fact that this sounds old fashioned and unfathomable today is something to be applauded.”

Greville has had a prolific career over the years, taking up a number of strategic and leadership roles, but one notable role was the task of launching the global brand, Spark Foundry in New Zealand.

“The moment when I was asked to take on this role is not one I’ll easily forget,” says Greville.

“My very first thought was for the kind of wife and mother I wanted to be and whether I could personally manage achieving both in a way that I felt was right for my family and my career. The answer was, why not try and give it a whirl.”

Read more: Kiwi businesswomen team up to champion female entrepreneurship

But, Greville thought, she wasn’t the first woman to do this, so “of course I can make it work”.

Taking up the role was challenging for her, having suffered from a common problem in the industry: imposter syndrome, defined as the inability to believe that an individual’s success is deserved through their own efforts or skills.

Despite being a well-oiled machine in the industry, Greville found herself in the midst of an imposter syndrome moment, but was quick to combat this.

Nicky Greville.

“Dealing with that one was made easier by focusing on my strengths and ensuring I had a clear view on the support that needed to be built in my team around me, what support looks like from my peers, and of course, how important support at home is to me,” she explains.

“The challenges from there on have been many, but the successes have outweighed them. Although, I will say that being a leader in New Zealand through a recessionary market has been fun.”

Taking up this leadership role, Greville wanted to approach it differently from the tradition, focusing on having conversations, tackling unconscious biases, developing emotional connections, and the role of care as a leader.

“It may just be me, but the level of honesty, transparency and how vocal we can be about our lives at work and outside of work, seem to be far more welcomed and celebrated today.”

Experiencing being a leader and launching something from the ground up in New Zealand, Greville says she has learnt so much.

This includes little things such as celebrating every day, taking a micro-moment to reset and have a break, the way to look at a challenge whether it be an almighty hurdle or something new, and ‘plain and simple, no lists’.

Greville says she has learnt so much as a female leader that she sees herself using in everyday life, and though there is still a way to go, she sees an opportunity to keep driving diversity in the workforce, ensuring a stronger future for the next generation.

“I consider it a privilege to be a part of a group of amazing women that have changed what it means to lead in our industry.”

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