Women: You Don’t Have to Justify Yourselves

This International Women’s Day we spoke to our Client Partner, and one of our founders, Sophie Gibson about how her experiences have helped her develop her approach to life.

International Women’s Day shines a light on women, at all stages of their lives, in all circumstances. As a joint-owner of a growing agency and a single mother of two, my life experiences have shaped who I am and what I do, in my professional and personal life.

I started my career in PR in 2002 and while that environment wasn’t right for me it was working for Publicis that introduced me to the world of advertising, and I just fell in love with it. After 10 years working my way up and gaining invaluable experience in London I relocated to the West Country after the birth of my second child. Fortuitously I found a job locally at Doner, as their client services director. Disillusioned with the priorities of that agency I worked with Nik Margolis and Nick Gill to create a new agency from the ground up, where we could do things differently and, in our opinions, better. That’s how Team Eleven came to life. We are now in our third year and I am absolutely loving it.

I try and bring what I’ve learned as an employee to my mindset as an employer. I remember while I was at The Red Brick Road, when I returned to work after having my son, I felt like I had to overcompensate. I was panicking about balancing the demands of being an account director for a major client and needing to be there for my son, who was my priority. I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously because I wasn’t pulling 13-hour days. One day my son was sick, and I sent a team-wide email explaining in great detail why I’d had to stay home that day. When I came back into the office a lovely female colleague took me aside and said “If someone’s boiler broke and they had to work from home that day we would accept it. You don’t have to justify yourself. We know you, we trust you and we respect you.” I wish I’d listened to that kind of advice a bit more at the time, but it’s the kind of spirit I try and bring forward now.

I’ve always enjoyed my job, but I relish being in a position where I can build a team thoughtfully and carefully, to make sure we only work with people we’re really passionate about. We have always believed in bringing in the right person for the right role irrespective of their gender, and that may be why we’ve ended up with more women than men in our team, despite creative agencies typically being male-dominated. We’re selective about who we’ll work with because every member of the team contributes to the culture and to our output.

I do what I can to lead by example. Telling young women to believe in themselves sounds like a cliché, but what I’m saying is be brave and try new things. Don’t worry about making mistakes, because by making them you give yourself an opportunity to grow as an individual and progress in your career (I’ve made a ton of mistakes and I’m doing fairly well). Don’t be afraid of what other people think, because if you are fearless and empowered you are more than likely to succeed.

Whatever stage of your career you’re in, whether you have children, don’t have children or don’t want them, whatever your gender identity, Happy International Women’s Day to you all! Go out and thrive.