We’ve all read the headlines of late. Countries with female leaders have had a more effective response to Covid-19. Is the world finally waking up to women’s competency in leadership? Will this mean more opportunities for women at C-Suite level in corporate America? If so, how long will it take for that to trickle down into the print industry?
I’m part of a very small group of female C-Suite executives in the printing industry which, since its inception, has been a particularly male dominated industry. The questions above are on my mind a lot especially as we build our company and I work every day to “help the next woman up”.
I’ve worked in print since I was 18 and ahem, more years than I care to detail here. But let’s call it a decade or two. In that time I only worked with one woman print executive directly who had achieved a higher executive level than me. One. Let that sink in, one. And none of the print companies I worked for before founding Snowball had any women on the board.
Women’s roles in print have traditionally been in client services or operations. I’ve met a lot of kick-ass female CSR’s and project managers and a few female sales reps. But there has always been a distinct lack of women in leadership roles in print. I don’t mean managerial roles. I mean roles that are tasked with developing the company’s high level strategic vision, direction, innovation and most importantly have real decision making power.
Of course not all women want these types of roles. I’ve managed female CSR’s and team leaders who were very happy running projects and managing teams, women that told me “I’ve got no plans to climb, I love print projects, I just want to do what I’m doing”. I respect that greatly, there’s huge value in that on both sides and having spent a good chunk of time being where they are myself, I get it. But my thinking is that for the women that do want to lead, gender should not hold them back.
There is no magic bullet here. If we want more women in leadership roles in print, we need to either be them, or help create them. This means that as women we need to stop seeing our female colleagues as competition. We need to share our knowledge and experience with the women coming up behind us and the women alongside us. If you see a skill set gap holding a young woman back you work with and you think you could help her close that gap, do it.
We also need to encourage men in leadership to do the same. Young women in print need executive coaching, mentorship and above all, trust. We need to see more stewardship from our male leaders and a commitment from them to invest in women in a much more practical way.
One approach I would recommend would be to have print companies set up mentorship groups for women to create learning opportunities and exposure to C Suite functions and challenges. Task these women with developing ideas and solutions to address those challenges and move the business forward. The group should present those ideas to the board in a quarterly cycle. If the ideas are good (believe me they will be), then the group should have an approved budget and lead the project to make that idea a reality in the business.
Snowball is female-founded and we strive to be the role models that we didn’t have. We want to demonstrate to young women coming up in print now that that c-suite is achievable. We are mentoring and coaching our female employees and creating opportunities for their growth to support them to be the leaders of the future.
Written by: Katrina Shaw