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Meet Lauren Paton - the former director of marketing partnerships for Disney

Former Director of marketing partnerships for Disney, head of content launch marketing for Amazon and head of marketing for Amazon Audible. Lauren Paton was a 2020 LinkedIn Top Voice and the founder of Unleashed Coaching.

Lauren Paton, is an inspiring female speaker who is a passionate advocate for female empowerment, inclusive leadership and well-being in the workplace. She is regularly booked as a speaker for International Women’s Day events, where Lauren instils a sense of belonging in her audience. In this exciting interview with The Female Lead, learn Lauren’s insight into gender inclusion, the female leadership gap, mental well-being and more.

Do you believe businesses are doing enough to support their female employees and why?

“The answer is no, they're not!

“The reality is that women have the most valuable leadership skills. So, empathy and emotional intelligence particularly are the most valuable, the most powerful. All the research supports the fact that women show these skills more than men.

“Businesses with more women in senior positions make more money, they perform better, their teams are happier - and yet, only one in five senior leaders is a woman. So, we know that women are good at it, and we know that it has this knock-on effect, but we still don't have enough women.

“There are obviously some businesses that are doing well. There are more improvements being made, I think the conversations are being had, and the awareness is there, but it is still slow in terms of the why.

“I think there can be a fear and a threat to things being different. There's that more primal thing of ‘I don't want to have to change.’ On the other end of the scale, there are also a lot of people who just don't think it's really an issue – they have blinkers on.

“I think people are also reluctant to admit the impact of privilege - that's not just gender-based; across the board, I think we're all collectively conditioned into seeing a particular type of person as a leader. We've all got our own biases and conditioning around that when we think about a leader.

“And finally, the underpinning of a lot of it is sexism, just plain and simple. This assumption is that women cannot do things as well as men, or that there's no female talent. The idea that men are the only ones who deserve to [in positions of power] and if women deserve to be there, they would be.”

How can businesses empower all their employees, and close the female leadership gap?

“I wish I had a magic answer to this question. I do, I wish there was one.

“And the truth is that there isn't. I think there are a couple of fundamentals that for me, apply broadly. The first one is, that we need to not see this as ‘just a women's problem’. This is something for everyone to solve. Men hold more seats of power; therefore, men will have a bigger influence on this.

“And so, if you are a man who is in a position of power, who recognises that this is something that needs to be changed, you've got the ability to be an ally, you've got the ability to champion women.

“We do have this tendency to think, ‘well, women just need to be more confident, women just need to get over their imposter syndrome, women just need to ask for what they want’ - and if it was that simple, we'd be there! Women have been doing this stuff for a really long time, so we really need to see this as a challenge for everybody.

“I think underneath that, we all have to be open to hearing things that we don't like and being challenged. And it might be that, actually, if you've got a senior leadership team who struggles with that openness, how can you support them? How can you support them with the right coaching, mentoring, training, whatever it might be, to enable them to hold those spaces for other people?

“How can you set people up for success in the best possible people way? Creating a culture from the top, I think, is critical. So, you really need to be clear from the most senior point in your business all the way through, from the moment someone reads a job description through to the point that they get a promotion and make it to the top. You must have a culture that empowers employees, that supports women - supporting and nurturing existing female talent is critical.

“More women will come into the pipeline if they see more women in senior positions. Businesses which have a greater pipeline of women will also perform better versus a business that only has one female executive and a very limited pipeline.”

You help women overcome their fear of doing ‘inner work’, what does ‘inner work’ mean?

“Inner work for me is about exploring what's going on with you and getting to know yourself better. So, for a start, it's about being in a place where you can understand how you are feeling, and identifying the contributing factors. Sometimes, it means dealing with things that might be uncomfortable to admit or uncomfortable to face.

“What can sometimes happen is that someone will say, ‘I know I've got this thing and I know where it comes from, but I'm not willing to face it, I'm just going to ignore it.’ There's sometimes this worry that by doing inner work, you're going to have to relive experiences and face them.

“I try and make sure that women don't always have to go back and relive that if they don't want to. There are ways to process these emotions and let them go without having to go back through those experiences.

“I think also for a lot of women that I speak to, there can be a reluctance just to be selfish. When you're thinking about yourself or talking about yourself, a lot of women really struggle with that notion - this idea of, ‘I'm going to spend an hour with somebody talking about myself. I can't do that. They're going to be so bored.’

“It really helps guide women into this space of, ‘it's okay for you to have time where you are thinking about what's going on with you and where you are.’ It's not selfish to focus on you for a little bit of time.”

This exclusive interview with Lauren Paton was conducted by Chris Tompkins.


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