In honour of 2019's International Women’s Day call for #BalanceForBetter in the world of work, we spoke to some of the women who make Coca-Cola Great Britain tick. We asked them what they thought of challenges women faced in 2019, how things are changing for the better, and for some of their biggest career learnings.
On the panel: Aedamar Howlett, Marketing Director for Western Europe; Gabrielle Abrahams, Digital Senior Manager; Lauren Raby, Junior Analyst for Western Europe; and Mabelle Abi Ramia, Oasis Senior Brand Manager. See what they had to say below...
Can you explain what your role entails at Coca-Cola?
Aedamar: I’m based in Dublin but my team and role spans across our Western European business. As part of this, I have the responsibility and privilege to grow the most valuable brands in our business all of which have massive revenue and share growth potential. And I get to work with the most talented marketing and commercial people in the industry. We have an amazing breadth of brands and opportunities for growth to work with, so it’s an exciting, dynamic and hugely rewarding place to be within the business.
Gabrielle: My role as Digital Senior Manager for Great Britain and Ireland is to ensure that we’re delivering best in class digital strategy and activation across our portfolio of brands.
Lauren: I’m part of the Knowledge and Insights team for Western Europe, so my team and I carry out research about our drinks; from which new flavour to launch to understanding views on recycling. A large part of my role is tracking our new innovations and understanding what people think of our brands.
Mabelle: Although I’ve been at the company for over five years, I’m only one week into my new role as Oasis Senior Brand Manager.
What's been your favourite project to work on in your time at Coca-Cola?
Our partnership gives us an immensely rich platform to bring our values of inclusiveness, diversity and sustainability to life across our growing portfolio whilst we continue our legacy of celebrating the passion of football fans – and it’s given us all a great sense of pride & achievement to see the partnership brought to life beautifully through the ‘Where Everyone Plays’ film.
Gabrielle: My absolute passion is helping to create really impactful creative content. So for me, there are two projects that have been my favourite to work on. The first is the “This One’s For” teen recruitment campaign for Coca-Cola, which we collaborated with social media influencers on.
I was lucky enough to be on set, overseeing the multiple pieces of content that were produced, working directly with influencers to bring their interpretation of our brief to life and making sure we were delivering content that hit on the insight we had from this very hard-to-reach audience! I also love working on the Fanta campaigns for Halloween, they’re always great fun.
Lauren: I’ve recently developed a mobile app for Coca-Cola employees. The app provides virtual tours within our key cities across Europe, with each tour showcasing the trendiest food and drink destinations in your chosen city, enabling our teams to find new and interesting ingredients or products across different markets.
Mabelle: I’ve been involved in many amazing projects in the last five years, so it’s difficult to choose just one. My top three would be the launch of Coca-Cola Freestyle in Europe, the Star Wars VIII/ Coke partnership, and the 2018 Christmas campaign, with the re-recording of ‘Holidays Are Coming’.
What key challenges do you think women face in 2019’s working landscape?
Aedamar: I think that the key challenges faced by women today are shared by many young men too. That is to juggle a successful career with family life – particularly for parents of young children. This is good news, though, as it reflects progress in equality and how far we’ve come to jointly recognize the importance of dual careers and dual parenting.
I think women, including myself, still choose to take on more responsibility than our partners for the logistics of managing a family. But I do see us getting better at supporting one another, as well as a willingness to share the load with our partners and not try do it all ourselves.
Gabrielle: I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to balance home and work life. Trying to excel in motherhood and excel in your career still doesn’t always feel possible, and that you do have to make a choice between the two. I think we have a long way to go in society to create the same opportunities for working mums and women without children, as well as making it more socially acceptable to prioritise one over the other – whatever your choice may be.
Lauren: Unfortunately, I think the challenges women face in 2019 are the same as those faced in previous years. The gender pay gap still exists – in many industries men are more likely to be hired over a woman applying for the same job – while women must carefully balance their career with their choice to start a family.
Mabelle: We’ve come a long way in terms of gender balance in the workplace, though I feel there’s a still a fair bit to go to achieve that in leadership positions as well. It’s important for women starting their careers to have role models in top executives and CEOs, and have them picture themselves in such positions one day.
The gender pay gap is another challenge where we are still lagging as a society overall. Countries like Iceland are leading the way by legally enforcing equal pay, and I hope to see this soon in Great Britain and beyond.
Flexible working hours are also becoming more essential. Previously it used to be a benefit mainly for mothers, but it would be great to see this offered more widely for women wanting to take up courses, volunteering or even entrepreneurial opportunities, in order to remain competitive in the hunt for talent.
How do you think those challenges are being tackled within Coca-Cola?
Aedamar: Coca-Cola is a very supportive business for parents, offering many flexible solutions as they’re required. Coca-Cola also thrives on a wealth of female talent, and invests in programmes to develop their careers and provide a pathway to leadership.
Gabrielle: I think Coca-Cola has good flexibility for working mums (and dads), and that’s apparent with women in senior and leadership positions who have young children and have a flexible working routine. It’s also reassuring to see examples of women who have been promoted or given new role opportunities whilst on maternity leave.
Lauren: I believe that change will come from empowering women within a business. Coca-Cola has a great number of women in leadership roles, and it is this positive reinforcement of female role models that instils confidence in other women within Coca-Cola.
What does International Women’s Day and (#BalanceForBetter) mean to you?
Aedamar: International Women’s Day signifies two things for me. Firstly, it serves to recognize the progress we’ve made by celebrating the brave women around the world who have challenged the status quo to stand for equality and balance.
Secondly, it serves as a reminder of the work we still need to do for the next generation to ensure that balance in life and work is the same for all – regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. For me personally that means being a role model and a champion for the next generation of young men & women striving to reach their career potential as well as a fulfilling family and personal life.
Gabrielle: It means ensuring gender equality stays front of mind and part of an ongoing, important conversation. It’s about celebrating women in general – not just women in the workplace.
Lauren: International Women’s Day is very important to me. I’ve always been surrounded by strong female role models, and have witnessed the resilience and strength of women both in personal and professional settings. We should be celebrated!
#BalanceforBetter is an important message as it emphasises the need for correct representation, for both women and diverse groups of people, in the world we live in. I think #BalanceforBetter sends the message that we are not fighting for an advantage or lead, only equality.
Mabelle: #BalanceForBetter is a great initiative to show that gender balance is needed for a better society, economy and community. It is also a reminder to celebrate what makes us special as women. I feel very fortunate to be living in a day and age where International Women’s Day is a celebration day, and no longer a protest. I hope to see this being celebrated worldwide soon, without any exception.
What positive changes would you like to see take place in the world of work in the near future?
Aedamar: I’d love to see better childcare support for young families – particularly in the pre-school years. My husband and I have four children who are now all at school. Those early years of bringing up babies and young children whilst continuing to build our careers were a pretty exhausting juggling act! These are the circumstances around which we often see young promising talent – mostly female – opt to step back from fulfilling their career potential.
Gabrielle: I’d like to see even more flexibility offered to working mums, and more women in C-Suite-level jobs. Not just women, but women of diversity too.
Lauren: More diversity! Understanding experiences outside of our own will help us to grow as people. I would like to see a more equal workforce in which people adopt an openminded attitude, and appreciate the diverse lives of those around us.
Aedamar: I’d give the same advice to men or women aspiring for a leadership role: go for it, and keep your eye on the prize! Think about your unique strengths to build on, be aware of what you need to learn, and be relentlessly curious. Don’t be fixed on a career ladder – be open to opportunities to expand your skills and experience outside of your game-plan, and flex accordingly.
You always have a choice to change direction and speed to fit your circumstances and ambition at any given time. Some of the less predictable project or role opportunities I have had ended up being the most rewarding for me.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you can’t do it all – family and work – by yourself. You need a support network inside and outside of work, you need to be kind to yourself, and you need to find time to do something outside of work and home that is just for you.
Gabrielle: If you say ‘digital’, be really clear where you want to be! The spectrum is so broad now, it reaches into media strategy, content, technical development, customer service, design, performance marketing, business transformation, and more! So have a focus on what aspect of digital marketing you want to specialise in; just saying “I want to work in digital” doesn’t mean anything anymore in my opinion.
Lauren: Be curious! Market research is all about asking the right questions and being inquisitive.
And do your research (pardon the pun). There are many different areas of market research with companies specialising in a variety of methodologies.
Mabelle: Three things. Firstly, find a diverse support system and mentors in the industry. Secondly, make sure you research the market value for the role you are applying to, and never be shy to ask for what you think you deserve. Lastly, establish your boundaries and work-life balance from the beginning and stick to them. Balanced employees tend to be more productive, driven and less stressed out. One day someone will be looking at you as a role model so think of what image you are projecting on them.
Feeling inspired? You can find out lots more about working at Coca-Cola right here.