In anticipation of International Womens Day, we asked Michelle Wright, Company Director of Gough Bailey Wright about her career and to share some tips for the next generation of women.
Gough Bailey Wright is a multiple award-winning independent full-service marketing agency offering Public Relations, Creative, Websites, Digital Marketing and specialist Property Communications.
The agency is led by Michelle Wright and Sue Bailey and employs around 20 industry professionals serving businesses of all sizes locally, regionally and nationally, from Bromsgrove-based companies right through to international brands. We work with both b2b and consumer brands from start-ups to multi-nationals and we’re particularly strong in the leisure attraction and property sectors.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started my career on a Youth Opportunity Scheme in the 80s as I didn’t fancy going off to uni but was desperate to get my teeth into something interesting. A visit to the local careers office revealed a vacancy for a junior in an Advertising Agency. I just couldn’t resist it and the whole story starts there. I gained a lot of experience in that agency, in the days before Macs, when the world revolved around TV, magazines and newsprint. I’ve worked on the publishing side and enjoyed working at some of the most respected agencies in the region. After being married a couple of years, I now needed to balance the advancement of my career with having a family, so with my husband working shifts in the print trade it was necessary for me to find an agency near to my home in Bromsgrove. Gough Advertising was the agency and 10 years later, being part of a management buy-out led by our Chair Sue Bailey, was the first highpoint of my career, and one that led to a very successful partnership. Today I lead the business with Sue acting in an advisory role, and I have the most amazing and loyal team. GBW are members of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and I was recently appointed Chair for England and Wales, a position I am very proud to hold.
What attracted you to your chosen profession?
If the truth is known I stumbled into it, but I loved it from the very beginning. It became a career immediately and it really did light my fire. I’ve always felt very fortunate. I’m not a ‘creative’ but I am a creative person and being surrounded by such talented people was and is truly inspiring. I loved the variation, and was excited by the different strands of marketing and how they came together. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Who has been your female role model?
Those closest to me are the ones that influenced me most, for different reasons. At Barkers Advertising, I worked with a lady Creative Director, she was amazing. She was a mum doing a big job in a big agency with a load of guys. She worked so hard and made her mark on the industry, I still tap into her skills when I can. The ladies in my family are also an inspiration, they’re funny, clever, amazing, strong and kind – they’re the supporters. My friend Tracey, who also works in an agency; wise, fair and wonderful. She’s in the business, so she gets my highs and lows, bringing to life the ‘problem shared problem halved’ theory. Finally, my business partner and GBW Chair, Sue Bailey. We set out as a team and shared so many moments but her health failed her. Sue knows this business inside and out and has proved to be a huge support in her non-exec role.
How can we encourage young girls to dream bigger?
We have access to tech 24/7 and that means young people are consuming content at a phenomenal rate. I think the media could do more to profile the careers of successful women in all industries, with less reporting on the lives of celebrities. We need to capture the imagination of girls at an early age, encouraging them to imagine what is possible and plan their own success. This starts with education and then later, training. The more girls we attract into automotive engineering, aerospace, civil engineering or technology etc the better chance we have of addressing the balance and creating the diversity we need. Education and training are key, we need to tackle this issue from top to bottom.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I was always in a hurry to get the next promotion, move on to the next stage etc., so if I had my time again I would slow down and take it all in. Learn as much as you can and make a career strategy, everyone needs a plan.
Do you have any tips or advice for the next generation of female leaders / females entering your sector?
I am enjoying a great career doing what I love and I don’t feel I’ve ever experienced any barriers to success, but it’s a different world out there now, and as much as I advocate for apprenticeships I feel that for a number of organisations a degree is still an absolute must, so if you know that is the case get the degree and give yourself every chance to be noticed. In the advertising industry a recent IPA Diversity Survey found that women hold just 32.8% of C-suite roles at UK creative agencies, the IPA are constantly working to improve diversity across the board. If you look at the PR & communications industry it’s female dominated (67% overall), but women continue to face barriers at senior levels where the balance swings in favour of male professionals (source: womeninpr.org.uk). It’s widely reported that diversity in our sector is being addressed … but it seems we’re a long way off being equal.
So, my advice for the next generation of female leaders entering our sector would be to attend industry events with inspirational speakers, build your personal networks and connect with experienced female leaders. Be prepared, put the hard work in and be confident in yourself. Learn as much as you can, keep up with advancements in your industry, lead by example, develop a culture that is inclusive and don’t expect people to apologise when it’s time to pick up the children.