Inspiring interviews with Women in Marketing: Sally Bibb
By Guest Contributor Katy Mousinho and Giles Lury
Katy Mousinho’s and Giles Lury’s Wonder Women tells the stories of some of the women who have had a tremendous influence on the marketing industry, like Brownie Wise, who transformed Tupperware and Mary Wells Lawrence, who founded advertising agency Wells, Rich, Greene. The book also includes 19 interviews with modern influencers in the industry, such as Sally Bibb, which we explore here.
Sally is the founder of and a director at Engaging Minds, an author and public speaker. Her specialisms are transforming organisations, customer service, employee engagement and organisational change. Engaging Minds works in private companies, hospitals and prisons and clients include Starbucks, the AA, Cunard, EY, HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service), the NHS, the Scottish Government and Sodexo Justice Services.
She has worked in a variety of fields, starting in the telecomms sector for BT and Cable and Wireless to became a director at The Economist Group before starting Engaging Minds. She has written and co-authored eight books, the latest of which is The Strengths Workbook: An eight-week programme to discover your strengths.
In our interview, we talked about how anger can create something positive, how prejudices can give you strength, and her interest in the debate about capitalism and whether GDP is the right measure.
WHAT LED YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I’ve always been interested in people and their stories. Looking back, every job I’ve ever done has had a strong element of ‘people’. I’m also interested in how you tackle injustices and things that are wrong with organisations, as well as boosting the things that are right. When people are not treated properly. I always aim to make a positive difference in organisations.
YOU TALK ABOUT ‘GETTING YOUR GOAT’. ANGER CAN BE A POSITIVE FORCE FOR CHANGE. IS IT ABOUT TIME OWMEN GOT ANGRIER?
It’s something that women aren’t supposed to be. But when things are wrong and unjust, that can create anger, and anger can create something positive and that in turn can create more energy. You see it in politics, you see it everywhere. When men get angry, people seem to accept it. When women get angry, they get trolled. It’s a stark contrast. I hope that the #MeToo movement will be a force for good, but the unconscious stereotypes of what men and women should be are so deep. It definitely has the potential to be a big movement in history for equality because it is bringing things out in the open and creating a much-needed challenge.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR CAREER?
In the early days, as I was establishing myself, it was to do with assumptions about a quiet, working-class girl. I once found a note in my HR file from a manager to my boss about a promotion I’d just got which said something lie, ‘She’s too quiet, she won’t be able to stand the challenge.” Thankfully, my boss backed me up, and I was very successful in the job.
When I got the job at The Economist, my boss said one of the reasons she brought me in was because, “You’ve got the common touch.” I was being compared to private school/Oxbridge educated people and she saw the positive in that. None of those prejudices made me angry – they gave me strength, made me more determined, more resilient. You have to have a tough skin. I didn’t want to be put in a box.
As a woman, I’m uncomfortable about blowing my own trumpet. A lot of men don’t have that problem. Social media is very interesting. When I post on social media, I sometimes think, “My god, does this sound like awful showing off?” But how do you learn if the women you admire don’t blow their own trumpets? I think to be a role model in an active way is important; you need to talk about what matters to you and what you’ve achieved, and recognise that it will benefit others.
THINKING ABOUT SMALL BUSINESSES LIKE YOURSELF, DO YOU THINK THERE ARE MORE WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY NOW?
What interests me is the debate about capitalism and whether GDP is the right measure. Katrin Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister of Iceland, has teamed up with Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister and Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, to promote a wellbeing agenda because they recognise that GDP is very limiting as a measure of success. I was invited by EY to enter their Business of the Year Award. I looked at the shortlisted people and it was all about huge growth. We were invited to enter because EY wanted to consider entrants for whom social impact was as important, if not more important, than growth.
WHAT DO WOMEN BRING UNIQUELY TO BUSINESS AND MARKETING?
In my world, we want to make sure we make an impact. One of my strengths is conscientiousness. I just can’t let it go until we make sure we’ve done our bit and made a difference. Most of the women I hang out with also want to make that sort of difference. I am not saying that the men don’t, but I have different conversations with them. When I talk about making an impact, I mean social impact rather than financial impact. That’s what makes me happy.
The women I admire come from all sorts of different grounds and are doing different things. Many are leaving the corporate world to set up their own businesses, which means they have to learn fast about all aspects of running a business. Many of the women I know are always in a process of development. I too try to make myself better. Women will try things, experiment, make themselves more vulnerable thoroughout their lives. I think I know more women who are willing to make an idiot of themselves. I know some men like that, but not so many.
I did a talk in Madrid – in Spanish. Of the people I told, nearly all of the men replied with, “You must be crazy.” The women said, “Oh my god, that’s fantastic, you’re so brave.”
GOING FORWARD, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN IN BUSINESS FACE AND ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM MEN’S?
The atmosphere is calling for doing things differently, so it’s a good time for women. The female characteristics we talked about, like conscientiousness and wanting to make a social impact, are needed and more valued now. The whole thing about GDP versus social impact. We still face a deep gender bias in society and that probably won’t change anytime soon. I think probably for men it’s about seeing how things are changing, getting on board with supporting genuine equality in the workplace and being adaptable to the changes themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
KATY MOUSINHO is now enjoying a life of ‘freedom and flexibility’, having forsaken the world of full-time working to pursue multiple activities including writing, health and fitness, travel and helping out small businesses with their brand and marketing strategy. As former managing Director of The Value Engineers and with 30 years’ experience in insight and brand strategy, she has gained a broad perspective on the world of consumers and brand, having worked with a diverse range of clients across categories and countries.
GILES LURY is a VW Beetle-driving, Lego watch-wearing Disney-loving, Chelsea supporting father of five who also happens to be a director of brand consultancy at The Value Engineers and author of The Prisoner and the Penguin, How Coca-Cola Took Over the World, and Inspiring Innovation.
Every marketer knows the stories of Lord Lever and Steve Jobs, has probably read AI Ries and Jack Trout, and seen the works of Bill Bernbach and John Hegarty. What’s interesting about these ‘Masters of Marketing’ is that they are all men. Katy Mousinho’s and Giles Lury’s Wonder Women tells the stories of some of the women who have had a tremendous influence on the marketing industry, like Brownie Wise, who transformed Tupperware and Mary Wells Lawrence, who founded advertising agency Wells, Rich, Greene.
There are also interviews with Edwina Dunn OBE – the co-founder of Dunnhumby and the data behind the Tesco Clubcard; Helle Muller Peterson – Senior Vice President, Arla Foods Denmark and previously the only female country CEO in Carlsberg, plus many more. Mousinho and Lury pull together their findings, not only to celebrate their success, but to provide insights for the future of marketing and the great marketers, women and men, to come.
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