A Woman I Admire
I set out to write a blog about three women in business that I admire— buuuuut this isn’t that. I started writing a list, and got stuck after just one name. Cassie Roma. I have silently followed Cassie’s career for a long time, and she was the first person that came to mind. There are many aspects to why I was drawn to Cassie; her positivity, her industry (we have worked for the same media company before) and her pride in her identity.
Here’s a bit more about Cassie, in her own words:
Cassie is a California native and after 15 years in New Zealand, a proud YanKiwi. Cassie is truly one of a kind as a woman in tech and leadership, working to drive creativity in content, deliver long-term views of deeply-embedded brand strategy, increase the positive impact of social media across channels, dial-up value through the influencer partnerships, as well as teaching brands how to scale their messages contextually. She’s also spent a lot of time steering the ‘social media and digital storytelling ship’ for brands like Air New Zealand, ANZ Bank, Mighty River Power, The Warehouse Group & NZME. Cassie has been awarded and recognised globally as a thought leader in the field of storytelling for brands, women in tech, digital marketing, and the economy of influence. She’s also a published writer and keynote speaker.
I quickly realised that as I have not once interacted with her online or in person, it could be difficult to write a blog about her. I decided to just pick up the phone to get some answers for myself. After some time on hold, and a couple of customer service agents, I got…her voicemail. She is a popular lady after all! Instead, I sent her a message on LinkedIn and she graciously responded. I sent her my questions, and below you’ll find her insightful answers. I felt personally inspired and proud to be female – I hope her words make you feel as lifted as I did reading them.
Have you found being a woman in your work to have ever had a significant impact, either positive, or negative?
Simply, the answer to this is: All of the above.
Being a woman in digital has had both positive and negative impacts on my career over the past 16 years of my professional life. And, all along the way, I’ve learned to scrap and fight against “what just is” for hopes of seeing “what should be” in terms of gender equality in the workplace.
I have always seen myself as a human before anything else. While gender was always something I was aware of as I made my way through the world, it wasn’t something I ever thought would be a hindrance.
As a kid growing up in Southern California, I was raised in a household where men and women interacted equally. There wasn’t a “woman’s place”and a “man’s place” per se. This meant that I learned to respect people for who they were, not for their gender, sexuality, or job title. That said, I was in for a big surprise when I came to New Zealand in 2003, and started working in mostly digital atmospheres. Being “in digital” meant that most of my colleagues were predominantly men. Nerdy, technical, lovely men. Many of whom are akin to family now.
However, if I had a dollar for every time I was talked down to, called “sweetheart”, asked to “smile more”, or told that I wasn’t needed at the table (or at the boys’ drinks after work) I’d have enough money to retire on comfortably from here on out. As a person, I really believe in the ethos of “do no harm, but take no $hit.” Because of this, instead of just allowing inequities to happen in front of me without doing anything, I called people out for moments of everyday sexism—both men and women alike. Sometimes this made working relationships awkward, other times this meant I was actively excluded from projects. Things like that suck, but they’re becoming less and less the norm.
A long time ago I started to consciously change my language around simple things to build self-worth into professional conversations. The simplest one that I’ve stuck to as I’ve progressed is that I refuse to “work for” a person or a brand, but as an empowered human woman, I choose daily to “work with” certain people & businesses. Today I can proudly say that I work alongside an amazing group of humans who respect each other equally. What a magical way to live. My dream for the future for my daughter’s generation is that people are allowed to excel based on merit, not the tenuous nature of gender.
Until that time comes, I’ll remain committed to lifting women professionally as often as I can.
You talk a lot about personal brand. I scrolled through my LinkedIn yesterday and noticed that there’s a lot of men doing a great job of this and not so many women (which could be confirmation bias, I choose who I follow). I worry about sharing too much of myself online out of fear of being objectified or judged on my looks – what would you say to other women who feel this way?
It’s funny that you mention LinkedIn as the breeding ground online for the building of personal brand in our modern, social-media saturated society. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading articles by brilliant men on LinkedIn, and noticed that the algorithm wasn’t serving me up enough feminine voices or points of view. So, as a wee experiment, I’ve recently started unfollowing (most) men on LinkedIn. Doing so isn’t in anyway me saying I don’t like the fellas, it’s actually just my way of attempting to retrain the algorithm to serve me more voices of powerful women. I truly believe we, as women, need to be the main owners of our own fate and personal brands online. By getting more women and men alike to share content that isn’t inherently biased towards a male point of view is a great first step.
As for my own personal brand, I’ve spent a long time simply being me online, and IRL. My personal brand has built up over time to be a significant one in our market, I believe, because I haven’t been afraid to call out inequity when I see it – or to simply have a firm opinion on things that are stereotypically “male” (ahem, digital and leadership spaces) A decade in to the social media revolution, and a decade older, I do think strategically about what I create, curate and share.
There’s definitely power in honesty and genuine voice, but there’s a line I won’t cross as well. That line is one in which my personal, protected, safe space resides. If we’re friends offline, then you don’t need to know all of my “stuff” online, ya know? As much as it pains me to say this, social media is and always has been a veneer. We share the good stuff and some of the hard stuff, but I don’t believe the whole world needs to see us all in our entirety on every channel. I love having a bit of silliness and privacy kept aside for my family and friends.
And on the “being judged on our looks” question, yeah, every woman (every person for that matter) is judged by what we wear, how we carry ourselves, and the way we move through the world. I’m a fairly creative person, and you’ll usually find me in jeans, t-shirt, and a hat. But that’s not to say I don’t know when to don a power suit and heels. I could write a novel on women in the workplace, and how our clothes define which spaces we’re allowed to inhabit. But I’ll save that for another day.
You wear so many hats! One issue for a lot of women in business is juggling career with family – how do you manage it?
This question is one that I don’t like very much. I don’t think I’ve ever (not once!) heard a man asked it. Yet, as a woman, I am asked it ALL OF THE TIME.
The older I get, the more I realise that the “struggle” is really a nuanced set of societal issues, all of which are based around a belief system that says women must live up to other people’s expectations of what our lives should look like. I am very adept at setting expectations and guardrails around my personal time.
I’m a mother, a wife, & a friend first. While I love my job and am proud of my career path to date, the idea of “balance” to me is knowing that there’s no “perfect” when it comes to the juggle/struggle.
Have you got any professional plans for International Women’s Day? (Friday 8th March 2019)
As trite as it sounds, just like lovebirds like to say “Every day is Valentine’s Day for us!” on Valentine’s Day, I feel the same way about International Women’s Day.
Every day is a day where I move through this world as a woman. And, though I definitely feel stronger and more comfortable than ever in my own skin, each day is still a day in a world built for and by men. Professionally I am very excited to be leading a panel discussion at The Warehouse Group head office which will tackle, dismantle, and dive headlong into inherent biases in the workplace, gender equity, and getting comfortable with unpacking the idea of “work/life balance” for women in the workplace.
What advice would you give to young women just entering the world of business?
Be unabashedly you.
Be kind, but take no s*@t.
Take care of your body & your soul in equal measure.
Laugh & enjoy each day.
Rest when you need it.
Always remember that your job title is not who you are.
Do better by others.
And, stop apologising for taking up space.
You’re allowed a seat at the table.
Cassie also included a list of “amazing women” to follow on LinkedIn. I’ve clicked the follow button on all of their profiles, and look forward to having more positive female influence on my feed. Send me a message on LinkedIn (I’m the only one with my name on there, you’ll find me) or flick me an email, and I’ll send you this list of influential and inspirational ladies. Make sure to also follow Cassie on LinkedIn and check out her website.
With International Women’s Day this week, now is a good time to reflect on how far the world has come, and recognise how much further we have to go. There’s work to be done, so build up those clever, talented women around you.
“Who run the world? GIRLS” – Beyoncé
I’m a Waikato local recruiting for roles in government, not for profit, communications, healthcare, retail and many more industries in Hamilton and the wider Waikato. If you are looking for a career change or need a new team member, make sure to get in touch —I like to think I could help!