LABS 90 High Holborn
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LJ
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8th March 2023 | 6 min read
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we invited female LABS members to share their personal and professional experiences to tie in with this year’s theme, which is embracing equity. For context, while equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities, equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
We spoke to publishing professional Zoe Fawcett, Production Director at Bonnier Books UK, who talks about making changes to the recruitment process, offering flexible working and how a trip to Hong Kong inspired her to step out of her comfort zone.
Please tell us about yourself, your business and your background.
I have been working in book publishing and media for nearly 30 years. My role is in production. My team and I oversee the printing and shipping of finished books from all over the world. Bonnier Books UK publishes a wide variety of titles, from black and white novels to elaborate pop-up books which are printed in the UK, Europe and the Far East. I love the variety that the role offers, the daily new challenges and the passion of those that work in the industry.
Tell us what this year’s theme means to you and how your business supports diversity, equity and inclusion.
Equity, diversity and inclusion are so important to BBUK! The publishing industry has been traditionally very white and very middle class and we are striving, along with most other publishers, to change that and to ensure that we are more inclusive. I recognise that each individual works in a different way, has different strengths, weaknesses and areas of interest and are fully supported to learn and develop in their role and that everyone has a clear progression plan no matter which level they work at.
We offer flexible working, which helps to negate the issue of publishing being traditionally very London-centric and supports our staff to achieve more of a work-life balance. We work closely with a company called Creative Access to reach candidates from more diverse backgrounds and widen the talent pool.
We use an anonymous application form to eliminate unconscious bias in the recruitment process.
We have inclusive parental and adoption leave policies, as well as recently rolling out a menopause policy in order to better support anyone experiencing menopause with flexible and inclusive support.
We feel it is very important that everyone can identify with characters in a story or see themselves in an image in a children’s picture book. We have a new imprint – Footnote – which focuses solely on giving a voice to under-represented groups.
What further resources and opportunities would you like to see in your particular sector to progress women?
My sector has always had more trouble attracting men than women, but the relatively low pay in entry-level roles and even in those that are more senior means that a woman in a single-income household might have to think again about how they can survive on the pay. This is improving gradually – we recently increased the entry-level salary in order to be able to support and retain junior staff – but we can always improve further. The majority of senior and leadership roles in the industry are still held by men and I would like to see more clear progression paths for women across the sector. Women would benefit from focused leadership training and mentoring and we still need to close the gender pay gap.
If you’re an entrepreneur or working in an SME it can sometimes be a struggle to know who to turn to for career advice. With this in mind, do you have a mentor and if so how did you establish them as your mentor and what do they do?
I have never had a mentor but the sector does have some amazing female role models, our CEO Perminder Mann being one of them. I was lucky that my MD in my first job was amazing. He believed in me and gave me the opportunity in my very first role, in the mid-1990s, to go to Hong Kong on my own and try to find new suppliers for some of the children’s products that we made. There was no internet back then and I was encouraged to pick up the Hong Kong Yellow Pages and search for toy manufacturers and new printers. It was the start of a lifelong love of Hong Kong & China and working with the people and factories there. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and find solutions to problems, something that I encourage my team to do too.
What advice would you say to give to someone who is finding it difficult to get their voice heard at work?
I would hope that you might have a manager who would listen to you and promote your voice, but if you do not, try and find someone more senior who you feel comfortable talking to and who is willing to listen. Don’t be afraid that what you have to say is not relevant or useful. Perhaps see if you can set up a group of others who might feel the same, talk to your peers and find out what they did. See if you can find a mentor inside or outside the company to work with. The culture at Bonnier encourages people to share their opinions and be involved in the discussion.
Let’s take another look at what equity means – How do you balance career, personal life and passions?
What I need to balance has changed over the years as I have progressed through my life. When I was younger I was ambitious but always made time to have fun when I was out of work. When I had a small child, I was forced to concentrate on them and what they needed. There is no easy answer here and I think that it is even more competitive in the industry now than it was when I started.
And if we take equity in the financial sense – what’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever been given?
Budget – be really aware of your incomings and outgoings, review them regularly and shop around. It amazes me when people do not know what they pay for certain things. Knowledge is power.
What advice do you have for women looking to establish and/or grow their own business or within the company they work for?
Listen to others, and learn from mistakes. Be diligent, be present and be helpful. If you work towards always doing the best that you can, putting yourself forward for as much as you can, you get noticed and people take you seriously. Also, believe in yourself.
And finally, what’s one piece of great advice a senior female relative, friend or colleague has ever given you?
I think that there are two – ‘’Assume makes an ass out of you and me” and “The devil is in the detail” both of which seem to be pertinent every day!
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