LABS 90 High Holborn
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LJ
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8th March 2022 | 9 min read
To celebrate International Women’s Day we, at LABS, are shining the spotlight on some our amazing female members.
So, let us introduce to you to Riannon Palmer who launched PR and communications agency Lem-uhn in May last year to create an alternative type of agency that prioritises positivity.
Working exclusively with businesses that have a positive impact and the power to make the world a happier place Riannon and her team help to grow these brands through effective PR, social media, influencer partnerships and events.
Within Lem-uhn, itself, Riannon ensures wellness practices are implemented and encouraged, which includes her employees working their set hours only to deliver a happy work environment.
What have been the challenges of establishing and leading a business as a woman and what have been the opportunities?
Prior to the pandemic, starting a business wasn’t something I thought I could do as I hadn’t seen young women, or people, in general, starting their own business. I had always seen older men running companies and with the majority of senior positions in companies. The lack of representation certainly made me think starting a business wasn’t a possibility for me. It’s a huge issue in the business world, and we need more representation of people of different genders, races, backgrounds and sexualities to help show people that it’s a possibility for them.
Although every person is unique and people of any gender have characteristics that are typically ‘female’ or ‘male’, women tend to have higher emotional intelligence. I think it’s an important skill to have in business as there is a lot of balancing plates, wearing different hats, and managing employees. It’s also key for managing stressful times, and personally I implement positive strategies into my life to help with this.
Who inspires you and why?
I draw inspiration from many people, and I’m inspired by the everyday people who continue to strive for their dreams, while having to maintain a job that doesn’t bring them as much joy to support their loved ones. We’re not all born with privileges of having a support system to lift you up, or the ability to have a good education, or a secure home. As a society, we need to introduce opportunities for everyone to have equal opportunities in life.
In the business world, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder and Chief Executive of online dating platform Bumble, is breaking down the barriers of what a CEO looks like and how a company should run. She started her company following a toxic environment at her previous company Tinder, where she was sexually harassed, and created an app which puts women’s safety and networking at the centre. The powerful image of her carrying her son while ringing the bell at the opening of American stock exchange NASDAQ breaks down the normal concept of a CEO. She is paving the way for a new type of woman and showing us that if you want to have a family while running one of the biggest companies in the world, you can.
How have you developed your leadership skills and confidence? What advice have you for other women looking to do so?
For me, I learn best by doing and in the past year, I have learnt so much. Giving up a secure job and starting a business is a daunting prospect, and I know I have been fortunate enough to have had savings to support myself in my decision. Many women aren’t as lucky to have this security to support them.
Having the confidence to take a leap of faith can lead to huge rewards. It’s hugely rewarding to have a career you love and to be building a company with an ethos you believe in.
As a leader, confidence can inspire a team, clients and potential investors. Even if you’re not confident, it’s essential to act as if you are. In turn, it can also lead to you actually feeling more confident in the long run.
As a leader, how do you stay mindful of who’s at the table and who’s missing?
Women dominate the PR industry, and the majority of people who have applied for jobs at the company have been women. We’re currently an all-female team, but I think it’s important to have a diverse team and it’s always an aim for us.
The issue in the PR industry, and many other industries, is that although women dominate in the junior roles, men still dominate the leadership and senior roles. We need to work to break this mould, and also to encourage more men into the industry to ensure we’re keeping the sector open to all.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
There have been many interesting studies that reveal the significant differences in how women are raised compared to men. Growing up, we are often taught different gendered roles which have a knock-on effect in our adult life. Girls are traditionally taught that their actions should please and make others happy, while boys tend to be taught that they can ask for more of what makes them happy.
In the workplace, studies have shown this translates to men asking for promotions and pay rises, while women wait to be rewarded for their hard work, and sadly this often means they can be left behind. We must teach and show all young people their worth and the importance of focusing on their personal happiness.
However, women who do assert and pursue their own ambitions and promote their own interests are often seen as pushy and can be excluded. This unconscious behaviour can be worse for ethnic minorities, and similarly those with different sexual or gender orientations. Companies must check their unconscious bias and support all people to have the same access and opportunities.
This means when women do strive for leadership roles, they are often perceived in a negative light while men are seen to be powerful. We need to break down these negative gendered thoughts, and also to ensure we’re raising the next generation to be confident and consider their own happiness as well as others.
What are the benefits to having women in leadership roles?
Representation is hugely important to show people that individuals like themselves have successfully followed the path they wish to already. As more women grow into leadership roles, it will enable others to think it’s something they can achieve.
Women also provide a different perspective, bringing unique life experiences. This is especially needed in marketing where our campaigns should reflect what is of interest to all consumers, not just men.
How do you balance career, personal life and passions in a leadership role? Is there such a thing as balance and is it achievable?
It’s important to have balance in your life and something I certainly am lucky enough to have. As I have come from intensely busy agencies where I would have little time for a life outside work, the balance I have with Lem-uhn is amazing. The whole ethos of the company is to create a type of agency for the future which includes a balanced life. For me, I’m lucky enough to have a job I love, which means sometimes I open my laptop on the weekend if I feel like doing some work as it’s something I enjoy.
I follow the happiness principle of Lem-uhn in my personal life too and love chasing an endorphin high. I’m passionate about fitness and enjoy regular visits to LABS gym at lunchtimes, or to a nearby class at lunch or after work. I think it’s very important to get outside, and at Lem-uhn we enjoy lunchtime walks to Primrose Hill. Time in nature can improve your mood and productivity, as well as decreasing stress levels.
How can women support other women in their organisations?
Growing up we all watched films of women being put against other women when in truth usually the villain in the film should have been the cheating boyfriend or toxic boss. This idea that other women are out to get you can seep into your mindset, and it’s important to reset our thinking. Like with many things that we’re taught as children, this concept that other women don’t want you to succeed is a lie. The vast majority of women want to see you succeed, and there is room for all of us to do well.
We live in an age of social media, with opportunities abundant on different platforms. I always like to send relevant opportunities I see to people I know. It’s the best feeling when something you sent leads to a new job, great connection or brand opportunity.
This year’s IWD theme is about breaking the bias. What strategies can work well to promote inclusion and equality in the workplace?
I think the key thing we need to do is challenge our preconceptions and mindset. By acknowledging that you may have a bias or a negative mindset you are taking the first step to change it.
It can be difficult to realise this as we’re always so busy running around and never take time to sit down and think. At the end of most days, I like to write my thoughts down, and it can help you to figure out your inner thoughts and give you some self-perception in all aspects of your life.
What advice do you have for women looking to establish and/or grow their own business or within the company they work for?
One key trait that boys get taught early on in life is confidence. As women, we need to build our self-confidence later in life – something a lot harder to do.
Even if you’re not confident, it’s essential to act as if you are. In turn, it can also lead to you actually feeling more confident in the long run. Not only can this help during the interview process as employees look for people who seem confident in themselves as people assume they must be confident in their field, but it also helps with things such as career progression and winning clients and investment
Positivity is also intrinsically linked to confidence. I like to introduce easy positive strategies into my daily life to lead to a more positive mindset.
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