In honour of 2019's International Women’s Day call for #BalanceForBetter in the world of work, we spoke to some of the women who make Coca‑Cola Ireland tick. We asked them what they thought of challenges women faced in 2019, how things are changing for the better, and for some of their biggest career learnings.
On the panel: Aedamar Howlett, Marketing Director for Western Europe; Gabrielle Abrahams, Digital Senior Manage and; Tara Byrnes, Marketing Graduate for Coca‑Cola Ireland
Aedamar: I’m based in Dublin but my team and role spans across our Western European business. As part of this, I have the responsibility and privilege to grow the most valuable brands in our business all of which have massive revenue and share growth potential. And I get to work with the most talented marketing and commercial people in the industry. We have an amazing breadth of brands and opportunities for growth to work with, so it’s an exciting, dynamic and hugely rewarding place to be within the business.
Gabrielle: My role as Digital Senior Manager for Ireland and Great Britain is to ensure that we’re delivering best in class digital strategy and activation across our portfolio of brands.
Tara: I work closely with our brand managers to execute various projects, and get to work on most brands in the Irish portfolio – from Coke to Schweppes.
Aedamar: I was immensely proud to lead the GB & Ireland marketing team to deliver our partnership with the Premier League during 2018. From initial meetings with the Premier League, through to contract negotiation and eventually through to communication and activation planning, it was a fast, exciting and hugely rewarding project.
Our partnership gives us an immensely rich platform to bring our values of inclusiveness, diversity and sustainability to life across our growing portfolio whilst we continue our legacy of celebrating the passion of football fans – and it’s given us all a great sense of pride & achievement to see the partnership brought to life beautifully through the ‘Where Everyone Plays’ film.
Gabrielle: My absolute passion is helping to create really impactful creative content. So for me, there are two projects that have been my favourite to work on. The first is the “This One’s For” teen recruitment campaign for Coca‑Cola, which we collaborated with social media influencers on.
I was lucky enough to be on set, overseeing the multiple pieces of content that were produced, working directly with influencers to bring their interpretation of our brief to life and making sure we were delivering content that hit on the insight we had from this very hard-to-reach audience! I also love working on the Fanta campaigns for Halloween, they’re always great fun.
Tara: It’s hard to choose one as a stand out. Last year, I worked closely on Christmas for Coke. This is an iconic campaign, and being part of the team that bring it to life locally was cool. I was responsible for the Truck Tour and all media and PR to amplify it – it was a proud moment to see it live!
Aedamar: I think that the key challenges faced by women today are shared by many young men too. That is to juggle a successful career with family life – particularly for parents of young children. This is good news, though, as it reflects progress in equality and how far we’ve come to jointly recognize the importance of dual careers and dual parenting.
I think women, including myself, still choose to take on more responsibility than our partners for the logistics of managing a family. But I do see us getting better at supporting one another, as well as a willingness to share the load with our partners and not try do it all ourselves.
Gabrielle: I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to balance home and work life. Trying to excel in motherhood and excel in your career still doesn’t always feel possible, and that you do have to make a choice between the two. I think we have a long way to go in society to create the same opportunities for working mums and women without children, as well as making it more socially acceptable to prioritise one over the other – whatever your choice may be.
Tara: There are a lot of serious issues that people of any gender can face in the workplace, but to compete equally, I think women need to be treated fairly and equally. I think the lack of female role models can be a challenge; everyone needs something to aspire to.
Aedamar: Coca‑Cola is a very supportive business for parents, offering many flexible solutions as they’re required. Coca‑Cola also thrives on a wealth of female talent, and invests in programmes to develop their careers and provide a pathway to leadership.
Gabrielle: I think Coca‑Cola has good flexibility for working mums (and dads), and that’s apparent with women in senior and leadership positions who have young children and have a flexible working routine. It’s also reassuring to see examples of women who have been promoted or given new role opportunities whilst on maternity leave.
Tara: My direct team are all women, so I think that says a lot! I’m fortunate to be exposed to women in the leadership team that really inspire and motivate me in my career. This is so important, especially for someone like me in the early stages of their career.
Aedamar: International Women’s Day signifies two things for me. Firstly, it serves to recognize the progress we’ve made by celebrating the brave women around the world who have challenged the status quo to stand for equality and balance.
Secondly, it serves as a reminder of the work we still need to do for the next generation to ensure that balance in life and work is the same for all – regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. For me personally that means being a role model and a champion for the next generation of young men & women striving to reach their career potential as well as a fulfilling family and personal life.
Gabrielle: It means ensuring gender equality stays front of mind and part of an ongoing, important conversation. It’s about celebrating women in general – not just women in the workplace.
Tara: I think #BalanceForBetter is a great slogan. This initiative doesn’t stop after International Women’s Day; we’re always striving for better. IWD is important though, it creates awareness of the collective responsibility we all have.
Aedamar: I’d love to see better childcare support for young families – particularly in the pre-school years. My husband and I have four children who are now all at school. Those early years of bringing up babies and young children whilst continuing to build our careers were a pretty exhausting juggling act! These are the circumstances around which we often see young promising talent – mostly female – opt to step back from fulfilling their career potential.
Gabrielle: I’d like to see even more flexibility offered to working mums, and more women in C-Suite-level jobs. Not just women, but women of diversity too.
Tara: Work/life balance is more than just a buzzword. Everybody has challenges at home as well as at work, and parents have their plates full 24/7. Increased recognition that happy workers are more productive and engaged is a good thing, and I believe changes are being made to tackle this, which is great.
Aedamar: I’d give the same advice to men or women aspiring for a leadership role: go for it, and keep your eye on the prize! Think about your unique strengths to build on, be aware of what you need to learn, and be relentlessly curious. Don’t be fixed on a career ladder – be open to opportunities to expand your skills and experience outside of your game-plan, and flex accordingly.
You always have a choice to change direction and speed to fit your circumstances and ambition at any given time. Some of the less predictable project or role opportunities I have had ended up being the most rewarding for me.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you can’t do it all – family and work – by yourself. You need a support network inside and outside of work, you need to be kind to yourself, and you need to find time to do something outside of work and home that is just for you.
Gabrielle: If you say ‘digital’, be really clear where you want to be! The spectrum is so broad now, it reaches into media strategy, content, technical development, customer service, design, performance marketing, business transformation, and more! So have a focus on what aspect of digital marketing you want to specialise in; just saying “I want to work in digital” doesn’t mean anything anymore in my opinion.
Tara: When I started as a graduate at Coca‑Cola I was surrounded by fantastic mentors, which helped me realise this is the work I can see myself doing five years from now. So I’d try and identify a mentor as soon as possible. Also, try and find a balance between working on lots of projects, and seeing projects through from start to finish – that’s really how you grow and develop.
Feeling inspired? You can find out lots more about working at Coca‑Cola right here.