The annual coming together of women and allies in the marcomms industry is something I’ve not yet experienced in person. Well, a face-to-face Bloomfest delivered! Under the theme of “The Lift”, the event raised us up, invigorated after a few years of heaviness and brought a diverse and inspiring group of speakers and panellists together. JAA’s Sarah Jennings (lead on the Bloom Exchange programme), Elizabeth Emsley (Bloom Treasurer) and myself (Mentoring Events Lead) all attended.
We started the day with a spoken word performance from poet Peju Abuchi. Whilst looking at my cracked hands and nail bitten fingers she somehow made me reconsider these appendages that work hard, express feelings and signify lift. A group of pre-dominantly, but not exclusively, women physically raising themselves up was a great kick off.
Next to the stage was the powerful and unstoppable Michelle Moore. As a competitive but social sportswoman Michelle is a bit of a heroine of mine, she speaks her truth with a boldness that was inspiring and moving. Her three Ts to thrive – perhaps a bit tenuous as I remember them as SPACE, KINDNESS and RESILIENCE – were delivered in an empowering and rousing 15 minutes on the mic. It was a pleasure to meet her later on whilst getting a copy of her book Real Wins: Race, Leadership and how to Redefine Success signed. I’ll treasure the personalised note “Dear Caroline, All power to your leadership journey! Michelle” – she has the ability to make you feel like you can and must make change.
The panels and speaker sessions came thick and fast. There were sessions on; breathing techniques and CV clinics; the famous Booth of Truth (where you can write down your lived experiences that may have felt too ‘dangerous or difficult’ to verbalise to anyone before) and storytelling and personal brand-building workshops. I have to admit I focused on a few sessions that I thought would help, develop and lift me.
A truly eclectic panel discussed how to become a good ally. Some eye-opening, and shocking, tales from Vice journalist Ben Hunte drew sharp in-takes of breath as well as laughs around the room. My take aways from this session:
- There is room at the table for everyone to be represented. If you are at the table and others aren’t you can speak on their behalf.
- Showing up for others is one of the most powerful things you can do.
- We have to shift from equality to equity – not new news but still a drumbeat that needs to be heard.
- To present as a ally understand the intersectionality of individuals, this means; ask questions, actively listen, give people the space to speak, take action on what you hear.
- Finally, bring someone on the journey of allyship with you – it can make a big difference and inspire others.
THE DEI DEBATE
The panel debate discussed many of the hot topics on the DEI agenda but kicked off with the big question of whether DEI is being marginalised as a business priority. The answer was a resounding no but that the trade media may be setting a misleading agenda and that leaders need to know how to harness DEI to drive cultural change rather than as a tick-box exercise.
One of my favourite take-aways from this session was actually the introductions of the moderator and panellist – clear and inclusive; name, pronouns, title/organisation, role today, verbal description of themselves. Working with organisations such as RNIB, we know the importance of inclusive communications but hearing it in such a public panel environment was powerful.
IT TAKES A ‘WORK’ VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD
This session focused on parents and the role of your work ‘tribe’ that understand the flexibility needed to juggle the work-parent-life-balance. There was a working Dad, who’s partner had suffered such a hideous return to work he has acted. By joining the Bloom Exchange he is part of a group of male leaders trying to better understand the world of maternity and ‘returnity’. A brilliant phrase totally stolen from podcaster and speaker, Letty Gordon-Furse. Fertility and infertility was also openly discussed and raised the importance of empathetic and understanding employers as well as the importance of Shared Parental Leave actually being used by working fathers to support working mothers.
BLOOMFEST OVER AND OUT. ON TO MENTEE NETWORKING EVENT…
I left the festival, lifted, if not a bit exhausted by all the inspiring topics discussed and networking taking place. I now turn my attentions to the Bloom Mentee Networking event I’m planning for early March. Inspired and invigorated to do my little bit to pay it forward.