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#sowhoknew: Facebook’s Leigh Thomas on her secrets to success on #WomensDay

Gender parity is 217 years away according to the World Economic Forum and the International Women’s Day this Thursday is aiming to raise awareness of this inequality and encourage us all to try and bridge the delta.

I signed up for their #PressForProgress campaign a few weeks ago and my personal pledge was to celebrate female role models and their career journeys. Consequently, I decided to reach out to my network of female business leaders and entrepreneurs on LinkedIn to understand more about their own unique paths to success.

I spoke with six senior women who hold key positions in their respective industries or businesses either in the US, UK, Canada or China. Each of them provides a unique insight into how they established their careers, how they tackled gender bias and how they have ultimately succeeded. They all have very different, yet equally fascinating, stories to tell which are the embodiment of what the International Women’s Day is trying to achieve.

In the second of the six interviews, today we have Leigh Thomas from Facebook:

The advertising and communications industry has often been referred to as one of the last bastions of male domination but if you look at the career of Leigh, who is the Director of Global Accounts for Facebook, you would be forgiven for thinking that she has been instrumental in helping to break down some of those barriers.

Prior to her current role she had risen through the ranks of elite advertising agencies including Lowe Lintas, Abbott Mead Vickers and Saatchi & Saatchi before becoming CEO at the digital creative agency Dare. On her LinkedIn profile she is described as being “cool, tough and fun.”

I asked Leigh if she felt that these three words summed her up succinctly or if she felt there were more secrets behind her success?

“Well I do like to have fun. I think enjoying what you do has a lot to do with succeeding at what you do. And I probably am quite tough – on the standard of the work, and hopefully not on the people with whom I work. I am definitely not cool. My daughter will attest to that! So I am not sure that these are the qualities that have made the difference.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” This insight is a more honest articulation of the roots of my so called success. Obviously climbing the ladder, particularly in the early years of my career, was tough. But I found incredible sponsors, men and women, who have helped me on my way. And this supportive sponsorship is done even more deliberately within Facebook. This has been incredibly powerful for my own self confidence and continued commitment to this industry of ours. I owe all of these good folk a huge debt of thanks, and hope to continue this thread of positive sponsorship to other women.

My hope is that we work with all persuasions to create this more equal environment, in calm and open conversation, as the definition of feminism, is ultimately equality. That is the job to be done. Now would be a good time to do it, rather than wait 200 years.”

A huge thanks to all the inspirational thoughts provided by my interviewees. The common thread I can see amongst all these incredibly smart business leaders is that they all have unwavering determination, an innate self-confidence and an unrelenting persistence to succeed. Any aspiring entrepreneur or aspiring business leader, from either gender, can learn a lot from these ladies.

Read the first interview with TV presenter Trisha Goddard here.

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.