About WACL Gather Last Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Report on WACL’s sell-out annual conference

WACL’s Gather 2019 conference came to London’s Kings Place this week with a typically eclectic mixture of sessions: provocative keynote speakers, training, live music, panel discussions and speed mentoring sparked by the theme of Changemakers.

Take personal responsibility for change, be kind, declare a vision for your life, feel fear and go with it – these were some of the pieces of advice given by speakers to an audience of over 500 delegates drawn from agencies, media and marketing.

Attendees heard:

Vivian Hunt DBE, Managing Partner at McKinsey & Co, UK & Ireland who drew from McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report to talk about why diversity is good for business and her own career. “Changing the system is harder than changing yourself’, she said. “There are so many micro-aggressions and hostilities every day, and I choose to respond with kindness“.

A panel of industry experts talked about turning change into an opportunity, covering the gender pay gap, imposter syndrome, career transitions and personal branding at work. The panel was chaired by WACL member Caroline Marshall and featured:

  • Katie McKay-Sinclair, Partner at Mother
  • Sara Tate, CEO of TBWA
  • Lisa Thomas, Global Brand Director at Virgin

The event’s sole male speaker was Phil Bartlett, Managing Director of CDM London. In a session titled ‘Boys Don’t Cry‘ he spoke powerfully about a man’s gender equality journey through “nature and nurture, successes and failures and where we go from here.

Lisa McCarthy, Founder and CEO of Fast Forward Group delivered a high energy interactive training session calling on the audience to fast forward to a year from now, declare a bold vision and share it: “Many people, especially women, sell out, settle and sacrifice because we don’t see enough role models and it we don’t believe it’s possible to thrive at work and at home,” she said. “Extraordinary success is possible for everyone.

Manal Rostom, the Egyptian-born founder of the Surviving Hijab movement and the first Hijabi athlete to be featured in a Nike campaign shared her inspirational story of breaking personal, social and cultural barriers: “I want to be judged on what’s in my head, not on my head” she said.

Trans activist Charlie Craggs is the founder of Nail Transphobia. She spoke powerfully and movingly about the power of conversation to effect positive change: “Most people will never meet a trans person“, she said. “I want to bring people into the conversation, please be an ally.

The afternoon featured a presentation from WACL Future Leaders Award winners who had benefited from individually-designed training grants awarded to women who demonstrate high potential for senior leadership roles. To close, there was a live performance from Ayanna Witter-Johnson, an exceptional cellist, singer and songwriter whose work blends classical and urban music.

Leigh Thomas, Director at Facebook and Gather co-chair said: “We are grateful to our brilliant speakers for sharing such honest and provocative views. Our goal is to help women take steps towards achieving their career and life goals, and this purpose has underscored Gather since its launch [originally as the WACL Forum] in 1996. We believe this event is a huge catalyst for change.

Gather 2020 is on May 21 next year at Kings Place.

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