In our first instalment of Juggle’s International Women’s Day blog series, we spoke with Sallee Poinsette-Nash, Founder of Brandable & Co, an award-winning people-brand strategy agency.
Sallee offered up wisdom and humour in abundance in our interview, a slightly abridged version of which features here. Together we covered an extraordinary number of topics — inclusivity, self-acceptance, the corporate game and even pearls of wisdom from Dragons’ Den’s James Caan — in such a short time, making her depth of insight all the more impressive.
One highlight came when we discussed her successful campaign to change the dictionary definition of ‘undersell’, as it had previously given an example of “women have a tendency to undersell themselves in job interviews”. This is one iteration of Sallee’s creativity as a vocal pioneer to make the world a more equitable place. Many more examples of it can be found below.
What are the barriers to women being represented equally in boardrooms?
It comes from both sides in my view. There is the old school mentality for sure, which is all about who you know. And then among women themselves when it comes to having the confidence to sell themselves – I think life is challenging enough. There are plenty of obstacles that can get in your way without adding yourself to that list so I would encourage anyone and everyone to get out of their own way.
It’s mainly women who experience challenges around underselling themselves, but not exclusively. This year I’m seeing many more men at the Stop Underselling Yourself events, which I wouldn’t have predicted based on the attendees last year. It would seem that’s a knock-on effect of the pandemic. One of the biggest issues is that you get so many people that don’t fall into neat categories of typically male or typically female and it’s those people that need greater inclusivity.
What do diversity and inclusion really mean to you?
We live in a truly diverse world, and it’s one of the beautiful things about being human. But it’s vital to have safe spaces for people where they can find similarity. I have an online community for tall women — I’m taller than 99.8% of the global population. I’ve never fitted in with other women physically, and I don’t feel like I have experienced a lot of the challenges many women have with male leaders, possibly because I’m eye-to-eye with more of them.
The #TeamTall community started 5 years ago and now there are 6,300 members. When you find a place where you are all the same it’s easier to love your difference. While that’s not inclusion per se, it’s about acceptance of who you are.
I’m a tall introvert and actually, I almost prefer being in a corporate environment because I blend in better. But there are downsides, people can think you’re aggressive, simply for being tall, before you’ve even said a word – which I’ve always found baffling.
Is this a priority at your current organisation? How is inclusive recruitment doing there?
We’re all about people’s abilities — we work with more women than men, but not for any gender-related reason. Those are simply the individuals who choose to work with Brandable &Co – and our with the corporate arena is a higher percentage of men. If you add it all together, there’s balance overall and in the words of Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”.
What is the best piece of leadership advice you have ever received?
“7/10 is good enough”, is one of my favourites. That came from working with James Caan — he wasn’t a fan of myy perfectionism because the time it takes to get from 7/10 to 10/10 is huge, but the people who notice it? Minimal. He had so much going on in his business and you can get a lot more done with 7/10.
Another – one day he put a piece of paper over my screen, with “Never assume anything” on it. That’s also stayed with me – if in doubt, ask!
Are you aware of certain stereotypes that you want to prove wrong, or any that you feel pressured to meet?
I’m notorious for not fitting the mould, it’s why I run my own business. I’ve been unemployable since about 2008! But there’s strength in that, in having an untrained mind. I used to think it was a disadvantage, but for me it’s the opposite. I can go in and see things from a different perspective.
But in my role, I’m meeting people at that human-level when helping build their brand strategy. There isn’t, and there can’t be, any preconceived ideas — I’ve been in this industry for years and you can’t judge books by their covers. We’re all guilty of it, but I know not to meet people on the surface level. If there’s one thing you can assume about people, it’s that there’s so much goodness buried under the surface, and it’s part of my job to try to uncover and showcase that.
Tell us about the Macmillan dictionary.
Part of our #StopUndersellingYourself campaign materials featured a definition that said “many women have a tendency to undersell themselves in job interviews. I ran three sessions with that definition in the materials — with an eye roll emoji next to it — and would say “I cannot believe it says this in the dictionary”. One month into a 12 month campaign I couldn’t repeat it again, so I took to Twitter and LinkedIn. The following morning I hit the phones. After about 16 hours Macmillan replied saying it was gone – I don’t know how many people saw that over the years but I’m glad that it stops here. Even a small win for gender equality is worth celebrating and it proves that anyone can, and should change things that no longer fit the narrative.
Too many people still aren’t able to work flexibly, but thankfully a new campaign is trying to shake things up.