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GLAMOUR Women in Charge: Meet Laura Thomas

Founding Owner of Salt & Candy Agency, Laura Thomas is championing visibility in the advertising space. Her approach to impact is firmly rooted in the belief that businesses have a responsibility to go beyond their traditional profit-making goals and contribute to the greater good of society.

Asserting that the ‘Mad-Men’ advertising era is very much over, she says “in 2023, there is a growing emphasis on empowering women in the workplace, and the advertising industry is no exception. Women are now more visible in leadership roles, creative teams, and decision-making positions.” Noting that this shift has created a more inclusive and diverse environment, where women can advocate for their ideas and contribute to campaigns that resonate with broader audiences.

Glamour: Please elaborate on what it means to be a woman in your field in 2023?

Laura Thomas: The advertising industry has been historically known for its demanding and competitive nature, which can create challenges for work-life balance. In 2023, there is an increasing awareness of the importance of creating supportive work environments that accommodate the diverse needs of all employees, including women who may have care-giving responsibilities. At my agency, we have always had a huge emphasis on work-life balance, and flexible hours have always been on offer, way before COVID arrived, with a specific focus on the responsibilities of care-giving.

One area that I have noticed certainly needs more representation of women, is within the paid media skill set. A huge part of advertising is now channelled towards digital paid media, and it’s part of my own company’s offering. We specialise in not only creating beautiful brands, but brands that deliver and convert via paid media campaigns. I have found a huge deficit in talent when hiring for this position in general, however there is a noticeable skew towards the paid media and analytics side of the business that is still greatly dominated by men.

Historically, there has been a lack of women working within STEM fields which can be attributed to several factors, some of which include: deep-rooted gender stereotypes and biases which have influenced societal expectations and perceptions of gender roles. These stereotypes often discourage girls and women from pursuing careers in STEM fields, leading to a lack of interest and confidence in pursuing STEM-related education and careers. I believe the notable absence of visible female role models in STEM careers can contribute to the perception that these fields are not suitable or accessible for women. A lack of representation can make it challenging for young girls to envision themselves in STEM professions. I took it upon myself to immerse myself in paid media when I first started my career, and having the understanding of how analytics work and what the numbers are doing behind the creative is priceless. No matter what your position is, having an understanding of this skill set is priceless in my opinion.

Glamour: What does Women's Month mean to you?

Laura: I see the month as a check-in point. It’s just a focus on the value of gender mainstreaming, not Women vs Men. I am tired of that narrative and I think it’s harmful. Gender mainstreaming is not about the sexes, it’s about the value that both feminine and masculine qualities bring to the world and any industry when balanced. I view Women’s Month like a check-in month. Let’s check in on our level of diversity, inclusion, equity, fair pay, fair treatment, family and social initiatives. Let’s see how we are doing and what more we can do, not because women are victims but because it’s good for the world to access all human potential and we are 50% of that potential.Yes, we have historically not been treated as fairly and as a result, I believe the pendulum does need to swing a little harder to our side in order for it to settle back at an equilibrium, and Women’s Month is a perfect opportunity to check in that we are doing just that.

Glamour: What would you attribute your success to?

Laura: Pure determination. There’s a lot of things you can be taught in a classroom, and no education is a waste, but you cannot teach someone to want something, to be hungry for something. That’s something that only you can find in yourself and it’s priceless. I’ve always wanted more from life. I’ve always felt the gentle tug of curiosity, pulling me in new and unknown directions. A desire to know more and be more. I believe constant curiosity is an entrepreneur's lifeblood and it's the attitude which has gotten me where I am today. My curiosity has always led me to the best experiences. Some ended well, others ended with a good story and experiences I certainly learned from, but not before they humbled me for a good few hours. I have learned that the journey and the destination are often two separate things, and that sometimes means that the destination may change as a result of bold steps. As the facts in front of me changed, so did my opinions and views as to where I wanted to go. You need to be flexible and adaptable to change. I have always been open to change. I’ve been curious. I’ve always wanted to peek around the corner, and if there wasn’t a corner to peek around, I’d make the corner!

There have been plenty of moments that I have wanted to throw in the towel, but I found a way through and that determination is only something that you can cultivate for yourself within yourself, not pay someone else to give it to you. I have grabbed every opportunity that has come my way and I have been a sponge in the spaces I then found myself in. I’ve taken chances and risked it all to get to where I am, and it has been worth it. But it has not come without sacrifice, so you need to be sure that you are fully committed to whatever the outcome is that you want to achieve, and here’s a tip. “Having more money” cannot be the only reason. Absolutely, it’s a goal, but it won’t fulfil you. Really think about your why, and let that drive you. It’s not always what you do but how you do it, and this is what has coloured everything I have done in my life and is a big reason why I believe I have had the success I have.

Glamour: What has been the biggest highlight of your journey?

Laura: During COVID, we continued to pay the same salaries and didn’t let anyone go. It was such a desperate time for many, but we made it through as a company and I am proud that we did it in a way that was also thoughtful and flexible for our staff who had to deal with the demands of home-schooling kids, or having their partners at home or having no one at home! When I created this company, it was my goal to create a work environment that people could be happy in, and I believe I achieved that, especially during the pandemic.

Glamour: Why is it important for women to be celebrated?

Laura: Celebrating women helps acknowledge and honour their achievements, which have often been overlooked and undervalued in history. Celebrating women's accomplishments can serve as a source of inspiration for others, especially young girls and women. It shows them that they too can achieve greatness and break barriers, irrespective of gender norms or societal expectations.

Glamour: What's your message to women in business?

Laura: You know that thing that you want to do, but you’re too afraid to do it? I can guarantee you that someone with half your talent and enthusiasm has already started. Stop letting your potential go to waste because you don’t feel ready enough.

Glamour: Do you have any lessons you'd like to share with our audience?

1. The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get. That’s not a coincidence.

2. There is no cookie-cutter way to succeed. If it was that easy, we all would be billionaires. So, stop looking for the exact right way to do what you want to do. Find your own unique groove and pursue it with bravery.

3. Be grateful for failures. Rejection is often redirection to what you’re meant to be doing.

4. Dreams are for free. The sky is not your limit, your mind is. I strongly believe personal development is strongly linked to professional success, and you can’t have one without the other.

5. My dad said something to me when I told him that I was going out on my own. “The only piece of advice I can give to you is, make sure you go to bed at night with a clear conscience.” I try very hard to stick by his wisdom. Sometimes, the other party might not feel the same way which can be tough, but I caretake my karma as best I can, and that’s good enough for me.

6. Put the self-help books down from time to time, and take a walk. Talk to real people in real life. Get inspired by the small things. Exercise and nature can be amazing teachers and mind-clearers. Brilliant ideas are rarely created inside 4 walls.

7. Follow the lives of people who inspire you, not just the highlight reel they have on social media. You will need to create your own unique routine, but take tips from the best by studying their life stories. Many of the people that have made it big in life did not get there on the first try. If anything, failure inspired their success, learn from their mistakes.

8. In the words of Dan Pena:“Show Me Your Friends and I’ll Show You Your Future” You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Choose wisely. I live by the rule: If they leave you in a better mood than when you began, keep them in your circle, if not it’s time to reassess the relationship.

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