BIRGIT IWD

BIRGIT HUBLOUX — FOUNDER OF OONA.AGENCY

“DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR SPEAKING YOUR MIND, FOR SAYING NO OR FOR TAKING CREDIT WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN.”

In what ways have being a woman shaped your work ethics, vision or approach?
“Being a woman has absolutely shaped my work! Women are born relationship managers because of things like connections, relationships, and empathy. For example, I always try to be the driving force based on my inner strengths (such as empathy, input, commitment, being an achiever, being a mentor, etc.) Being true to myself and staying authentic is my compass.”

In your opinion, does the glass ceiling exist for women in this business?
“In this industry, I know it exists. I have seen examples of glass ceiling cases around me but especially in corporate environments. In our specific communications business focused on integrating earned, owned and shared, I do not experience this kind of glass ceiling.

How do you feel about working for a company that consists mostly of women?
“No need to say, I do like it as a female founder as I crafted the environment myself.”

What does female empowerment mean to you?
“For me, it’s all about enabling, pushing boundaries (pushing people further), cross-pollination and reflecting together. Empowerment is about putting confidence in women and listening to them.”

Which powerful woman inspires you and why?
“It’s less about one single woman for me, but more about women around me that inspire me. Whether it’s creative women, people with an academic background, a female friend working in prison, female dancers... my connections inspire me."

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
“Follow your intuition and stay true to your values above everything else. Also, collaborate and cross-pollinate each other with your skills, strengths & experiences. You should know your worth and assert it in a creative environment. Don’t apologize for speaking your mind, for saying no or for taking credit when it’s your turn. Don’t look at the competition. Just do what you do and make it amazing."

GABRIELLA IWD

GABRIELLA QULIYEVA — TECH & FOOD COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

“IT’S BECAUSE OF THE WOMEN THAT I HAVE WORKED WITH, I HAVE LEARNED HOW TO STAND MY GROUND,EMBRACE MY FEMININITY, BE CONFIDENT AND SPEAK UP.”

In what ways have being a woman shaped your work ethics, vision or approach?
“I don’t think it has anything to do with gender. Some people are natural risk-takers, have a strong vision and dare to share their opinions. Other people still need to grow these traits or learn how to master other qualities. Often, the best leaders are the ones who know how to balance emotions and ratio, instead of embracing one of them and rejecting the other.”

In your opinion, does the glass ceiling exist for women in this business?
“I feel like this business is female heavy. So, the glass ceiling is already shattered by the talented women who worked hard to reach higher industry. But overall, I think it does exist and especially because some people are not aware of this fact and if they are, most of them turn a blind eye when this topic is brought up.”

How do you feel about working for a company that consists mostly of women?
“I love it! It’s because of the women that I have worked with, I have learned how to stand my ground, embrace my femininity, be confident and speak up. They were a great example for me as a young woman in my formative years.”

What does female empowerment mean to you?
“To me, female empowerment means to build a strong and healthy relationship with each other instead of creating unnecessary and unhealthy competition. It means supporting each other to grow, become independent and encourage each other to live their full potential.”

Which powerful woman inspires you and why?
“Hermione Granger; She’s smart, confident, stands her ground and does not let others break her spirit, even if no one is supporting her.”

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
“I would advise them to be bold! Speak your mind, share your ideas, and even if you make a mistake, own it. We all make mistakes after all!”

AUDREY IWD

AUDREY VERHULST PR DIRECTOR BEAUTY, INTERIOR & FOOD

“BEING A WOMAN MADE ME MAKE DIFFICULT DECISIONS, HELPED ME TO SEE BEYOND AND WRITE MY OWN CHAPTERS.”

In what ways have being a woman shaped your work ethics,vision or approach?
“I believe I’m proud and happy to be a woman: To be able to multitask, to continuously adapt and reinvent myself (without noticing it anymore). I’ve always been intrinsically convinced that work, business is a serious matter. So, I need and want to be better than average, what gender or whom it is that is average. I need it to function. I need it for me. It’s always been like that since I was a child. And it’s not a given when you’re a woman because you need to work even harder to prove yourself from time to time. Being a woman made me make difficult decisions, helped me to see beyond and write my own chapters. Be yourself and take the lead.”

In your opinion, does the glass ceiling exist for women in this business?
“Glass ceiling is a fact. Numbers and stats prove it. Our industry is full of women, women working in managerial roles. I do not have the impression that we are less represented than men in the business. It might be perception, but it’s how I experience it.”

How do you feel about working for a company that consists mostly of women?
“I feel fine, as I have felt fine back in the years of being the only girl in a class of 13 boys. oona is successful and we’re mostly women, let's clap our hands.Our flexibility and adaptability help us on a daily basis. I’m proud to teach, to coach, to understand my fellow colleagues better and welcome every new addition to the team that helps us improve our gender balance because yes, we care guys!”

What does female empowerment mean to you?
“Making choices, being conscious of who I am and what I’m worth. I have two daughters and I want them to be independent in the future (financially, socially, emotionally) and with a strong sense of self-worth.”

Which powerful woman inspires you and why?
“A dead one: Coco Chanel, she extended her influence beyond couture, she’s an icon. One that’s alive: Michelle Obama, behind every great man… Why? My fave quote : Don’t be afraid. Be focussed. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.”

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
“Be curious, spot opportunities. Learn by example and grow, always. Be the best version of yourself. Chase your dreams and PPP – Pensée Positive Permanente!”

SHARI IWD

SHARI DENISE KAMWA — CREATIVE COPYWRITER

“I AM NOT A GRATEFUL BLACK WOMAN, I AM DESERVING. THE COMBINATION OF MY CAMEROON ROOTS & MY FEMALE STRENGTH MAKES ME A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.”

In what ways have being a woman shaped your work ethics/vision/approach?
“I think as a person of color, I’ve always felt that I had to work twice as hard to prove my worth. Being a woman as well made it add up to triple as hard. But in recent years I have reshaped this mindset.I am not a grateful black woman, I am deserving. The combination of my Cameroon roots & my female strength makes me a force to be reckoned with.

In your opinion, does the glass ceiling exist for women in this business?
“I think the ceiling exists for anybody who isn’t a cis white straight male, to be honest. But change is on the horizon, and glass shards bring good luck!”

How do you feel about working for a company that consists mostly of women?
“I love working with so many inspiring and powerful women on different levels and fields. At oona, I’ve found allies, friends and more.”

What does female empowerment mean to you?
“For me, it's an uplifting sisterhood.”

Which powerful woman inspires you and why?
“It’s hard to pick just one since we are with so many trailblazers. I would go for Maya Angelou, Amanda Gorman, Viola Davis, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Serena Williams, Constance Briscoe and Marsha P.Johnson. One by one, powerful black women who didn’t settle with a seat at the table. They created their own banqueting hall as Kelechi Okafor would say.

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
“Keep pushing through. We are nowhere near an equal opportunity career country. But every one of us stepping into an agency makes a difference. I’m not only addressing women, but I’m also talking to all the people whose narratives are missing in the workplace. Only by including people of different backgrounds, we tell a real 360° PR-story.”

ELINE IWD

ELINE VAN HOOYDONCK — ENTERTAINMENT COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

“...EVEN THOUGH PR IS ALWAYS SEEN AS A “FEMALE ORIENTED FIELD OF WORK”, I AM SURE THE GLASS CEILING STILL EXISTS EVEN THERE.”

In what ways have being a woman shaped your work ethics, vision or approach?
I don’t really believe in a gendered approach to be frank. People often state that women have a ‘softer’ way of communicating with clients and men are more ‘straight to the point’. I think those are stereotypes (not always the case!) and I admire women in the work field that combine different approaches in their way of working, depending on the client.”

In your opinion, does the glass ceiling exist for women in this business?
“There are many women in public relations, and even though PR is always seen as a “female-oriented field of work”, I am sure the glass ceiling still exists even there. We see that leadership positions are still filled by men, and the female-dominated PR industry is too often still led by the male gender.”

How do you feel about working for a company that consists mostly of women?
“Honestly? I love it. To be honest, I would not feel comfortable in an environment that has a gender imbalance in the disadvantage of women. It doesn’t fit my beliefs, values and norms and it would be a pity because I love working with other women.”

What does female empowerment mean to you?
“Female empowerment is all about allowing and equipping other women in your life to grow in their careers and lives, even though they come from a position of disempowerment. Maybe you’re more privileged than them because you’re heterosexual or white. So use your position to empower them.”

Which powerful woman inspires you and why?
“They’re so many of them! Personally, I have a weakness for historical figures like Anne Frank, Lady Diana and Emmeline Pankhurst, but if I have to pick a woman that is changing the world today, I think it would be Michaela Coel. She’s always unapologetically herself and even rejected a 1 million dollar deal with Netflix for the series because they denied her copyright request. For ‘I May Destroy You,’ she found herself inspired by her own experiences with sexual assault. And I think it’s amazing that she’s actively changing the entertainment industry by calling out racism and sexism.”

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
“I always try to be honest, respectful and stay true to myself. I advise everyone (whatever gender) to do the same!”

NOUSHIN IWD

NOUSHIN SHIRZADI — BUSINESS DIRECTOR

“IT’S NOBODY’S FIELD. IT’S EVERYONE’S FIELD. IT’S NEVER NOT YOUR FIELD.”

In what ways have being a woman shaped your work ethics, vision or approach?
“I don’t prefer to associate my work ethics with being a woman, but with who I am as a person, my values and my talents. We shouldn’t let our work be shaped by gender, but the binary societal norm and our environment is often making us approach ourselves this way.”

In your opinion, does the glass ceiling exist for women in this business?
Personally, I haven’t experienced this in my career up to now. But if studies are saying the glass ceiling still exists, I absolutely believe it does. In this business and in many other businesses.”

How do you feel about working for a company that consists mostly of women?
“I’m actually proud of that. oona doesn’t only consist mostly of women; the agency was founded by a woman (Hi Birgit!) who has always been keeping the sweet soul of oona alive. Also, the majority of the leadership team is female. Undeniably oona’s unique culture as it is today has been developed by the entire team. And if these people are mostly women, then this must be the right formation to create a safe and motivational workspace, not only for women but for everyone, and to run a successful business for over 15 years now.”

What does female empowerment mean to you?
“It makes me think of the term “Power Women”, which I’m not so fond of actually. It insinuates that women are not powerful in the first place. Ever heard of “Power Men”? Didn’t think so. But to get back to what female empowerment means to me: all individuals who identify as a woman, valuing themselves and supporting and lifting each other in a world that’s still dominated by men.”

Which powerful woman inspires you and why?
“Cher. No explanation needed after listening to her iconic quote from 1996.”

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
It’s nobody’s field. It’s everyone’s field. It’s never not your field. Don’t let any judgement or treatment based on gender get in your way. Try to shake it off and go for it. Oh, and, come work with us!”

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Shari Denise Kamwa
Shari Denise Kamwa Creative Copywriter