More women should control their own destiny

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Effie Kanyua is the founder of We Are Warriors PR and the founder of the first female-founded AI writing and content tool business of its kind, LILA Assistant. She is a multi award-winning former Director of PR & Comms for Hearst UK and Communications Director at Bauer Media where she led its broadcast and then publishing arm. She spent several years at the BBC working as a journalist and within its TV and radio businesses. She has led teams at many leading global communications agencies and has worked with some of the world’s biggest tech, media, FMCG, beauty, luxury, and healthcare brands. She currently is a WIPR and Creative Access mentor and award judge for CIPR, PR Moments, and PRCA and speaks regularly at events and conferences across the media industry.

Biggest fuck up?

It was at an agency for a big global client who was pretty demanding. I sent an email to journalists with an attachment which shouldn’t have been added.

The client had a meltdown and went ballistic. I had multiple late-night calls where he absolutely tore into me. I thought my life was over and that I was going to get sacked.

It was a huge learning for me personally and dented my confidence, but it also made me appreciate how important it is to approach someone on your team when they make mistakes, or you make one yourself. It reminds me of when one of my bosses said, ‘When it comes to a crisis, unless it’s a life or death issue, then do not sweat the small stuff because anything else we can fix’. I always respected him for that. I’ve carried that with me ever since and have always told my teams that we can always fix mistakes and not to get too caught up, however big it seems at the time because there is always a solution or a lesson to be learned.

Rant

We still have gender and ethnicity pay gaps, and women seem to burn out at a much higher rate.

For all the showboating about equality in a female-dominated industry, it is incredulous that we still have to fight for inclusion, equality, and equity, especially in leadership roles.

It also maddens me when people feel that all I can speak about is diversity and ignore my knowledge and skillset in other areas, such as crisis comms, internal comms or brand reputation.

Effie Kanyua

It feels as though Black women can get easily pigeonholed when it comes to knowledge expertise, such as brands choosing a Black-founded agency to only work on ‘diversity projects’, forgetting the wealth of experience that you have spent years learning and honing. We urgently need that mindset to change.

The hill that I would die on? I honestly believe that more women should take the leap to control their own destiny, instead of relying on corporations to do it for them. That’s why I am so passionate about female entrepreneurship, investment, and leadership, and I have zero qualms about speaking up about it.

Useful advice

I have three things that I think sum up the best advice over the years….

  1. Don’t let anyone try and convince you that you can’t do or aren’t deserving of something. Do it anyway and prove them wrong. If I had listened to everyone who told me that I couldn’t do something or had discouraged me, I would be in a very different place than I am in now as a female founder.
  2. Lead with empathy – it’s so underrated the higher up you get, but it’s probably one of the most important qualities to have. I don’t know where in the rule book it was written that as a leader, you need to forget empathy to appear ‘strong.’
  3. Never be afraid to ask for help or fail – this is probably the area that I need to always consciously work on, and it’s important for growth.

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