Good Works Philosophy: Karmarama's Managing Partner, Hannah Matthews

As the industry is evolving I hope we’re all trying to make it a better place to work for everyone.


How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?       

Our Good Works philosophy is incredibly important to us at Karmarama. We aim to ‘do the right thing’ with a company culture which encourages everyone to be treated fairly and equally, not just women. Good Works is a core part of our culture, which in turn helps us attract and retain talent and inspires us to do better work. It’s made up of four core values: care, collaboration, candour and character that we score against in employee reviews to re-enforce their importance. We celebrate the best examples of living this culture with our employee of the month award, which is voted for by staff. We hope that this makes Karmarama a great place to work for everyone - and again this year were named the highest ranked agency to work for in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For as well as winning a special award for our Good Works commitment to culture.


In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?

As the industry is evolving I hope we’re all trying to make it a better place to work for everyone, in order to attract the best talent into the industry in the first place when there is so much competition. We know that more diversity of talent leads to diversity of thinking and delivers the best creative output – which makes diversity a business imperative not just a nice to have – and this means greater diversity in all forms not just gender, age or ethnic background.


What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

The data shows that we don’t have gender equality in the communications and marketing industry, in particular low representation of women in leadership and in creative departments, with IPA research suggesting that 89% of creative directors in the UK are men. Yes there are lots of positive changes happening but not fast enough. The industry still has issues including unconscious bias, lack of female role models, gender pay gap and cultural biases which we need to work on. Organisations like WACL, which I’m proud to be a member of, and Ali Hanan at Creative Equals are doing brilliant work in this area.


What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

I’m a big believer in interests, hobbies and passions outside work. Not only do I think this makes you more interesting and better at your job (next time there is a pitch for a food brand, guess what, the junior agency person who writes a food blog in their spare time is going to be on that pitch team). And if things ever get stressful it helps to have the perspective from home life, family or hobbies. On a practical level it’s also good discipline to learn early on to work efficiently in the day and walk confidently out of the door to get to band practice on time without thinking the world will collapse.


What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Becoming part of the WACL Executive Committee and the (relatively small) part this meant I played in the recent timeTo initiative, which aims to end sexual harassment in advertising and marketing in the UK. It’s a brilliant initiative from WACL, NABS and the Advertising Association. If your company hasn’t yet committed to the timeTo code of conduct, please get signed up now and help make working life better for everyone in our industry!


Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?          

I often have the words of Nicola Mendelsohn in my ear, who always said ‘push yourself out of your comfort zone’. Nicola encouraged me to apply for Management Today 30 under 30 and Women of Tomorrow and to put myself forward for the WACL Exec, all of which have been amazing experiences. I had the opportunity with Karmarama to speak onstage at SXSW about brands in the digital space - and my immediate reaction would have been ‘maybe someone else would be better’ but it was a dream to be able to speak at what is my favourite conference -  and having that advice ringing in my ears was the push I needed to go for it.


How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

For the last year I’ve ran WACL Gatherings, events which aim to inspire the next generation of female leaders and provide practical tips to help accelerate the momentum towards equality. Covering topics like resilience, business basics, coping with imposter syndrome and making it into leadership positions – these regular events are open to all in the industry, so do check out the WACL website or twitter for more information and do share with women you think would benefit from these gatherings. In the words of Jack Lemmon ‘always send the elevator back down’.