In conversation: Erica Ingham and Mamaa Duker
Bringing your whole self to work
To coincide with International Women’s Day, WPP brings together 16 brilliant women and men from across its global network, in eight conversations about the industry, equality and the impact of our work on wider society.
MediaCom North’s CFO, Erica Ingham, talks to WPP Fellow, Business Development Manager and WPP Roots lead, Mamaa Duker, about mentors, learning to be comfortable standing out and the importance of a happy, productive workforce.
Mamaa Duker: I’m very interested to know, Erica, how you found transitioning from FOX to the BBC and then moving to MediaCom?
Erica Ingham: Being a finance person, and not from the agency side, the move from the likes of FOX and the BBC has been a real eye-opener. It’s been fascinating to come to the other side and understand the direct impact to the bottom line and how measurable it is. It’s been quite an education, but something I feel very lucky to have done.
MD: That sounds very interesting. I guess for me it’s been a much shorter journey as I came into WPP through the fellowship programme. And it’s definitely been one of those very fortunate situations, having your dream job very early on. I knew that WPP was the company I wanted to work for, so I applied three times, and the third year I got in!
What I think is particularly special about all the female leaders at WPP is that they are very much individuals, and they’re very much their own selves. There isn’t a blueprint for what they should be like
When I think about my journey, I feel very fortunate to have found people along the way that were, and are, very interested in supporting me. People like Karen Blackett OBE, Stephan Pretorius and Judy Jackson. They’ve been mentors, they've been advocates and they've been people that I know will speak up for me if I'm not in a room, whenever the opportunity arises. And it's such a blessing to have people like that.
Seeing someone like Karen and knowing that they’ve progressed in this business, and done it in a way where they've left space for you to be able to rise and are willing to help you on that journey, that’s something I’m very grateful for.
EI: What I think is particularly special about all the female leaders at WPP is that they are very much individuals, and they’re very much their own selves. There isn’t a kind of a blueprint for what they should be like. For me, seeing Karen as a single mum in such a strong leadership position is amazing, as I’m a single mum. But there's very few single women in our industry who are role models. It was lovely to see that when I first joined the business.
MD: I think it’s the individuality that I found very attractive, knowing that there isn’t one type of woman that you have to be, to be able to succeed.
The last WPP Roots events I helped organise, both in the UK and the US, talked about covering in the workplace and I wanted to ask whether there is any part of you that you feel you have to cover when you’re at work?
EI: I don’t think so, and I think that’s what I love about my role and the company I work for. The culture is such that I really feel I can come into work and be myself. But I’ve definitely felt more comfortable the more experience I’ve had and the further into my career I’ve got.
We've got such diversity of experience and backgrounds in our team at MediaCom. Even if we look at age, for example, our team varies from seventeen to late sixties. I’m really interested in and curious about people and their backgrounds and I love to listen and learn from them.
Sometimes you don’t necessarily realise where the parallels are or what opportunities will come out of those parallels, and I think it's important to stay true to that story whenever you can
I think covering at work can be very costly to productivity and it can stand in the way of being able to do your best work because you're concerned with other things. I think it’s a really important issue, though, and one that we should definitely be collectively discussing and shining a light on. We want a happy workforce who feel they can be themselves at work. A happy workforce is a productive workforce!
MD: One of the good things about the way the WPP Fellowship was designed is that it makes you feel from the beginning that you are being chosen because of your difference, and not because you fit into a particular box.
I’m encouraged daily by people I work with in terms of being comfortable talking about my culture more, knowing that everyone is interested and having more open conversations. I try my best to wear the things that make me happy and also share my history and my full story with people. Sometimes you don’t necessarily realise where the parallels are or what opportunities will come out of those parallels, and I think it's important to stay true to that story whenever you can.
International Women's Day is important because …
EI: … equality doesn’t currently exist and it needs to. International Women’s Day will always be important until we get that true equality in terms of health, education in the workplace… everything. We're so far away from that now and that's why it's still so important to keep pushing.
MD: … women need to be spotlighted until their inclusion and having a seat and a voice at a table is the norm, really.
Read more from our #EachforEqual in conversation series
06 March 2020
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