In this blog, Chartered Marketer Bev Cook talks to us about the challenges she faced during her career. Being a gay woman working in very male orientated workplaces, she has learned to deal with a number of negative perceptions in the workplace.
I'm currently the director of a marketing consultancy that acts as the outsourced marketing manager for family and owner managed businesses who do not need a marketer on a full-time basis.
No day is the same, some days I’ll be writing a full-blown marketing strategy and other days I'll be doing more tactical things such as writing website copy, press releases and case studies. It's a real mixed bag which I love! My day typically starts around 6 am where I'll read the first emails of the day and catch up on my social media feed. An idea for an article might materialise in my head, so I’ll reach for my laptop and begin typing! After that, I’ll get showered and dressed and go to client meetings or do some more work from our office.
I guess you could say I kind of fell into it my current role, I was working in the parts department of Mercedes Benz dealership and I could not just sit around waiting for customers to come to the counter so I created a niche market for myself with body shop repairer's that specialised in restoring classic Mercedes Benz. This gained me a reputation with The Mercedes Benz owner club, so I developed a parts by mail order service and a catalogue which attracted new business for Mercedes Benz owners from across the UK. I was then asked to spread the word and promote a Mercedes new dealership in Loughborough, which meant swanning around all day in a brand new Mercedes which was always inspirational!
I then started working for a firm of accountants. One day my boss called me into his office and said “Now then Cookie, what are you going to do with your life? Can you get any qualifications in this here marketing malarkey?” I researched study courses and I realised that I could become a Chartered Marketer and really flourish by helping businesses grow.
Along the road to becoming a successful marketer, I have faced quite a few knockbacks. In the earlier days, my confident and proactive approach was often misinterpreted by Partners as bullish and I had a reputation of being a bit of a Rottweiler. In fact, at one point I was sent on a communication skills training course! There was one period in particular which took the most out of me emotionally and it was a long time before I was able to recover my confidence. This was my last job before I went self-employed. I was set for a promotion to become director, when my reporting line was changed. At the first meeting with my new boss he basically said that he wasn't going to support my promotion because quote “At the end of the day Bev, you’re a gay woman leading a team of attractive females, you wear trousers, play football and golf, have blond spikey hair and it all says you want to be a man! Your team doesn’t understand the game rules - with men they can flirt, but with you, they can’t!”
From this experience I’ve understood that every cloud has a silver lining and this was the catalyst to becoming self-employed, I did not want to be bullied again and I never wanted to work with or for anyone I do not get on with. I have never looked back from this experience and now I am working with like-minded people, my relationships with clients are brilliant.
Throughout my career, I have remained self-motivated by always having a plan. I also knew deep down that I was respected by those that mattered and as for the rest – I now know it wasn’t me personally, you just can’t please or be liked by everyone.I believe that changing perceptions in the workplace is a huge game changer, and I am extremely grateful for trailblazers such as Ellen Degeneres who put their careers on the line to help make this change. Looking back, I realise that I ridiculed people like Freddy Mercury, Elton John and George Michael for being gay to simply go along with the crowd in order to fit in myself, but nowadays I’m more self-aware. I also realise how incredibly brave these people were to trail blaze for changes in laws and attitudes!
In order to continue breaking down barriers in the workplace, I am a firm believer that the best person should get the job regardless of sex, age, religion or sexual orientation. Which is why #YesSheCan is so important as it will help to remove stereotypes. It is nonsense that particular careers can only be done by a certain sex, and we need to get as far away from this perception as possible. For women starting out in their careers, I would say be yourself and shine, follow your dreams whatever that career choice!
Connect with Bev Cook:
LinkedIn: Bev Cook