Finding Confidence Through Community

On March 8, we brought the ATM community together to celebrate International Women’s Day and learn from four creatives who are challenging the way women are being represented, both in their industries and through their work.

Women are overwhelmingly underrepresented in the creative sector. A recent report showed that only 3% of creative directors in Toronto are women and the hurdles faced by those in creative fields are real. From the rise in contract work to systemic biases that impact salary and hiring decisions, access to mentorship, and even the type of work they get, all of which can have a long-term impact on a woman’s career.

In an intimate and honest conversation, Yazmin Monet Butcher, co-founder of GXXRLS and a visual editor at Refinery29, art director and designer Christine Mangosing, director of product marketing at Shopify Arati Sharma, and blogger and influencer Shannae Ingleton Smith shared their personal journeys in building their impressive careers in graphic design, advertising, digital media, and tech.

Here’s some of the career advice they shared:

Strengthen your community

Building strong relationships with other women who can support you can be a gamechanger. Each panellist had a group of friends that helped them to build confidence, find support, and gain new perspectives.

Ladies, Wine, and Design is a group that Christine said helped her find her voice and recognize that she was becoming her own biggest obstacle. “The biggest challenge I had was being confident enough to own my leadership, I can’t imagine what kind of strides I could have made if I’d had this kind of community to bolster my confidence when I was younger.”  Her community helped her recognize that because there are so few women in leadership in design, they were all being pitted against each other to get to the top. “Instead, why not work on strengthening our communities and empowering each other?”

Advocate for yourself

Learning to advocate for yourself can be a job in itself. While your friends can give you advice and help you build up your confidence, it’s up to you to put that support into action. Imposter syndrome can often get in the way of being your best self, especially in spaces where you don’t feel represented. “It’s a daily practice to learn how to speak up. As a woman of colour, you stand out when you’re constantly pointing things out that others may not see,” noted Arati.

Being clear with your vision of success can help. When Yasmin couldn’t find a job, for example, she started drawing what she loved and sharing her work on Instagram. This built up an audience and helped her get clients without having to compromise her personal style. Imposter syndrome still struck as she found herself questioning whether the work she was delivering was good enough: “In the end, I reminded myself that if they didn’t like my work, they wouldn’t hire me. They came to me because they liked what they saw.”

Get paid!

Finding financial independence is one of the most important things a woman can do for herself. Women are still paid less than men, and when it comes to women of color, the numbers are even lower. During a contract negotiation, a male colleague encouraged Christine to ask for a figure that made her sweat. When they said yes, she recognized the importance of understanding how to level-set and know the standard, even if it was nerve-wracking to ask for it at first.

Shannae, who recently left her job to work on her business full-time, highlighted the freedom that getting her finances in order gave her to speak up and assert herself, “without a financial safety net, people tend to be more fearful of going after their dreams or challenging the status quo.”

Take care of yourself

“You can only show up in the way that you want if you’re nice to yourself, and you can only be the person that you want if you’re taking care of yourself,” noted Arati, and while the self-care movement has grown, taking care of yourself goes beyond just facemasks and massages. It can also mean focusing on your personal growth so that you can be the best version of yourself. For some, this means investing in yourself by finding a coach who can help you own your professional development, or even focusing on other interests and hobbies. Taking the time to step back and discover new interests can help you be more creative, inform your work in new ways and even make it better.

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 Written by: Maya Shoucair