Female business leaders shouldn’t be shiny and perfect says Channel 4 director

Sarah Rose, chief consumer & strategy director, Channel 4.  Picture: James York
Sarah Rose, chief consumer & strategy director, Channel 4. Picture: James York
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Female role models need to be believable and attainable not shiny and perfect if they are to inspire the next generation of business leaders, according to a senior Channel 4 executive.

Speaking at a gender diversity event in Leeds, Sarah Rose, chief consumer and strategy director, said that airbrushing the reality of your life doesn’t inspire the women coming up behind you.

“It’s not just social media pictures on Instagram that damage in their relentless pursuit for perfection, it’s unrealistic role models,” she said.

“Women need to know it’s ok to make mistakes along the way, and frankly to fail and learn from that failure.

“It means you have to be normal, with all the lumps and bumps, warts and all.”

She added that it’s not possible to please everyone all the time. “It’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, it took me a while to be ok with that.”

Ms Rose, who said she was personally “so pleased” that Channel 4 was opening its new national headquarters from a base in Leeds, was speaking at the first Gold Dust Dinners event in the city.

Channel 4 announced its move to Leeds last year and aims to have 100 people working in the city by the end of this year.

It plans to be up-and-running in its new base at the Majestic building by next year, where it will occupy three floors across the former nightclub and cinema.

The event, held at the private New York loft-style venue near the city centre, was organised by Lauren York, managing director of UK Locations and the northern representative for Women in Film and Television.

Other speakers included Helen Dalton, merchandising director at Nike, and Isla Kirby, head of brand and creative at Simply Be.

Ms Dalton said women needed to create new stereotypes and norms in order to initiate change.

Addressing the 90-strong audience of women and men, she added: “So that in 10 years’ time when children now are deciding what career they want to do, my career is normal. That’s really how I think we can embrace change.

“As a millennial I thought I could be anything but Gen Z think they can change the world.”

She added: “Try explaining to a 20-year-old why men and women don’t get the same maternity leave, why there aren’t more female leaders, why they can’t do yoga at lunchtime because it makes them more creative.

“That is their reality and that’s what they want to do.

“This has really ignited my passion and also that drive to challenge the system and to question everything.”

She added: “One of the biggest things I’ve learned as a leader with Nike is to always lead with kindness, challenge everything and to have a purpose.

“If you have a purpose, you will do an amazing job.”

Meanwhile, Ms Kirby urged women to stop looking up at the glass ceiling and comparing themselves to the people above them.

“We have this absolute obsession with looking up when actually we need to challenge the linear nature of progression,” she said.

“The only way we think about success these days is going up the ladder and breaking the glass ceiling.

“From my personal point of view, I need to challenge that because, if anyone has checked out my CV, it reads quite interestingly.

“When you look at the path I’ve taken, you see that it’s a bit all over the place.

“If you look at my career from the point of looking up a ladder, it makes no sense.

“And yet I’m not feeling unsuccessful.”