International Women’s Day (IWD) is a celebration of inspirational women all around us; past, present and future. The theme of IWD this year is #BalanceforBetter.

Populus is passionate about providing talented people with rewarding careers and in 2017 were awarded with Silver Investors in People accreditation. We caught up with a few inspirational women from across the company to find out more about them and their experiences, their thoughts on International Women’s Day, and how they’ll be marking the day.

Andrea Layyous, Business Development Director

Andrea is Business Development Director at Populus. She joined the Board of Directors last year. After completing a PhD in Molecular Biology at Imperial College London, Andrea decided to pursue a more commercial career. Andrea worked in sales for 4 years before joining Populus as Business Development Director in August 2015.

“When I first joined the board, I felt imposter syndrome. I felt like I was too young, I questioned whether I could add anything. I could not have asked for a more supportive environment to overcome this. Everyone’s voice in Populus is equally as important. As the years have gone by, not only do I feel like I belong but I also feel like I deserve a place. In reality, nobody looks at me as a female on the board, I am just another person.”

Daisy Powell-Chandler, Director

Daisy, Director at Populus, joined as a Senior Research Executive in 2013. Throughout her career, she has worked with clients such as RBS, the Conservative Party, the Home Office and the National Gallery. She has recently returned to work after maternity leave.

“I remember being terrified that I was terrible at everything when I first joined Populus, I was scared I had made an AWFUL decision to change careers and join a research agency. The first six months were hard but then suddenly something clicked and fell into place. When I came back from maternity leave it was a bit like coming home.”

Maddie Battersby, Group Marketing Manager

Maddie is Group Marketing Manager at Populus. She studied Russian at the University of Edinburgh and worked in digital marketing prior to joining Populus. In addition to heading up Populus Group’s marketing efforts, Maddie also launched a wellbeing programme across the company.

 “I joined Populus in 2017 and was promoted to Group Marketing Manager last year. I also spearhead the Wellbeing Champions across Populus Group and am Mental Health First Aid certified. I am extremely proud to work somewhere where mental health is proactively thought about. We run events, initiatives, and campaigns, and provide support for staff. The friendly atmosphere and brilliant people are what drew me to Populus, and what in my opinion, make it a fantastic place to work.”

Chloe Bell, Research Executive

Chloe Bell is Research Executive at Populus, she joined as an intern in July 2018 whilst still studying for her Masters in Gender, International Development and Globalisation. 

“I was actually supposed to be on a 6 month internship but two months in the opportunity came up for a research executive role, I applied and ended up getting the job! I was drawn to Populus because I really enjoyed academic research, specifically political research. I really liked that Populus was a small company with a nice atmosphere.”

How have women impacted the research industry?

Daisy: “A majority of research companies seem to be owned or founded by men but there are loads of influential and senior women all through the industry, including freelance women who are using their research skills as recruiters, moderators, or consultants and fitting them around other elements of their lives.”

Andrea: “With every industry, but especially the research industry, it is so important to get perspectives from every angle. We need to be as representative as the people who we are collecting data from.”

Chloe: “Traditionally, the research sector, much like many others, has been dominated by men. Now, women’s’ voices are being included. We are undertaking more research to do with women, so that market research as a whole is becoming more representative.“

Maddie: “Around 60% of the market research industry is made up of women, though we see fewer of them in senior positions. The very nature of market research – uncovering truths, however uncomfortable they may be, in my opinion, puts the industry itself in a strong place to confront issues like inclusion, diversity and equality.” 

What skills do you think are important to have in your role?

Daisy: “Asking a lot of questions, spotting interesting patterns, empathy with my clients and our respondents, trusting and listening to my team, time management, a focus on outcomes, and lots and lots of tenacity (plus PowerPoint and Excel, always, in every job)”

Andrea: “Reading other people really well, I have to respond and adapt my personality. I have to positively influence others, in order to do this I need to read situations and be in tune to others emotions.”

Maddie: “Adaptability, creativity and good analytical skills to assess what’s worked well, what needs improving and how to refine it are vital. As a line manager, I encourage openness, collaboration and supportiveness within the team; I’m all too aware of the impact that workplace environment has on people’s lives.”

Chloe: “It’s important to see the bigger picture, remembering the client’s objectives whilst also seeing the detail.”

What are the current challenges for women in the research sector?

Daisy: “I think women face two main types of challenge: the ones that are related to our gender and the ones related to our conventional roles as carers.

In the first category, women face challenges in being seen as credible and that is hard when our role at Populus is often to present challenging or strategic data to high-powered clients. Populus supports all staff with presentation training and by encouraging juniors within teams to take part on major presentations so that they learn to project authority in high pressure situations. There are always going to be clients who will hear advice better when it comes from someone who looks like them so I’m looking forward to a world where our C-suite clients are just as likely to be women as men!

In the second category, parents and carers can face particular challenges when work leaches beyond the working day for which they have planned in advance. This is problematic in research because so many focus groups and other qualitative engagements happen on evenings or weekends. The flipside to this is that the research industry includes a whole host of freelance recruiters and researchers who have chosen their roles because they can give them a much more flexible work day.”

Andrea: “Personally speaking, I feel that I have not faced any challenges due to my gender and I don’t think women face more challenges than men in the research sector. In the future, with more men taking parental leave, I think we will see more equal representation on boards.”

Maddie: “We know that most sectors have an issue with female senior leadership and market research isn’t an exception. Although the pace is slow, I can see that we are moving towards a day where the women (and men) with forward-looking values, such as empathy and emotional intelligence, rise and share the space at the top in equal measures.

I see how committed senior leaders at Populus are to forging positive change. I am so proud to work somewhere where leadership is showing genuine commitment to the cause.”

Chloe: “Although there are more women in the sector, the highest level jobs are generally occupied by men. I think representation and role models that you can relate to are really important, especially for those who come in at entry level. At Populus, we have a lot of senior women who are strong, positive role models which has been really helpful for me.”

How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?

Daisy: “I will be buying Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez and reminding myself that everything we’ve already achieved we did in a world designed for a very specific kind of ‘average man’. Imagine what we can do together if we create a world that is designed for everyone! We at Populus can make our mark by thinking about the data that we gather and the way we explain it to clients.”

Andrea: “I am looking forward to partaking in the activities around the office, celebrating my amazing female and male colleagues who all support equality. I will also celebrate the women in my life, I’ll make sure to call up my mum and best friends.”

Maddie: “I’ll be running and participating in the activities around the office. I’ll be thanking the women and men in my life who back equality, and generally reflecting on how far we’ve come and what we’ve got to do.”

Chloe: “I’ve been reading Michelle Obama’s book, so I hope to finish it! I’m also excited to take part in the activities in the office.”

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Daisy: “For life outlook: Gertrude Bell who was a linguist, explorer, policy-maker and author – and that is just the start of it!

For research: Florence Nightingale, for her ground-breaking use of data visualisation to save lives and her determination in the face of opposition.

For inspiration: my daughter – I want to make the world a better place for her and her peers.”

Andrea:Michelle Obama is an inspiration in the way that she is open and honest about her flaws. She gives such inspiring speeches, I will never forget her quote: “When they go low, we go high” as this something that I live by.”

Maddie: “I feel lucky to have been raised by some fairly hardy women. My mum ran her own business when she had us kids, and my paternal grandmother was one of the first women to study law at University of Oxford, at a time when that was more or less unheard of.

Audre Lorde is one of my favourite writers. She was an inspirational feminist, one of the first proponents of what we know today as intersectionality, and a civil rights activist, so I’ll leave you with a quote from her:

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Chloe: “Emma Watson made feminist reading mainstream through her book club, she has created an open forum for discussion. Jess Philips MP is also someone who I look up to, she is from a working class background and consistently brings up women’s issues in parliament.”

Populus is committed to being an inclusive and equal employer. Find out more about working at Populus.