1. Tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, I’m Julia. I’m the International Marketing Director for a luxury leather online retailer, Maxwell-Scott. We offer nearly 200 different high-quality leather bags and accessories that are all handcrafted in Italy using only vegetable-tanned premium leather. As the Marketing Director, I am the head of all global marketing strategies and responsible for overseeing the company’s general website and CRM management. I’m also managing an ever-expanding team of marketing, content and communication professionals and freelancers. Even though I’m based in the U.K. now, I am originally from Stuttgart in Germany. I started in T.V. Journalism after graduating with a B.A. in English and German Linguistics. Back in 2012, I then moved to England to spearhead the launch of Maxwell-Scott’s international expansion. Currently, I see myself as the driving force behind Maxwell-Scott’s vision of globally becoming the most loved luxury British bag maker. However, in the last 12 months, I have also had to help steer the company through the ever-changing landscape of Covid-19 restrictions, which worked really well due to a solid crisis marketing strategy. We are now on course for our most profitable year to date!
2. Who are the women who have inspired you the most in your life?
Both my mum and my grandmother come to mind for this question. My mum had to overcome quite a few health struggles in her life, but she never gave up. She is the most tenacious person I know. Her willpower throughout her struggles has shaped my upbringing and has made me the person I am today. I know for a fact that I have learned tenacity from her and that it has helped me push through more than one challenging situation in my career. When it comes to my grandmother, I admire her for her industrial spirit. She managed to raise two kids on her own during World War II while also running a successful business. For me, she is the true example of a powerful woman. Whenever I initially feel like a project seems too big, daunting or overwhelming, I remind myself that she took on so much more and thrived doing it. She really paved the way for her descendants to be strong women even though she grew up when typical gender roles were still very much the norm.
3. Why do you think it’s important to increase the number of women in business, particularly in leadership roles?
I believe that positive role models have a strong and lasting impact. That is why over the past few years, I have worked with several university students and have hosted numerous Masterclasses about my work and leadership strategies in the hope that I can inspire the next generation of women to become strong leaders and thrive for more in their professional development. I think women can bring something new to any (leadership) table as I think we sometimes approach a problem differently than some men might, which is a major advantage as you need as many perspectives as possible to develop the best solution. Any company that still has predominantly male leaders limits itself in my eyes. Of course, certain sectors, such as STEM sciences, still need more women; however, I am hopeful that we will see a shift there too within my lifetime. In my personal work experience, I am proud to say that my team always had a high percentage of women, and some of them have become amazing leaders in their respective fields – and they will hopefully inspire other women to do the same. I think when women inspire and lift other women, it’s incredibly powerful.
4. How would you describe your current thinking about diversity and inclusion?
I have always emphasised building a team that is as diverse and inclusive as possible. As a foreigner with a different cultural upbringing compared to my British colleagues, I have noticed how I think about tasks and problems differently. And that is where the strength of a diverse team comes from. The more diverse backgrounds, the better because this is how you can come up with truly out-of-the-box thinking. I always make sure that my team includes several nationalities and backgrounds. I don’t think you can successfully operate a brand on an international level without having a diverse team in place – after all, our customers across the world are diverse, so we need to be too. Inclusion is a current topic for us as I am currently implementing Equal Web on all of our E-Commerce sites to raise our digital operating standards and accessibility for disabled shoppers. Especially due to Covid-19, online shopping has experienced a huge boom, but many disabled shoppers face barriers such as basic website navigation, complex Captcha puzzles and difficulty registering processes when shopping online. To lead by example, my team and I are currently making our whole shopping process completely accessible and user-friendly for all customers. That means within a few weeks, we will be able to cater to the blind, epileptic, motor impaired and the elderly by including disabled-friendly features such as voice commands, screen reader adjustment, keyboard navigation (with no mouse), numeric navigation, blinks blocking and text readers. It takes a bit of development time, but every online retailer should offer these options to make online shopping as inclusive as possible.
5. Would you like to tell us a bit more about your thoughts/ comments?
I know from personal experience that imposter syndrome can come up occasionally. And from speaking with my team about the issue, it seems to be more of a problem for my female team members. I don’t think imposter syndrome can ever be fully avoided – no matter how successful you are. It is human nature to doubt yourself every once in a while. However, it is really important to remind yourself that you have worked hard and earned your current position. It can also help to keep a spreadsheet of all your accomplishments or a folder with positive feedback emails that you can have a look at to remind yourself that you know exactly what you’re doing. But I think the leadership team within a company can also play a significant role in keeping imposter syndrome to a minimum. Creating an office culture that values feedback – especially positive feedback as that is all too often forgotten – ensures employees know exactly how well they are doing and don’t have to feel like an imposter in their own role. In my eyes, this is how every leader can empower the next generation to be even better than they were.