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How to create a culture of respect as a female CEO

By Annabelle Davidson, founder of Social Playground

Being a female business founder can be tricky when juggling two young children, but I’ve learned a lot about building culture throughout my business journey.

I’m the CEO and founder of Social Playground, a seven figure company I started five years ago. I started my own company after working as the Director at a Social Media and Influencer Marketing Agency in New York as I saw effective social-enhanced events can be! No one in Australia was doing social tech events and products at the time, so I knew the time was right to start my own business.

Our business is a mix of the industries of tech and social media, so it has an interesting mix of people and backgrounds which creates unique challenges when creating a respectful, motivating workplace.

Men and women must be equal at work

At Social Playground we straddle both the events and tech space so there is a good mix of males and females given the mix of industries. I think a gender mix at work is really important for both the employees and the company itself. Men and women approach challenges differently, and bring different points of view to solving problems so a good gender mix can be really powerful.

Gender politics can come into play though, so as a Millenial-driven company I’m very conscious of gender equality. We need to treat men as equal counterparts, just as men need to treat women the same.

Being a female boss when working with men

I’ve learned you need to be confident in your abilities, and confident in the value of what you’ve created. This confidence needs to overcome any barriers we may have been programmed by society to live by. You know what you’ve made is amazing, so live according to that no matter who you come across.

I’ve never personally had a negative experience as a female boss in the industry, in fact most of the men I work with are hugely respectful.

Respect starts with the CEO’s attitude

Creating a positive work environment takes hard work and a commitment to being a positive role model, 100% of the time. As the boss, the way you talk to clients, suppliers and your team sets the bar for how everyone within your company communicates too.

Leading with empathy and conducting business with compassion will go a long way in building mutual respect with your team and creating a positive environment to do business.

Being the boss must come first

Providing your team with flexibility plays a big part in employee satisfaction and job happiness, but flexibility requires boundaries. It’s ok to say ‘no’ to some requests for time off or other perks. At the end of the day, you’re running a business that’s striving to achieve your vision. If you’ve inspired your team to believe in your vision, they ultimately want to share in the success of reaching it.

The right employees will understand sometimes there have to be boundaries or that the answer might be ‘no.’

In the long run they’ll support and respect your decision if you’re reasonable. Building a great culture is about treating your people as humans; with respect, fairness and some flexibility. But also knowing when to put the “boss” hat on and lay down a few rules.

For me, being a female in a niche with a powerful tech influence has never had any specific gender-focused challenges, but I have learned that a respectful culture is exceptionally important within a workplace. I’ve worked hard over the past five years to cement that respect, and am thrilled it is now an inherent part of Social Playground’s daily life.

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Annabelle Davidson

Annabelle Davidson

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