Executive Interview; Empowering Women in Business
Today, I had the chance to sit down with recently promoted, Julia Becker Collins, Chief Operating Officer of Vision Advertising. If Vision Advertising was a wheel, Julia would be the hub on which everything turns. She leads all aspects of the company, from developing and directing the marketing plans of clients to managing the operations of all of Vision’s staff. We discussed equity in the workplace. If you are a woman in business, odds are you have been or are subject to micro-aggressions and maybe even overt discrimination that has negatively impacted your career in some way. Julia has overcome obstacles, has a seat in the c-suite, and is empowering women to speak up and dream big.
What advice would you give young women just starting their career?
Julia: “I would tell women just starting in their business career to dream big because the first job they have won’t be the last. They should understand that hard work is the only way to get to where they want to be, and the only person who can get them there is themselves. There is no greater feeling than seeing the results of your own hard work. Also, to ask for what they want, they won’t always get it, but they never will if they don’t ask for it. Lastly, ask questions. Lots of questions. They should never want to be the smartest in the room, and if they are, look to be in a different room. Otherwise, they have nothing left to learn.”
Why is it so important for you to run a business that empowers women?
Julia: “Honestly, I don’t know how to do anything else. I wouldn’t be happy in my job if I didn’t run a company that supported young, female leaders. If we don’t support women in their careers, then the workforce only has half the successful leaders, opinions, ideas, and growth possible, as it’s only supporting half the population. Thus, leading to unsuccessful businesses and an unsuccessful country. As someone who runs a company, it is my responsibility to give women an equal chance, offer leadership opportunities, and invest in them.”
What were the critical success factors for you in moving up in business as a woman?
Julia: “I purposely took positions that I knew would educate me and give me the experience that I needed, but were monetarily and career-wise a step backward. I’m also incredibly goal focused, both professionally and personally. Once I commit to a goal, I craft a plan and will do anything necessary to reach it. Learning from my mistakes was, and continues to be, essential. I’ve also learned that the way I am most successful is to find what I am most fearful of, the big scary thing, whether it be a project, a huge client I want to go after, or a personal goal, I see but know I want; recognize it, recognize the fear, and go straight after it.
I have been lucky in that I have had some amazing, powerful women mentor me and supervise me over the years, which has been incredibly helpful. I also have an extremely supportive partner in my husband, who has been my #1 cheerleader every step of the way. And I have an amazing network of friends and family that lift me up.”
Were there obstacles in your own career with respect to gender?
Julia: “Of course, I don’t know how there couldn’t have been. I have been passed over for promotions, wage increases, and have seen them given to my male counterparts. From stereotypical sexism of name calling, lower-salaried positions, not being taken seriously, not being invited to critical meetings, to being told to stop being so aggressive with the men in the senior leadership team that I was a part of. It all just made me want to work harder. It didn’t stifle me, it made me stronger.”
How do you empower women who work at Vision Advertising?
Julia: “By treating everyone equally and as a professional. Everyone on the Vision Advertising team was hired because I see great things in them. I hold everyone here to a high standard. I tell my team when they do a great job and when they could do better. I think that good executives don’t hold back from constructive criticism and positive feedback. I am very clear in my expectations. I empower people who work here to craft new solutions to problems. I do not want to be the smartest person here; I want the people who work here to be smarter than me and to outshine me. I want to empower everyone here to tell me what to do. I also want our team, from first-time interns to seasoned veterans, to know they have a stake in the company and feel empowered to tell me a better way to do something.”
Julia has a great team at Vision Advertising to support her. With help from Julia, the team proposes new creative ideas, provides next-level strategies for their clients and are eager to grow within the company. Are you interested in having us help you take your business to the next level? See how Vision Advertising can help you. To learn more about Julia and her role at Vision Advertising visit here.