“No one can live up to the expectations of alpha male or perfect female.”
An interview with Victoria Brooks, the Bloom UK Vice-President, about equality in the workplace and why this could be beneficial for everyone's mental health.
At our Workshop for Better Mental Health, one of the stand-out panels was called ‘Equality and Mental Health’ which looked at how our everyone’s well-being can improve with the changes to working culture. It was hosted brilliantly by Victoria Brooks from Bloom UK, and we managed to also grab a quick interview with her, about her work and thoughts on mental health.
What do you do?
I am a strategy director in adland, having worked on campaigns for brands like Sony, Barnardo’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Citibank and WWF on both sides of the Atlantic. In the last decade I have focussed my work on sustainability strategies for brands and charities creating environmental and social impact campaigns. My side hustle, which has really become my main focus as of late, is as the Vice President of Bloom, a women’s network within the media & marketing industry which aims to future proof women’s careers and inspire the industry to embrace gender equality. I am also a mum of two girls, ages 4 and 8.
Describe your personal style.
Inquisitive, warm, human
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on an experiment that I am pretty excited about. It is a cross-mentoring pilot, called The Exchange, which matches C-title men with senior level Bloom women to tackle the gender divide in our industry. We aim to open up a refreshingly honest dialogue between the sexes that could help break down the stereotypes that limit the way we interact and forge a new way to look at gender in the workplace, making it more equal for all. Senior Bloom women will mentor senior men on how best to retain female talent within their company and ensure a more fair, equal workplace. The men will mentor Bloom women on how to overcome the barriers to leadership in their own career. I can’t wait to get started. We are reviewing all the applications at the moment and we have had twice as many men apply than we have space for! Nerve-wracking and exciting.
Why does mental health matter to you?
Figuring out how to manage my very busy mind has been a lifelong challenge. While this has put obstacles in my way, it has also given me permission to have more real, unexpected conversations about vulnerability along the way. Being open about these vulnerabilities – which is never comfortable – encourages others to share their secret selves, lifting the veil of secrecy around mental health issues, one conversation at a time.
What are the issues most affecting mental health today, from your perspective?
The biggest pressure on all of us is the aspiration to meet societal ideals – the ideal mum/dad, the ideal alpha leader, the ideal wife/husband/lover, the ideal woman/man, the ideal body – it is too much. The prevalence of unrealistic media imagery, and social media in particular, in our lives subtly drives these ideals into our psyche, which can unravel even the most confident. No one can live up to these expectations of the alpha male or the perfect woman who has it all. The shift toward more real depictions of life, such as in the recent Mothercare Body Proud Mums and Lynx ‘Find Your Magic’ campaigns, have made for a refreshing change.
Is there still a stigma around mental health?
Definitely. It is much better than 18 years ago when I arrived in England, but the British culture in general still suggests that the best thing is to ‘shove it under the carpet and get on with it.’ There are encouraging signals of change, with the rise of platforms like The Book of Man and The Self Space, but admitting you need help is still harder in London than New York. Mental health is more culturally bound more than we realise.
How you do look after your own mental health?
I work flexibly, I exercise, I spend time with my kids. I should meditate, but I don’t!
What’s your favourite place in the world?
My homeland, Vermont.
Who’s your hero?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (just saw the film…)
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