Branding & Advocacy · Interviews

Going. Ahead. With Gage: Interview with Liz Duff, PR and Content at SalesRight

“Womxn highlights the need for inclusivity in conversation and start conversations about everyone’s role in advocating for #inclusive workplaces.” @LizGDuff #GAWG

With everything that’s already happened this year and the uncertainty into the next few months, I’m going to make it my mission to continue to engage and share stories and advice from leaders, influencers, and people I admire and greatly respect to spread knowledge, creativity, and positivity. My latest interview features a fellow Canadian and social friend on LinkedIn — Liz Duff, the Public Relations and Content Marketing Specialist at SalesRight. I hope you enjoy the read!

In your LinkedIn profile, you say “Ask me about why I use an X when you spell womxn,” so I thought I’d ask why?

“Womxn” is an inclusive spelling of “women.” It was coined in 2016 during the organization of womxn’s marches in America as a way to represent the inclusion of all those impacted by misogyny and such issues.  This article by the New York Times does a great job crediting and explaining the history of the term. 

Feminist advocacy in professional spaces, including my industry (SaaS), has a long way to go to be totally inclusive. To dismantle heteronormative/white/male structures in a way that provides access to opportunity and support to all, everyone needs to be included in the conversation. Using a term like “womxn” is a great way of highlighting the need for inclusivity in conversation and start conversations about everyone’s role in advocating for inclusive workplaces.

“Womxn should be empowered to make fearless choices rather than sticking with choices that feel linear or safe.” @LizGDuff #GAWG

In your TEDxTalk called “Fearless Goal Setting and Pursuit” you talk about the ladder vs. the pyramid when it comes to growth and progress — can you explain the difference and benefits of each?

The Ladder and Pyramid models of goal-setting and pursuit are ways of conceptualizing the growth needed to reach professional milestones.

The Ladder model is a framework commonly presented to students, and particularly females, to set goals and identify the path to accomplish them. It identifies definitive start and end points, and creates benchmarks (much like rungs on the ladder) that must be accomplished in chronological order to reach a goal. This is a great method for accomplishing specific goals in a determined timeline. However, this model offers little-to-no room for experimentation or flexibility, which can be daunting when young people try to consider a long-term career path. It also implies that if you make a choice that does not directly “fit” in the pre-determined path, you have to “start over” and re-start your climb to the top. 

The Pyramid model is an extremely flexible framework for working towards goals. The idea of the Pyramid is to experiment with as many different skills, jobs, workplaces, and opportunities as possible to build a wide base of experience. From this base, you “build up” layers of diverse experiences until you reach your goal. This model reinforces that there is no “wrong choice” a young professional can make because they will learn and grow from each experience they have. 

This message is particularly important for young womxn to hear as they work to overcome the barriers that male-dominated industries and patriarchal structures present specifically to them. Young womxn often feel compelled to follow “sure” linear paths that have clear goals and outcomes so they can overcome the systemic barriers working against them. I believe womxn deserve to hear more than this message: we have the capability to make spaces for ourselves in any field we dream to work in. Understanding our path to growth in a framework like the Pyramid model empowers us to make the fearless choices necessary to get there, rather than sticking with choices that feel linear or safe. 

Who are 3 female leaders that inspire you and why?

1. Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement. Tarana’s advocacy gave space and a voice to thousands (likely millions) of womxn to fight for their value, worth, needs, and safety in their respective workplaces — but her work is so much more than that. I really love this interview she gave in 2018.

2. My dear friend, Angela Bowden, who gave a TEDxTalk at the same event I spoke at titled “Dear Black Women, Let’s talk about healing: The Power of Healing from Strength and Resilience Trauma.” She is so powerful and has taught me so much about myself, my confidence and my worth. Her talk is so powerful for everyone to watch. 

3. April Dunford is, in one word, incredible. Her work in the B2B positioning space is brilliant (her book is a must-read). Throughout my education, I took numerous classes that taught positioning — none hold a candle to April’s work in the space. 

I miss many things about Nova Scotia — the spring, the fall, the seafood, maple candy, ketchup chips, Tim Hortons (so much), the list goes on 😉 — what’s one Canadian treat you can’t live without?

The SalesRight team is based in Halifax, which is filled with so many fun foods and local delicacies. I swear by smoke poutine, it’s the ultimate guilty pleasure food. Additionally, the local craft beer and cider scene is filled with amazing local brewers — my personal favourite is No Boats on Sunday cider. 

“@billieeilish is the epitome of #GenZ cool and there’s so much #SaaS marketers can learn from her.” @LizGDuff #GAWG

What’s your secret passion?

I’m a self-proclaimed without-shame pop culture aficionado. As Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek would say, my favourite season of the year is Awards Season! One of my most recent LinkedIn posts was actually about Billie Eilish’s Grammys sweep she’s the epitome of Gen Z cool and there’s so much SaaS marketers can learn from her. 

What’s something you’ve learned in your career that you’ve held on to inspire you to keep pushing forward?

Giving up is a luxury afforded to those with privilege. Every barrier, hurdle, or obstacle that I can tackle and overcome will pave the way for the next womxn behind me, and maybe make her path easier. So in every situation, it is always worth it to fight and overcome.

“It’s not the advice you want to hear, but it’s the advice that will remind you to dig deep and find value to focus on in your current situation until you are able to dig out of it.” @LizGDuff #GAWG

How do you encourage people to keep pushing forward when they feel like they aren’t getting anywhere?

Think of the pyramid model. Even if what you’re doing doesn’t seem productive to fullfiling a goal or expectation you have of yourself, it’s still giving you experience that you will learn from and build on. It’s not the advice you necessarily want to hear in those moments, but it’s the advice that will remind you to dig deep and find value to focus on in your current situation until you are able to dig out of it.

“The sooner you start owning your story, truth and unique perspective, the more you will experience from it.” @LizGDuff #GAWG

What advice do you have for younger generations that are early in their careers and trying to work their way up?

Young professionals are living in a world where personal branding has two extremes: you either 100% go for it and build a brand while accepting your attachment to it, or you 100% shy away from having a brand and have no “public” identity. Either choice is totally fine, and acceptable, and will let you go forward with your professional pursuits. However: I think many young people have internalized fear surrounding what a personal brand means. What if having a public identity made me not hireable? What if something negative happens and I get tainted forever?

My advice: you can play the “what if” analysis with most things in life — so much so that it’s one of the psychologies behind a great pricing strategy. But you can’t get stuck in the “what if” game forever. There are so many benefits that come with a personal brand: recruiters can spot you from a mile away, you can be featured by great blogs (like this one!) and podcasts, you may be afforded opportunities you wouldn’t have had otherwise (like TEDx!). If you have something to say that is true to your personal values, that you will stand beside without shame and defend because it is true to your identity — make a brand out of it. The sooner you start owning your story, truth, and unique perspective, the more you will experience from it. 

“Putting the truth and emotion at the forefront of your message will make it soar every time.” @LizGDuff #GAWG

I love book recommendations to help me grow in my career and challenge my thinking – What books would you recommend as a must-read for career growth and/or just fictional fun?

Obviously Awesome by April Dunford is my #1 recommended business read. She explains her process to product positioning and it’s totally game-changing, to put it in the plainest terms. I studied positioning throughout my PR and Marketing education, and it nowhere near suffices what April teaches in her book. 

For fun, I love Lin Manuel Miranda’s Gmorning/Gnight book. It’s based on a Twitter series he conducted where he tweeted complimentary morning and night tweets to his followers. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers in history, thanks to his Broadway work. This book is an addition to his collection that reminds me that putting truth, and emotion, at the forefront of your message will make it soar every time. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next #GAWG!

— Gage Grammer

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