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Why Ruth Hoyal rejected the 9-5 to carve her own professional identity

Updated: 4 days ago

Each month we chat to someone amazing making waves in their industry and showing us what it means to be Unmistakable.

This month, Insight & Strategy consultant Ruth Hoyal shares her experience in an industry where emotion is often detached from professional identity, and why she decided to bridge this gap.

What's your name and what do you do?

I’m Ruth Hoyal and I’m an independent Insight and Strategy consultant. The majority of my work is about connecting (or reconnecting) organisations to their audiences to develop business strategies that are authentic, powerful and socially positive.

How does your identity affect your work and your life in general?

When I first started working, I thought it important to carve out a ‘professional’ identity and keep it separate from my ‘personal’ one in order to gain respect and get ahead. The dominant work leadership style at that time was typically aggressive, cut-throat and clinical: I thought revealing emotion was a sign of weakness, especially as a woman. Happily, I think the discourse on Leadership has opened up in recent years and behaviours such as empathy, vulnerability and courage are more widely respected and valued.

I now believe that in order to do your best work it is vital to, in the words of Mary Portas, ‘bring your whole self to work’. As such, I’m more upfront about talking about my personal beliefs and values and more selective about the work I take on - I want to give my time to progressively-minded organisations who contribute positively to wider society. Also, as a working mother, I’m a huge champion of initiatives such as Anna Whitehouse’s ‘Flex Appeal’ campaign that advocates for greater flexibility in the UK workplace to better accommodate the real needs of working parents.

Who have been your role models and why?

The single biggest role model in life is my mother - an incredibly strong-willed, creative and resilient person. However, I’m continually inspired by people who challenge my thinking eg Reni Eddo-Lodge and Afua Hirsh on race and identity; Jameela Jamil with the ‘I Weigh’ anti-shame movement; Bryony Gordon on mental health and body positivity and Otegha Uwagba on working women.

Do you think other people see you differently to how you see yourself?

I think people are quick to make assumptions and judgements about you without really knowing anything so undoubtedly other people see me differently from how I see myself.

Do you see yourself in advertising and marketing?

No, not really. I think advertising and marketing, on the whole, present dated and binary depictions of women. Companies that present more women more progressively such as Monki, Heist and Beija London really stand apart.

Are you tired of hearing about Diversity & Inclusion?

No because the industry hasn’t scratched the surface yet - only 13% of creative director contracts are currently given to women (and they are paid 7% less than their male peers) (Creative Equals, 2019) and only 10.9% of creative jobs are filled by BAME people, according to the Creative Industries Federation’s 2015 survey. In stark contrast, 40% of the population of London, a major creative centre, is BAME.

What one thing would you say to your younger self?

Just be yourself. I grew up thinking it was important to always please others and wasted a lot of time trying to second guess what people wanted me to be rather than simply be myself.


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