Sponsoring your career as a working parent with Tobi Asare
Hosted by Louise Scodie
Louise Scodie – NABS 00:01
Welcome to the NABS podcast. I’m your host, Louise Scodie. Our guest today is Tobi Asare.
Tobi Asare is the managing partner head of growth at OMD UK. In this role, Tobi is responsible for driving the agency’s overall growth, as well as developing and implementing effective marketing and PR strategies. Tobi’s relentless pursuit of success, combined with a focus on nurturing a growth mindset within the new business team, has been instrumental in achieving a streak of wins. Toby is deeply passionate about creating opportunities for women in the workplace. So much so that she’s written the smash hit book The Blend: how to successfully manage your career and the family.
In The Blend, Tobi shares invaluable insights and wisdom gained from her personal and professional experiences, offering guidance on how to create fulfilment at work and at home. I have read the book, it is excellent. It’s like a friend telling you where you’re going right. There’s no judgement in it. Welcome to the NABS Podcast. How are you?
Tobi Asare 01:23
I’m really well thank you for that awesome intro. It’s really lovely, thank you.
Louise Scodie – NABS 01:27
Oh, my absolute pleasure. It’s so nice to have you. We’re really passionate about supporting working parents and working carers at NABS, and your book just chimes in so well with the kind of messages that we want people to hear. And one thing that I really want to explore with you today is how mental wellness is this really important thread running through how you manage your life as a working mum, working dad, carer or whatever it is. So what does mental wellness look like to you?
Tobi Asare 02:02
Mental wellness is so important to me, it’s something I take really, really seriously in and amongst my very, very, very busy crazy days, hectic life that I lead. So for me, it’s deeply personal, I make sure that I create time in my week, and in my day, are things that I really love and things that I really enjoy. Sometimes there’s things or doing things on the go. So it could be listening to a podcast or an audiobook whilst rushing to the post office to get something sent on time. Or it could be making time for the gym, which I am actually pretty good at doing consistently. But for me overall, I think it comes back to what I just said earlier is creating time, and the space for things that I love for things that fill me up and things that bring me joy.
Louise Scodie – NABS 02:48
Do you find when you don’t have time for the gym and don’t have time for yourself, that that leads to a tangible dip in your mental wellness? Or is it the other way around, a bit of chicken and egg, where if you’re not feeling great, then you kind of sack off the gym a bit and you don’t make time for yourself? And how do you get around that?
Tobi Asare 03:13
I think I’m more of the former, whereby when I don’t make time for myself, I can see immediately the impact on me and my work and my family and my friends, I was snappy with the kids, I feel like kind of retreating into myself at work. And then I probably actually don’t make time for my friends because I feel like I can’t really show up like a good friend and I can’t show up as the Tobi that they love and they know but you know, my friends accept all sides of me.
I think I like to show up as the person that is there to have a good time and is supportive and is listening and is encouraging that. The Tobi that I like to be, I like to be really present in the time that I have with my friends and my family as well. So for me, I know that tangibly if I don’t make time to, and it’s not always about going to the gym. I don’t make time to move my body in some way shape or form in a day, I can be that I feel sluggish. I feel tired. I feel irritable, I feel slow. And therefore I have made sure that it’s a bit of a priority. Even my like my sister knows she’s like, have you moved or have you been to the gym this week? She can tell. So yeah, it’s definitely I think more of the former for me.
Louise Scodie – NABS 04:19
I’m the same. Are you an arm day person or a leg day person?
Tobi Asare 05:58
It’s such a good question. I actually love that you asked me that question. My, in my heart of hearts. I’m a leg day person. But I have just got on to a new regime with this brilliant trainer. And he’s making me do a lot more arms and upper body than that than I would normally do. But I’m actually really enjoying it, I can see the strength gains, I can see that I’m doing better and better quality pull ups. So deep down in my heart, I’m still a leg girls. But I’m doing more of arms as well.
Louise Scodie – NABS 06:26
Pull-ups are so hard for respect to you for smashing those. So if you live near Tobi, and you want some boxes lifting, let’s say she might be your women over the next few weeks. Now, you really are a leading voice for working mums in our industry, you’ve got two yourself, haven’t you?
Tobi Asare 06:46
I have a six-year-old and my daughter’s going to be four on Thursday. So yes, six and almost four.
Louise Scodie – NABS 06:53
Very cute, the kind of ages where people say, oh, such a lovely age. So you know first-hand what it’s like you’ve got two of them young, it’s full on. So what are the effects when you’re not just thinking about yourself and how you get you through in the family but you’re advocating regularly for working parenthood in our industry? What are the effects, both positive and negative, on your mental wellness when you’re doing this work?
Tobi Asare 07:23
I think at the beginning, I probably used to take it on quite a bit and used to get quite frustrated and quite sad when people told me their stories and their experiences, because some of those experiences are quite harrowing. Because the impact it can have on this conversation is a lot about mental health and well being the impact that these situations and sometimes have on people’s well being is, is really, really sad, and really disheartening at times.
But what on the flipside gives me so much encouragement and so much hope is that people come to me and say, thank you, your book helped me to do X Y Z. And of course I, you know, take that as a really positive thing. But why I’m even more encouraged is because it’s not really about my words. And it’s not necessarily about my book. It’s about the courage that these people find a keep going, or to be, actually do something about it and speak up or find a solution, the amount of courage and willpower and determination that that takes to keep pressing on. Nobody can really understand unless you’re particularly in that particular person’s shoes.
So yes, in some way, I used to get quite disheartened. But now I see so much courage and hope and these women and men, actually, they inspire me every single day to keep going and keep doing what I’m doing. And, you know, I get the pleasure of hearing stories of I had this conversation and this really positive thing has happened off the back of it. I’ve got this new job, and they’re amazing. And they’re really accepting of my family or I had this flexible working arrangement accepted. That is what brings me joy, every single day, when I get those messages.
Louise Scodie – NABS 09:04
I’m hoping that that will continue and that many more people will bring you joy with the stories, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that there are some struggles still ongoing as well. When you hear one of those stories, how do you deal with it?
Tobi Asare 09:20
It’s hard. But then at the same time when I hear those stories, it does invoke feelings, I guess quite similar feeding. I was in different organisation or a different workspace when I actually had my two children and not every single day there was a positive day and not every single experience there was a positive experience.
So when I hear those stories, in some ways, I still believe that there is hope, in some way shape or form. And so I kind of talked to them or help to guide them. With that in mind, knowing that I deeply believe no situation is permanent. Not always, all the time, can you find a very fast solution or a quick solution to what it is that you’re facing, but I do definitely believe there is a solution somewhere. And sometimes that solution is uprooting your talent, and taking your talent to where it is highly valued, and where actually they embrace a diversity of different people, different life stages, different life setups, and different thoughts. And actually, those environments are where you can flourish.
But also, there are amazing organisations like NABS, so people can also seek extra support and help. So I still feel very hopeful, as much as I feel very frustrated to hear some of these stories, because like you say, it’s not all fixed. A lot of it is structural issues, that will take a longer time to push through the right changes that we need to that we need to see. But there are different little stories of hope coming through in different corners of our industry, and bigger stories of hope coming through as well.
Louise Scodie – NABS 11:00
And here’s the thing, you’re one of those stories of hope, because as you referenced before, you are actually in a different industry prior to outlines your relative newbie when it comes to this world of advertising. And you realise that where you were before wasn’t super supporting you is working well. So I guess broadly, one has a choice. In that kind of situation, are you going to be able to influence the culture, sometimes it’s possible, or is that just like having an argument with someone on Facebook, it’s just not gonna work out, move on delete next. So you took the delete. next, uprooting yourself option, and it’s actually worked out really well. So I guess you’re here to tell people that even if something looks like it’s not going to work out, it is going to work out you just have to be a bit brave and patient about things.
Tobi Asare 11:45
Yeah, and I think patient is a really good word. I had been in my industry in the sector that I was in prior to making the move, I’d been there pretty much my whole career ever since leaving law school. So I’d really stuck it out and done the nine yards then and had various different roles. And actually had also gotten to a point professionally where I felt like I also wanted to stretch myself and try something different. All the different things I guess, the forces in my life, kind of came together at the perfect time for me.
But I do think patience there is key, because sometimes there are conversations and there are different solutions out there within where you are already. It could be moving teams, it could be a new discipline, it could be taking on, you know, additional development or additional responsibilities to actually set your light and make you really, really happy. And sometimes that is the change that you need. But sometimes a wholesale change could also be the change that you need as well. So do think patience is also really key and making sure that you’re exhausting all the right avenues and the right way. Definitely.
Louise Scodie – NABS 12:49
And to go back to something you mentioned before about the support that NABS can offer. And very glad you said that, if you’re in a place where maybe you’re not happy, you’re not being supported, you don’t know what to do, you’re working parent and things are pretty rubbish for you call NABS. This is when NABS is here, call to speak to one of the support team, they will help you to work out the options, they’ll help you with some emotional support as well. Because that’s such a big part of everything. And you won’t you don’t have to do it alone, because we’re here. And then there may also be other options of help that we can refer you on to as well.
Tobi Asare 13:24
I’m so glad you said that because yes, it’s another podcast. But also beyond that. I think a lot of us as women feel like I know, I certainly felt like this. Because I always wanted a family, I always felt that it’s going to be automatic that I know how to do all this stuff. And I can do it by myself. Absolute nonsense. I can’t, I can’t do it by myself, there is no manual. And so you know, there’s no manual for parenthood and even more, so there’s less of a manual for stepping into parenthood additional responsibilities and working friendships, everything else that kind of comes with life. So there will be points where you do need to ask for help. And it is more than okay to ask for help. If anything, I find it now a lot more freeing to say, look, I’m going to need help on this particular scenario or this weekend, I’m gonna need help. So yeah, I just want to make sure that that message kind of come through loud and clear that it’s okay to find different sources of help and support.
Louise Scodie – NABS 14:23
Full respect to any working parent out there, and especially those working parents who are doing this parenting journey alone. So they don’t have the automatic support of a partner around them. And in fact, which leads me to another question. Do you feel that people from different minoritized backgrounds such as solo parents, such as those from the Black or Brown communities, those from the LGBTQ+ communities, do you think those parents are more adversely impacted by some of the issues that you’ve explored?
Tobi Asare 15:01
So good question. And an important question. And I’m really glad that you asked. Yeah, I think it’s the force that society did some research recently on the motherhood penalty. And their research basically uncovered that the motherhood penalty is actually greater.
When you look at women with minority characteristics, specifically Black women, I think that research should be focused on. And then you layer on things like the piece of research on the authority gap, and why women are taken less seriously than men. When you layer on characteristics like sexuality, and race, those women may be from a different background from those characters that hold those characteristics are also less likely to be taken more seriously.
So I do think these issues do impact women, depending on kind of, I guess, their background, or maybe sexuality, or maybe their relationship status, I do think they impact them a lot more. So for example, you know, single parents may have to think more creatively about how they engage in those social activities that are still part of relationship building and networking within this professional sphere or the workplace. And I know, being a parent being a black parent, for example, I know that the slight the different kinds of worries, I guess, or concerns that I have about my children are they’re quite stark.
Louise Scodie – NABS 16:31
I would you mind sharing a couple of those concerns?
Tobi Asare 16:34
absolutely. And they’re very real for me at the moment, which reminds me, my son, who’s awesome and fantastic, has very kind of high and lofty ambitions of where he tried to get to in life. And he’s quite expressive about them. And he encountered another child who had told him along the lines of you can’t do that, because you’re, you’re Black. Now I have to tackle that with my son, very young age that he is at. And luckily, you know, he is such a great young child, that as soon as he heard that, he came to us as parents to say, but of course, like, of course, I can do it. But if anything, I’m going to be the first Black person to ever do it. He’s pulling on really positive references that he’s seen either at home or in his world or from, you know, our friendship circles and family, etc, etc. So he had a really positive response.
But I know how to tackle that as a parent and be very mindful to build him up in a way that perhaps, if you’re not a Black parent, you might have to not necessarily build your child up or, or tackle that particular issue. So luckily, for us, it’s had a positive, I feel like it’s had a positive outcome on him, because I feel like we’ve had the opportunity to affirm who he is and what he’s capable of doing.
That’s just something else that’s on my mind, to tackle and make sure that you know, he’s in a good space constantly. And also to make sure that the environments that he’s in are really uplifting environments, and not environments that make him feel that he can’t achieve or attain anything, because of his background will have his skin. So that’s just, you know, a small example.
But if you look at the wider scheme of things, my husband is actually a governor in a school. And actually, you know, not necessary this particular school that he’s a governor of, but along the educational system, where we look at disciplinaries, we see that children from sometimes minority backgrounds are more likely to be in those disciplinary processes, and maybe slightly have different destiny in disciplinary processes as they kind of go through their school life, and therefore that impacts their educational attainment, as well. So again, maybe as a, as a parent who is from a different background, or if you are a Black parent, again, you’ll be very, very mindful of that. And therefore want to make sure that your child is always being treated fairly throughout the educational system.
So those are just a couple of things that I think no one can really quantify how much it really sits on a parent’s mind as they kind of go through their working day, or how you kind of make the right decisions as to what school they go to. Yeah. Because you can’t be there for every single waking moment. But you want to do your best to them.
Louise Scodie – NABS 19:26
So you’ve got your list of stuff that you’re worried about anyway, as a working parent, and then you’ve got the list of things that you worry about that are particular to you. And they may be greater if you come from a minoritized background. I mean, it’s such a lot, and then you’ve got work to think about as well and everything else. You need some practical tools to help you don’t you as a working mum. So, you’ve mentioned going to the gym, finding someone to speak to finding that network of people to call out to you for help that I mean, I’m really interested in this concept of finding a network because not everyone’s got it or finds it easy to build, that not everyone is naturally that well connected, what would you advise for you, for your average mum? Not that there is an average mum, but you know what I mean, what’s accessible to all of us? Because we both know paid help is not accessible to all of us, what can we get this free and reliable?
Tobi Asare 20:54
I think even just starting in your workplace is a really good place to start. So lots of different agencies or organisations in our world hopefully should have some kind of workers and carers group, I would say that’s a really great and easy and free way to start. Because it’s kind of in your day-to-day kind of work, finding like-minded or different individuals, should I say that all have caring responsibilities, because you’ve kind of got that thing in common.
And actually, through those conversations, you can uncover really interesting things that you might want to go about changing or implementing. So for example, our workers, carers and parents group are actually in charge of putting on this incredible Christmas activity for all the children. And it’s, oh, it’s amazing. Like, I think I have more fun than my kids. But even just coming together and creating something, you kind of create bonds and relationships with people in a completely different way that you wouldn’t have done necessarily before in your day to day, because you may not have met them in your day to day. Because I think that’s a really kind of nice, good free way.
And other ways could be, you do have to put yourself out there and a little bit. But using your children in a really positive way can be a really good way, in terms of either kind of, you know, creating playdates or making sure that your children are building relationships. And hopefully, therefore you can have a bit of a platform or an opportunity to also build relationships with parents maybe at nursery or child minders, or schools. I think that’s another great way. And I know not everyone is kind of really outgoing.
But we are quite a social industry. And some people, that’s a really good thing. And some people that’s maybe not such a good thing. But there are a tonne of lots of different social events kind of happening in and around our industry as well, where there’s good opportunities to, to meet people coming into it fresh, I knew that I had to kind of two and a half years ago, I had to make a real effort to kind of meet people. So I would try and go to various different kind of social events and, and the first ones I went to, were really not that fun. To be honest. I felt like I didn’t know anyone. You know, the second time you go, sometimes these things are annual things. You know, the second time, you actually thought okay, well, I know more than one person. Now this is not so bad. It does get better. And it does get easier. But I’d say you know started maybe local Facebook groups as well as another really good option. And then use your children as a positive platform to build those relationships.
Louise Scodie – NABS 23:30
Yeah, that’s right. Put those kids to work. I’d also add if you want any help with your confidence, before you go into social situations, NABS runs workshops around that particular issue. So have a look at our website, go on to the calendar. And then you’ll find all of the workshops that we’re running, they’re free, they’re online, and they will help to give you a boost. So lots of issues facing working parents, but also not just down to us to fix the issues we eat out from our managers as well. So what can managers in our industry do to support the primary caregivers?
Tobi Asare 24:15
I think a lot of it is about conversations, right? In terms of understanding if those people who are primary caregivers are in your immediate team or wider team or within your agency is giving space to those conversations, and making sure that they have what they need in order to progress and thrive and listening and figure out okay, right. If they don’t have what they need. What can we do as an organisation to get closer to giving the people the tools that they need to come to work and do their very best work?
I think on a wider scale is actually looking at do you have the right culture of belonging in your business? I think as an agency leader, if you’re in a leadership position within your agency or manager within your agency, I do think it’s incumbent on us to make sure that we’ve got a really positive culture of belonging. And that’s why things like, you know, a kids’ Christmas party sounds kind of very fun and maybe trivial to some is actually really important. Because it sends a signal that you belong here, even if you have got kids, or if you have a family.
And when people belong, they feel invested, and they feel like they want to create their best, their best work. But also, I’d say, sponsorship, do you have an opportunity to maybe sponsor somebody that is a primary caregiver, especially if you look at maybe possibly women doing the lion’s share of primary caregiving? We know there’s like so much research that says that women get ahead because of sponsorship.
And therefore, if you are trying to close any gaps that you’ve got in your organisation, so you know, is it a gender pay gap? Or a gender gap in terms of leadership positions? Are you actually sponsoring the right people within your organisation together?
And then lastly, I would say measure, if you’re really, really, really serious about equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging, what are you measuring? Are you measuring the right indicators? Are you then reviewing those measurements and those bits of data regularly, as a business, understand where you are making progress and where you’re not making progress, and therefore what you need to do. So it’s great to have all these conversations, really important, great to have a culture of belonging, also really important for that, that should all be laddering up into something that can be measured, and therefore you can actually make sure that you’re making meaningful progress.
Louise Scodie – NABS 26:40
That’s absolutely right. And very similar to the wider DEI conversation, and quite a few people in our industry now have called for DEI to be part of the KPIs and actually measured in that very methodical way. So that you’re both motivated to do it. And you can see the change happening, which in itself is motivational.
Tobi Asare 27:03
I feel that you’ve got to measure these things. I also feel kind of I’m probably quite biassed in the sense that we do measure it. And we have very consistent and deep and thorough conversations about the topic. But because they are measured, our conversations are actually meaningful. It means that you can move the needle in a really positive way rather than a kind of like a finger in the air. I feel I think, type conversation. Now our conversations are rooted in fact, because we know what we need to do we know what we want to do as a business.
Louise Scodie – NABS 27:37
And one thing that I want to pick up on, you go into quite a lot of detail about sponsorship and mentorship in the book, which is very, very useful and was a real insight for me, because I’ve never been that strategic about my career. I’ve just kind of landed somewhere going, oh, this is nice. And you know, got to work and hope for the best. So maybe underselling myself, I certainly not thought really strategically about finding a sponsor or finding a mentor, but it’s for a working one, that seems to be a very valuable thing. And if I was to sum it up, would I be right in thinking that having a sponsor helps to get your name in the right rooms, and being a sponsor? Make sure that you get the right people growing with the organisation?
Tobi Asare 28:19
Definitely. And the reason why I think it’s so important in parenthood is that, look, if you’re taking time out of the business, who is advocating for you, who’s advocating for your skillset, who’s advocating for your achievements, he’s advocating for opportunities that are right there on the table, that you are actually a perfect fit for. And that’s why I really, really bang the drum about sponsorship a lot, especially if you’re taking a career break, for any reason, especially for parenthood. But I think even more so we know.
And from the work that you do at NABS, I’m sure that you know that women are less likely to put themselves towards these options. Yeah, and so therefore, by expressing your once your abilities to a sponsor, but it’s a great way of making sure that your name is tucked into the hat or tracked into the ring for those particular opportunities that are that are coming.
And I think from a personal perspective, the reason why I talk about it so much was that I’ve been in the position where I felt like I’m working so hard and like all the hours I can possibly find, but I’m not progressing in line with where I think my talents and my capabilities can take me.
I had a conversation with a friend. And she was very pregnant. This time, I got this huge promotion and I was like, I don’t understand why I can’t make this happen for me, too. When she kind of unlocked all the secrets. That’s for me, and how she was really strategic about getting a sponsor. I was like, that’s the thing that’s been missing for me.. So I made a vow to myself from that day on pretty much that I’d always have mentors. And I’d always find a sponsor. And sometimes those sponsors can be an official sponsor where there’s just an agreement there, that, you know, you do great work, and they have your back in the right rooms, and sometimes explicit conversations where you kind of make that very explicit ours. So, yeah, I basically made that veil after that experience, to never put myself in that situation.
Again, and, and lots of what I talk about sometimes is actually from my experience, and therefore, I really want to make sure that, you know, parents kind of going into those situations, or kind of looking at their career trajectory, also make sure that they don’t miss out on opportunities, just because of their life stage or life responsibilities.
Louise Scodie – NABS 30:50
Absolutely. That’s also positive, and something really strategic that you can do for yourself. Now, you’re relatively new to adland. But I think you’ve been in it long enough to answer this question, how does the adland Community lift you up?
Tobi Asare 31:07
I love it, it’s, um, like I said before, it’s, it’s really social, sometimes more than I can handle in terms of the days that are in the calendar and the days or in the week. But I actually love that because there’s opportunities to connect with different people, not just within your agencies, but actually across the industry.
And actually, that enables you, and it has enabled me to understand and learn different things and different ways of doing things. So the, I think we’re really good. And there’s bodies like NABS and the IPA to make sure that we’re coming together, and good at bringing up the good, and surfacing the good that’s happening in the industry, but also tackling behaviours that we want to stamp out as well, in the industry.
I can’t compare all of them. But I think we do that in a way that perhaps other industries don’t quite do. In the same way, I think there’s still more that we could do to kind of tackle together, because that will enable faster, better, quicker progress. But I do love how the industry comes together. And certain topics, like this one, like gender pay gap, like many other topics, to kind of basically make sure that we’ve got the good, positive behaviours, but also we’re kind of making fast and positive progress in certain areas as well.
Louise Scodie – NABS 32:32
Definitely. And as we’re so passionate about the value of community and working together with the industry to talk about issues and bring about change. Finally, what is one lesson you’ve learned about how to support yourself?
Tobi Asare 32:51
I think the biggest lesson that I’ve probably learned in my time in the industry, in terms of supporting myself is that in a way, it’s kind of really down to me in a really positive way, like I have the power to make that ask and get the support that I feel that I need. And in certain times in my career, that support has been needed more. And sometimes that support has actually been needed less, but actually, it’s okay, in certain moments to speak up and say, I need way more help on this particular thing. Or, actually, I need to invest more time in me because that investment is definitely going to pay off and the quality of work that I produce, or the quality of leadership that I can have or influence that I can have in my agency, or with my team, for example.
So I’ve actually learned that there’s heaps of support out there. And it’s okay to ask for it. And actually, it’s in my power to say, yeah, actually, I’m, I’m going to do it. And I think I’ve benefited so much, actually, from actually just saying, I’m going to do that mentoring scheme, or I am going to sign up for those free sessions of therapy that we’ve got going within the organisation. For now, I am going to say, I need help with prioritisation this week, for example. And I think I used to feel that coming in and being a newbie that was actually a sign of weakness that didn’t want to see that maybe I was finding a particular aspect hard, but actually, it’s helped me way more than I could imagine.
Louise Scodie – NABS 34:35
So there you have it, ask for help, get stuck in and even though it might be challenging, you can definitely do it with a smile on your face because Tobi is one of the most smiley positive people I have interviewed so far, and it’s been an absolute delight. Thank you so much, Tobi, for joining us and sharing some of your insights.
Now, Tobi’s book, The Blend, is available in all the usual places. We’ll post a link to it in the show notes at and also Toby recently gave an excellent NABS Talk where we explored more issues around working parents. And we had quite a lot of questions from the audience about specific situations as well. So you may well find this useful. It’s a very, very interesting hour, we’ll post a link to that in our show notes as well, because that is now up on our YouTube.
Until then, TobI, good luck with the book. I’m sure it will be even more of a success than it is at the moment. And thank you so much for all of your support to NABS.
Tobi Asare 35:34
At my absolute pleasure, thank you so much for giving the platform this is my absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for giving me the platform to have this very, very, very important and special conversation.