Industry Insight: 'I Don’t Think Quotas Are The Answer, I Think It’s A Mind Shift That’s Required Globally'

We talk to Sam Fay, SVP Brand Strategy at Guiness World Records


Ahead of her presentation at the Women In Strategy Summit in New York on March 21 & 22, we spoke to Sam Fay, SVP Brand Strategy at Guiness World Records. 

Sam is responsible for Guinness World Records’ global brand and digital strategy, so she is constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to grow the brand! Sam joined Guinness World Records a decade ago, managing the sales, marketing and licensing programs before moving to New York in 2009 to set up a new GWR office and North American team. She returned to London in 2012 to head up the Global Marketing team serving all four offices before recently taking on this new strategic role. She previously held marketing roles at LEGO, and iconic computer games brands including Electronic Arts and EIDOS.

How did you get started in your career?

Back in the mists of time, I started my career as a graduate trainee at Haymarket Publishing selling advertising. I moved from there into book publishing, then to the games industry (Electronic Arts and EIDOS) followed by a marketing role at LEGO and back to book publishing here at Guinness World Records(GWR). I joined the company a decade ago, as Head of Sales & Marketing, then adding licensing and digital responsibilities to my remit. In 2009 I moved to New York to set up the GWR Americas office and stayed there for three years before returning to London in 2012 to head up the Global Marketing team across all four offices, before taking on the global strategy role in 2015.

What are the main challenges female entrepreneurs and professionals face in the workplace?

There are so many! Here’s three…

  • Inclusiveness - one of GWR’s core values - inclusive economies are built on a base of equal opportunity, and everyone wins if we are all offered the same opportunities.
  • It can be a challenge to be heard sometimes - or get the credit for your achievements. It’s vital to have confidence. Dig deep, believe in yourself and the value of your contribution in the workplace.
  • Getting the right work/life balance – most jobs are demanding and all-consuming. Although women are natural multi-taskers, having and managing a family is a full time job in itself!

What can be done to improve female representation in the business world?

It’s about balance and equality. At GWR we are lucky enough to have a 50:50 male/female leadership team, but I know many companies who are not that progressive. There is also a massive difference between industries too, advertising and media can seem a million miles away from engineering and fishing, for example.

Whilst I may have signed to support 50:50 representation for MP’s for UK government, I don’t think quotas are the answer, I think it’s a mind shift that’s required globally.

What would be your piece of advice for women who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey?

In my WiS session I will share five dynamics that I think can help shape your career, but for now I will share just one of those: embrace failure. I think it’s a shame that this piece of advice has been over-hyped during the last couple of years ago and has lost its relevance. I really believe you have to get things wrong to learn from them, and not be afraid of that. JK Rowling sums it up best: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all. In which case, you’ve failed by default.”

Why do you think events like the Women In Strategy Summit are important in the current environment?

Building your network. Men have been doing it for years, but it’s even more important for women. We need to invest the time in our networks, particularly when it comes to strategy and innovation. There are really not that many high level opportunities out there, so use your network regularly to help solve problems, to be inspired and to give yourself the courage to try something new. Actually I believe women are better at networking because we naturally like to share and support each other – we have good communication skills too.

You can catch Sam's presentation at the Women In Strategy Summit at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York on March 21 & 22.

Strat small

Read next:

Strategy & Strategery