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JFG Comms founder, Jo Field

Spotlight on our Founder and Managing Director – Jo Field

This month we’re excited to celebrate our fourth birthday!

We're also launching our new regular team member spotlight. So this is the perfect time to feature our Founder and Managing Director, Jo Field.

In this spotlight, Jo reflects on how the consultancy has evolved over the past four years, and her initial ‘why’ that drove her to start JFG Comms.....

Jo's story

I’m a campaigner at heart and have been passionate about gender equality since I was a young girl, as I felt girls didn’t have the same opportunities as boys. As an example, I wanted to play football but girls weren’t allowed to do that in the early 80s. ☹

Funnily enough, when I joined the transport sector back in 2007, I didn’t immediately notice the lack of gender balance. Women formed a large part of the comms team I was part of. As I became more senior, I became more aware of the issue. But my light bulb moment came after I had my children.  

Returning to work after the birth of my second son, I was sleep-deprived with a baby and a young toddler. I felt I wasn’t performing my best. As a woman in a senior leadership position, I found this tough. So I looked for peers and mentors who I could turn to for support. I realised there were some fantastic female role models in the transport industry. But there weren’t anywhere near enough of them. This moved me to take action and I used my campaigning expertise to drive forward the women in transport agenda. First, in my role at Transport for London, and also by joining the Board of Women in Transport.

As my two sons grew older, I gained real life experience of the impact gender stereotypes can have on young children. A conversation with my son, aged four at the time, ended in him telling me only men can dig up the road, and ‘no, mummy, women don’t do those jobs’. My son didn’t get that idea from me, so it’s clear wider society is reinforcing these ideas at a young age.

How could I help?

Quite simply, we need more women in transport and construction careers to enable society to overcome the stereotypes. I knew there was much more we could do to attract women to male-dominated industries. So I spent a large part of my personal and professional time reaching out to encourage more young women and girls to consider transport careers.

My work was recognised with the 2016 everywoman Industry Champion award for encouraging women into the transport sector. After this, I decided to take the leap and set up JFG Communications. This enabled me to combine my expertise as a transport public affairs professional with my passion for improving gender diversity in the sector’s workforce. I set up the business as a public affairs consultancy with a campaigning purpose, to improve gender balance in transport. I firmly believe that, if we improve communications and engagement on transport and infrastructure projects, this will help the industry reach a wider audience and encourage more women to consider transport careers.

Looking back

As we celebrate our fourth birthday, I look back at what we’ve achieved and I’m really proud.

I set up JFG Comms as a virtual consultancy and we were the first virtual public affairs agency in the UK. Research shows flexible working is key to attracting and retaining women within organisations. We're an organisation that is passionate about encouraging women to work in male dominated industries. So it made complete sense to place flexible and agile working at the heart of our business model.

Over the past four years, we’ve grown steadily. I began working out of my spare room and last year we moved our core team into We Work in Waterloo. Although everyone is working from home at the moment due to the pandemic. We took on our first full-time employee last year and have new roles coming soon. But our majority team remains trusted independent consultants who are highly-skilled experts in what they do.

I genuinely believe this approach has helped us get where we are today. We offer a range of specialist communications and diversity services, that are fully bespoke and tailored exactly to our customers’ needs.

I’m thankful for having the opportunity to work with some fantastic clients over the past four years, who all share the same values and ethos as us.

The past year

I don’t think I’d be human if I didn’t look back over the past year and mention something about the Covid-19 pandemic, and the turbulent times we’ve all faced and are continuing to experience.

The pandemic has presented challenges to us all in many different ways. But I do believe being a virtual agency has meant we could continue our business with minimal disruption. Our way of working has proven to be invaluable during Covid-19 and I’m so incredibly grateful to the whole team for their dedication, motivation and great work throughout this period.

I have been conscious of looking after health and mental health during these times and have made team wellbeing a top priority. All our team meetings start with a well-being moment. Being geographically spread out used to make it challenging to get the full team together, but we would meet up for socials when possible. Our third birthday party was our last in-person social event. During lockdown, we introduced virtual socials, including a weekly virtual quiz. Today our fourth birthday party will be a virtual celebration!  

Looking ahead

A large part of the next year will be about helping our clients continue to adapt to the challenges, opportunities and new ways of working resulting from the pandemic.

While it's still challenging times for the transport industry, there are some interesting policy questions about the way people will work in future and what that means for transport and cities. I'm also excited about the rise in active travel and the importance of new transport infrastructure in creating jobs and skills as part of the economic recovery.

We're evolving our diversity services to be more holistic and less focused on gender. While gender balance in the transport workforce remains low, a lack of BAME representation is also an issue, particularly at senior levels. So the next year will see us reveal new products and services to help our clients tackle these issues.

So, while challenging times continue for us all, it will be an interesting and important year ahead.