What #BreakTheBias means to the women leading Cohaesus on this year’s International Women’s Day.

Over the last few months Cohaesus has been lucky enough to welcome three very talented women into leadership positions. Lynsey Brownlow joined as Head of Experience, Holly Selby as Senior Account Director, and Mars Lutter as Head of Delivery. This is a first for the business (we’ve never before had all three positions filled by women), and unusual in an industry that has historically been dominated by men.

In honour of International Women’s Day, Lynsey, Holly and Mars all give their personal perspectives on what this year’s theme – #BreakTheBias – means to them.


International Women’s Day is an event that is close to my heart, but as a female in the position and the industry that I work in, immediate imposter syndrome fogs my mind as to how to write something articulate and valuable for people. So I’ll do the best I can, as succinctly as possible. The format I’ve found easiest is a letter to my past self, in the hope that it will help others who are following a similar path. 

To my younger self,

My advice on finding your way to #BreakTheBias, particularly in the digital industry,  as cheesy as it may sound is – be you. 

Yes…spend time looking up to others and how they do things. You may find yourself adopting habits, behaviours or becoming a sponge to their goals, helping them find fame or fulfilment. To some degree, this will help you learn throughout the years as you decide how you want to be and how you don’t. Use this experience to set and reach your own goals.

What’s important is to seek out the ‘good eggs’ who inspire you, and they’ll most definitely pull you under their wing – if they really are the ‘good eggs’ you think they are.  You may be young in this industry, female, full of ‘Scottish-isms’, and worry what people may think or what their impressions of you are as soon as you walk into a room (… or chime into a Zoom meeting!). Turn that fear into fierceness – take pride in knowing that you are there for the right reasons, you’re there to make things work on any occasion and you will make it work. Use your super power of binding the group, sorting the big problem, lending an ear or somehow breaking the back of an idea… it will come to you! Speak sincerely, and the right people will listen. So why bother feeling judged, if people do judge you – that’s with them to worry about. You just work hard, have fun, make a difference and the rest will follow. Just like that fellow female leader told you when you started out!

I’m choosing to #BreakTheBias starting with myself and how I empower others and importantly future leaders to instil change.


For me, #BreakTheBias means achieving equity, and equity is not just about being blind to gender stereotypes. Rather, it’s about celebrating and supporting everyone’s differences at an individual level. 

It’s common for people (of all genders) to think they need to adopt archetypal ‘male’ qualities of confidence, assertiveness and lack of emotion to succeed at work, while qualities that are often associated with femininity are dismissed as inappropriate for the workplace (like sensitivity and softer interpersonal skills). 

This is problematic not least because making an assumption of anyone based on their gender is wildly reductive. Moreover, it minimises the excellent advantages that ‘female’ qualities bring to the table, like empathy, a high level of attention to detail and excellent communication skills, and perpetuates assumptions based on people’s gender, which is less appropriate than ever. 

A female friend recently commented that she needed to take the emotion out of her reaction to something that had upset her at work. That got me thinking about why we’re so obsessed with removing feelings from our working relationships with others. Our emotions are part of our humanity – our experiences literally shape our brains’ future responses to situations, environments, and other people. If we’re not honest about how we’re made to feel, how do we develop more meaningful relationships that teach our peers about who we are, what we value and how we best operate? 

In this industry I’ve been lucky enough to work with some wonderful people and when I haven’t, I’ve been privileged enough to be able to make a sharp exit. That said, even in the best jobs, I’ve experienced bias that I suspect has been based on my gender rather than my characteristics or abilities. I’ve been cut off in meetings, talked over the top of, not had my judgement heeded (often with negative consequences) and had my own ideas regurgitated back at me by other people. Feeling undermined at work because I’m a woman is unpleasant, but all too familiar.

Rather than try to behave more ‘like a man’, I try to keep behaving like myself. When I need to develop, I am open to constructive criticism and I work towards growth. But that will not be at the cost of the qualities that make me who I am, and until those qualities are celebrated with as much reward as those we generally consider to be ‘male’, then we won’t be able to #BreakTheBias.


Thinking back on my years in this industry I can say I am lucky enough to not have experienced too much bias or even outright misogynistic behaviour. Maybe I am suppressing it. But there are two or three incidents that do stand out. Without going into too much detail on each, as all three had their own context and played out in different ways, there is one that inspires my thoughts when it comes to the idea of #BreakTheBias.

A few years back I managed to win a spot on an agency team that was sent to SXSW in Texas for a week to take part in and report back on the digital conference. It was an all-expenses-paid trip and I got to attend some amazing panels and witness some truly inspirational speakers. It was one of the highlights of my career and a truly amazing experience.

It was somewhat dampened however by one colleague’s comment that I only won the spot, as the only girl in a group of guys, because I ticked the gender box. In other words, it wasn’t the pitch I had prepared after hours and presented to leadership that awarded me the trip but the fact that my gender fulfilled the diversity criteria.

I think it is well known that women still have to work a lot harder and often demonstrate typically ‘male’ personality traits to achieve the same accolade or even pay as their male peers. We have accepted that, however tiresome and when really we shouldn’t have to. However, even when we do work harder or even just as hard as male colleagues, and even if we throw all our energy and effort at something, it is incredibly demoralising to then have that achievement squashed by the accusation of it being merely the result of ‘positive’ discrimination.

For me, #BreakTheBias means that female success and achievement is worthy of celebration not because we supposedly profit from diversity clauses and bosses that are scared to be ‘cancelled’ over not promoting enough women, but because we are simply good enough. It means being seen, promoted and celebrated as the skilled and experienced professionals we are, instead of being undermined and having our efforts belittled.

We’ve been championing diversity and inclusivity at Cohaesus since the very beginning. Thanks to Lynsey, Holly, Mars and all the people in our extended team who continue to help us #BreakTheBias.