Gill Whitty Collins If i had been born a girl

A Conversation with Gill Whitty-Collins

Episode 10


Gill Whitty-Collins

Brand architect, business renovator, gender equality warrior, author and proud Scouser

The youngest of three sisters, Gill grew up in Warrington, not far from Liverpool, before going to Selwyn College, Cambridge University to study Modern and Medieval Languages. Her student experience was altered dramatically when she became a mother during her second year as an undergraduate.

Directly after graduation, Gill joined Procter & Gamble, where her first role was as a marketing assistant for the haircare brand, Wash & Go. She progressed swiftly up the career ladder to Marketing Director, General Manager and finally Senior Vice President, running leading global brands such as Olay, Always and Pantene. 

It was only when she reached the very top of the organization that Gill began to see the impact of gender diversity issues on women and their careers, and the way in which they affected – and ultimately defeated – talented women everywhere. As she says, “For 20 years of my career, I didn’t experience the diversity issue. And then I saw it. And once I had seen it, I saw it everywhere.”

At the end of 2018, after 26 years with the company, Gill left P&G to become an independent consultant, and now leverages her expertise in gender equality, brand architecture and business renovation to help organizations drive growth and build stronger businesses.

In August 2020, she published her first book, Why Men Win At Work – And How We Can Make Inequality History.

Gill lives in France.

[Photo credit: Alex Teuscher]  

In this episode, Gill and Tom discuss…

01:45 – Her Scouse origins and being a fan of Liverpool FC
02:27 – Growing up as the youngest of three sisters
05:41 – Her father the #femanist – and being his ‘little guy’
07:57 – Different treatment of girls and boys at school
11:45 – Her lifelong love of the French language
13:22 – Feeling an outsider at Cambridge University
17:23 – Becoming a mother as an undergraduate
21:23 – Missing out on the full student experience – and no regrets
23:19 – Joining Procter & Gamble straight from university
28:57 – Choosing between career and children – and not being able to do it all
31:58 – Moving to Switzerland
32:55 – The special qualities required to be a trailing spouse
39:11 – Women being treated differently at senior level
43:28 – Asking a goldfish “How’s the water?
44:52 – Good intentions, unconscious bias training and the importance of concrete action
48:27 – From awareness to activism – and writing a book
51:52 – Her incredulity at the acceptance of gender inequality
54:02 – COVID-19 as disaster – and opportunity – for gender equality
56:42 – The significance of Kamala Harris as aspirational role model for girls
58:56 – Completing the sentence “If I Had Been Born A Boy…”

Gill recommends

We ask all of our guests to recommend one resource related to their area of expertise and one related to the subject of gender equality.

Gill’s first recommendation is the StrengthsFinder assessment tool from Gallup, which helps individuals and teams to identify their key skills and how best to capitalize on them.

Her second recommendation is the BBC’s initiative to increase representation in content and more generally within the media, 50:50 The Equality Project. We enthusiastically support her recommendation!

Additional links

Gill’s personal website is here. You’ll find more information about her book there, as well as links to a wide range of articles, videos and podcast – and her blog.

Gill recommends you order her book from Book Depository to benefit from free delivery worldwide.

One of our favorite press interviews with Gill appeared on International Women’s Day 2020 in the magazine Hood.

We also enjoyed her September 2020 interview in the Cambridge University student magazine, Varsity.

Her most recent piece, Spare A Thought for Mother Christmas, also appeared in Hood and asks in Gill’s typically forthright manner “Why should women have to take on the burden of COVID, their career, and Christmas all at once?”  

Pantene, one of the brands for which Gill was responsible during her time at Procter & Gamble, has a track record of producing provocative commercials supporting women’s empowerment. Two of the most powerful examples are the 2017 campaigns Sorry, Not Sorry and Labels Against Women.  

Last but not least, as she says during the podcast, Gill is a huge football fan – and she recently participated in a podcast organized by Lewes FC, which in 2017 became the world’s first football club to commit to paying male and female players equally. This is a fantastic initiative which we are following with great interest.

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Episode 10