International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March every year, and the day ranges from being a public holiday in some countries to being largely ignored in others. For some it is a day of protest, in others it is a celebration of women.  We wanted to explore Women in Print, celebrating their achievements and how they make a difference in what is still a largely male-dominated industry.

As a company, Reach is active in supporting equality all year round.  The Reaching Gender Equality (RGE) committee is made up of male and female volunteers up and down the country, with Alison Phillips as Chair, and promotes gender equality across the company through talks, Q&As, workshops and newsletters.  

If you follow our social media platforms you will be introduced to women from across Reach throughout the month, finding out more about their roles within the print industry.

Looking back historically, you can see one of the most notable women in the UK print industry was Emily Faithful.  Emily trained as a printer and typesetter in the 19th Century, before establishing Victoria Press Print Factory in 1860.  She not only trained women to work in the industry, but offered lunch breaks, housing, profit-share and improved working conditions.  She was publisher of Victoria Magazine and English Woman’s Journal, and appointed as Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Queen Victoria.

She was also a member of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, which, at the time, upset the London Printer’s Union, which was male-dominated and claimed that women lacked the intelligence – but she continued to fight for women’s rights for many years.

Today, Emily’s achievements are still remembered, and provide inspiration to the Victoria Print Network.  Kelly O’Sullivan set up the Victoria Print Network to support gender balance in the UK print space. She heads up the team that manages all direct mail and commercial print for the Sainsbury’s Group (including Sainsbury’s Supermarkets, Argos, Argos Financial Services, Sainsbury’s Bank and Habitat). Kelly’s experience in the industry is vast: providing consultation and recommendations at concept stage through to procurement, and technical production of all printed publications – from the Argos catalogue to highly personalised direct mail campaigns.  The Victoria Print Network has been established on LinkedIn, where men and women of all levels of experience are invited to join to learn, discuss, mentor and support prospects of women within the sector.  We asked Kelly a few questions about the group to find out more…

What is your role and background in the industry?

I have worked in print for over 20 years and fell into it by accident – as many people do!  I love the technical and tactile side of print, where you can feel proud to create something that looks beautiful, which you can touch and feel.

We understand the group was inspired by Emily Faithful. Can you tell us more about how it all started?

About 18 months ago, it really hit me how the print industry is still so male-dominant, and hasn’t really changed in all the years I have been working in it.  I decided to put my passion for the industry to good use and try to make a difference. 

How has it developed since first being established?

We now have an established group on LinkedIn of over 100 members.  We have held a number of round tables around the country, inviting women to come, network and share their experiences.  We have done mini interviews that we released on LinkedIn, with the aim to showcase the fabulous role models we have in our industry that will hopefully inspire others.

Have you had feedback from members or seen results from the network?

Everyone I have met through the network feels it benefits to just talk to other women to share experiences and get advice.  It helps to not feel alone.

What benefits are there for men or women in joining the network, and how do they find out more or get involved?

I would love more people to get involved!  If they would like to, the best way to contact me is via LinkedIn.  It’s about getting involved, making a difference to our industry, and supporting women to reach their full potential.  Gender balance isn’t just about women either; research shows that businesses are more likely to have above average profit if there is gender parity – so it’s a win-win.

The industry is largely male-dominated, and encouraging women – especially young women – to consider a career in print is hard. Why should women consider the industry, and what do you think the industry can do to help?

The print industry is such a fab place to work!  It’s developing all the time, and has many facets. You can get involved in technology, manufacturing, customer service, creative … and much more!  I would say to women “Don’t be put off by the gender balance. Be brave, be confident, and go for it.”
Kelly will be hosting our next Twitter chat #printscharming, which will be held on Thursday 5th March 2020 at 3pm, and the theme will be Women in Print.  We would love to see men and women from within the industry get involved.  If you would like to be sent a reminder on the day for this and any future chats, you can sign up to the Twitter Chat mailing list HERE.

Kelly O’Sullivan
Sign up to our mailing list