Product Finder

Hotline Onlinetool

An interview with Carey Trevill: Learning resilience from the success and failure of another.

Julia Bernert

Published on 14.12.2023

Carey Trevill was appointed the first female CEO of the British industry association BPMA following her success as a consultant. As a female CEO in an industry that is still dominated by men, the association is also sending a strong signal for female empowerment. We spoke to her not only about diversity and inclusion as key aspects. Carey also reveals the importance of reading and choosing role models for your own career path.

Carey, please describe what your profession is.

Carey Trevill:Technically, I’m a marketer and consultant. I have a long career in marketing and advertising before turning to consultancy. I work as a CEO to the BPMA, contracted by the Board to take the Association on a strategic journey. My other work involves strategic advice for businesses and work through the co-owned business, looking at capability and supply chains from a marketing operations standpoint. It’s a real priviledge to be in this role and to bring my end user experience into to the Association and help this industry get fit for the future. I’m the first female CEO they’ve had here and despite having had a female Chair in recent times, it’s interesting to see how people treat you as a female leader! Like most leadership roles I undertake, everyone comes to prod you with a sharp stick to see how you will react first before they look at what you can do.“

Is the bpma a male-dominated association? And what about the promotional products industry in the UK?

Carey Trevill:I’d actually say not when we look at the diverse ownership across membership. Next year we are conducting our first full DEIB survey in the membership to see what the balance is and we recently looked at female and ethic owned businesses (a much higher percentage than you’d think) so often we see what we want to see. The Board is pretty balanced and we have great female representation which is something I was pleased to see when I first met the Board back in 2018. The UK may feel quite male dominated at times but honestly I see just as many powerful women in the owners seats making just as much noise as the men! Our industry of course needs diversity and change (don’t so many?) but we need to take care on the way we approach this.

In March, the bpma hosted an event to mark International Women’s Day for the first time, the International Women’s Day Lunch. What was the echo like?

Carey Trevill:We have formed a number of working groups since 2022 and we have a Diversity & Inclusion work group who helped bring this event together. However, we made this an inclusive event and the biggest echo was ‚we need more men here‘. And our female members were right; the women don’t need convincing that equity in the workplace is a good thing, we need to have more engagement across the board. The brief for 2024 is even more inclusive and engaging in that respect.“

How is bpma pushing the female empowerment issue? What do you offer?

Carey Trevill:As mentioned above, we have a set of working groups which include Diversity & Inclusion and as the team here is growing, we are aiming to offer more in terms of support. This industry does pretty well on the theme of female empowerment but there is always work to do. We are always aiming for inclusion not exclusion. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not the women who need convincing!“

What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?

Carey Trevill:I was asked this question only the other day. Actively listen with your whole self and be able to place yourself in the other persons view point. Only then can you truly understand the challenge in front of you and the opportunity it presents.

From your point of view: What should women look for in their career planning to prepare them for a top position?

Carey Trevill:On the positive side, read, read, read, learn and absorb all the information you can. Look at others, learn from those who openly talk about their success and failure as you’ll have both along the way. Learning how to handle it will stand you in good stead for future bumps in the road.

Sadly I’d say be prepared to be belittled and harassed. It happens and we can’t pretend it doesn’t. It doesn’t make it right but we need to be prepared. Life has got better on the misogyny front but be prepared to receive the negatives from men and women too. Being asked in a very senior position only a few years ago when I was negotiating my salary what my husband earned (ie did I really need to be paid well!) , was the wake up call I needed to see that at times, no matter how much experience and value I have, I still have to prove the worth from time to time. Thankfully, that’s not happened for some years!“

Keyword New Work: let’s talk about digital and location-independent working, job sharing, mentoring and work-life balance..

Carey Trevill:I’ve nearly always worked in a hybrid way, across lots of different roles and in different markets. At the BPMA we work a very happy hybrid life and it works for us. It has made life easier and harder in many respects. Communication needs a serious focus when you talk about hybrid working and this very person to person industry has had to adapt hugely to new ways of working. I don’t believe we have found the balance yet – the old school workforce would say ‚all in the office‘ whereas our younger workforce want more flexibility. Yet this is an industry which craves connection and we know mental health can really suffer without the right levels of interaction. Job sharing happens here a lot and now post pandemic, we’re certainly less location reliant than we were.“