Winner of the Women Leader of the Year Award 2018, Managing Director of a multi-award winning company.

Rosie Whitelock

I have been around print for as long as I can remember, starting when my parents turned our garage into a print shop when I was around 5 years old. That garage print outfit turned into £2 million book printing company over the years and paved the way for me to become the MD
of an even larger, growing print business.

When I was at school my summers consisted of coming into work and helping out by shoving mailings. I have always loved the noise and buzz that comes from a busy print production department, and I still love the feeling of walking through the factory and seeing books being made.

As a kid, and even up until a few years ago, gender in the print industry never came into my mind, it just wasn’t on my radar. Here at Bonacia we hire and promote people on their skills and values not on their gender. However, over the last 3 years, I have come to realise that being a woman in print is rare, from the shop floor all the way up to Directors and CEOs. As I have become more involved with the print industry, going to industry awards, forums, trade shows and visiting suppliers I have noticed a pattern, and I am not the only one.

When being interviewed for an award (not print-related) the judges were surprised by the industry we were in, one of them said, “Printers are usually run by middle-aged men called Ray!”. Although the comment was very stereotypical and not technically true, it really did resonate with me and I started to see things I hadn’t before. I noticed how many male faces there were in industry magazines that I had read every month for years. I thought about the sales reps that come into our business regularly and how many of them are male (just to note, it was all of them), it made me feel uneasy when I was introduced to a woman at a print awards purely because she was also a woman! Sitting here now I have just looked through the latest industry magazine I have on my desk and in it there are 40 men and just 4 women!

When attending The Solutions Awards last year I sat and looked around the room and noticed there were more women than I usually see at this type of event and it made me smile. I thought it would be nice to get a picture of us all and post it on social media. There was so much support for this picture and what it represented #Womeninprint and I really want to keep the momentum going.

Women may be outnumbered in the print industry but this doesn’t mean we don’t have as much to bring to the table. My own experience being a woman in this male-dominated arena has been positive – it means I stand out a little and get our company noticed. I run Bonacia along with my sister and our Senior Management Team, which is made up of 50% women, means when we turn up to events and our females outnumber our males it does turn heads!

Ok, so what now? We want to empower women starting out in their careers to get in to print; it is an amazing industry to be part of. We want women in the industry to feel comfortable seizing opportunities and to feel like they belong.

A study I read recently said that two-thirds of women in the UK suffer from “Imposter Syndrome” and I can only imagine this is increased in such a male-dominated industry. I would love for us women in print to be able to make each other feel more comfortable and like we ‘fit in’ when attending industry events. You may be sitting there thinking, I already feel comfortable and fit in, that’s great, you are way ahead of me!

This group is also about sharing ideas, opportunities, and advice. We want to create a network of amazing women who love print, will share their knowledge and support each other.