Naomi Walkland is a Marketing Director at Bumble, the popular women-first dating and networking app. She currently leads the strategy across Europe, Middle East and Africa, managing teams and strategies to grow Bumble’s community and empower more women to make the first move.
What does IWD mean to you?
At Bumble, we truly believe that every day is International Women’s Day and that we need to work to empower women not only once a year but in everything they do. Bumble encourages women to take control of their dating lives by helping them to make the first move, set the tone for conversations and ultimately create more meaningful connections.
Features such as our photo verification for profiles, a ban on unsolicited lewd images and most recently a ban on body shaming ensures that we create a safe, empowering environment for women to date. This comes from a place of wanting to challenge the status quo and the traditions that tell us what relationships are supposed to look like and how women are meant to behave. I really resonate with that idea and women choosing what success looks like for them in life, in work and in love.
Tell us what it’s like being a woman within the tech industry? And what challenges have you faced?
I studied Social Anthropology and don’t have a ‘typical’ marketing or tech background. I didn’t actually set out working in tech, but found very quickly that the clients that I liked the most were tech profiles so I started seeking them out. I love the pace of working in tech brands, it’s innovative and you have to identify and adapt quickly to behaviours that you’re seeing amongst your community.
This pace is definitely not for everyone but there is also amazing opportunity in how quickly brands like Bumble can adapt. Even think about the last year, and how drastically lockdown restrictions changed the way that people are dating and how people were connecting with each other. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand and help our community navigate this new world of dating. This includes learning how to use our in-app video, voice and audio note features to add to your virtual dating or introducing new features to help people easily communicate how they are comfortable meeting: virtual only, socially-distanced, or socially-distanced with masks. It’s exactly these kinds of quick responses that make roles in tech exciting and really rewarding.
Why is it important to celebrate other women’s achievements?
I think it’s important to celebrate and mark everything – not just the successes and achievements but also the challenges and the failures. My mother taught me the importance of celebrating other women from a very young age, and it’s something I feel very passionately about, but it’s equally valuable to recognise the small wins.
We’re continuously conducting research into behaviours and feelings to gain a deeper understanding of our community, so we can find meaningful and effective ways to help them. After discovering that more than 3 in 4 Black people in the UK do not see themselves represented in mainstream stories and images of dating, we created a campaign called #MyLoveIsBlackLove to better represent the breadth of black love across the UK. We shared different stories of what Black love means to British actors, musicians, artists, comedians, journalists and people who use Bumble, because we have a role to play in how our community, particularly millennials, think about love and relationships.
The campaign isn’t going to change the world, but growing up in London, I saw so little of myself reflected in images of love and relationships that I consumed. So these are small wins, and if this inspires just one young Black girl to feel empowered to make the first move then it is a step in the right direction.
What advice would you give to your younger self, having the knowledge you have now?
One of my favourite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”. It’s important to know that no one can knock you down without you permitting them to do so.
I’d also tell myself to read EVERYTHING. News, fiction and non-fiction books, think pieces, leaflets, whatever, absorb it all and provide yourself with the knowledge to create your own opinions and values.
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