The Big Conversation…. with Marie Claire UK Editor Trish Halpin
Stay curious. Be kind.
Written by Tracey Duke, Photography by Tracey Griffin, Makeup by Madeline Spencer
Trish Halpin is, without a doubt, one of the most respected women in publishing, today. A three times winner of the prestigious Editor of the Year Award, the Editor in Chief of Marie Claire is currently celebrating her 9th year at the helm of Time Inc’s flagship publication. I took the short flight from Exeter to London, earlier this month, to meet with the Editor who has inspired millions of women, around the globe, to embrace their femininity, to strive for their truth, to be the change they want to see and to do it all with a fabulous touch of style & flair.
Trish, thank you so much for meeting with me today; it’s fantastic to be here with you. As usual, we’ll jump straight in and talk a little about your journey to get to this point. I know you started out, 25 years ago, working on the teenage magazine, More and here you are now as Editor in Chief of the prestigious title, Marie Claire.
It’s an incredible journey in a notoriously tough industry; one that’s been so impressive and inspirational to so many women. Tell me, are there any key moments along that journey that stand out to you as being particularly profound?
Well, first of all, thank you for your lovely introduction; I think that when you’re in it and doing the job, you don’t necessarily see yourself in that way, so it’s lovely for someone to say so.
Yes, I’ve been working in women’s magazines for 25 years now. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve worked across a number of really fabulous titles; starting with More, New Woman, Red, Instyle and of course Marie Claire where I’ve been for the last 9 years. It’s been a really interesting career; one I’ve really embraced and enjoyed.
I think the thing I enjoy most about my role, is the mix of the creativity with the journalism; working with large creative teams from the fashion shoots, the beauty shoots, and the graphics. And equally, being the face of a brand; as the Editor in Chief, you have to be out there. You’re meeting people, you’re representing your brand; you have to live and breathe your work which, with Marie Claire, has been very easy for me to do.
I think a defining moment, probably, was getting this job at Marie Claire. I remember being a student when the magazine launched in 1988 and seeing it on the stands for the first time. I remember picking it up and thinking how different it was; the reportage and stories about women around the globe gave a sense of it being a really smart, fashion magazine. If you’d have told me then, that I was going to be the editor of it one day, I would just never have believed you; I’d never have had the faith, or confidence, in myself to do it.
So when the offer came, 9 years ago, it certainly was a defining moment for me. It was also very interesting because it came at a time when the magazine, and the publishing industry, were going through quite a seismic change in terms of the shift to digital. We were also right at the start of the credit crunch; budgets had to be cut and staff reduced. So I had to go in with quite a tough brief and make some big changes. I think that my belief in what the brand represents and the respect that it has, not just here in the UK but across the globe, has really seen us both through; nine years on and we’re still here.
And so that’s a really powerful example of why you need to remain true to your core values; as an individual and a brand.
I agree and I think that for younger women, in particular; the young millennial generation that everyone’s talking about, their values are really important to them. It’s so important to work within an industry, or a company, that shares your values; that will give you longevity and help drive your ambition to succeed. If there is a conflict of those values, that can be very hard.
And I guess that when you stay true to who you are and don’t feel that you have to compromise your values, that will, by default, help to build your confidence.
Yes. It’s also about trying to understand who you are and what your unique factor is. Everybody has their own unique set of characteristics and strengths; if you can take some time to think about that, and having professional coaching is a really good process for this, I’d absolutely recommend it.
If you can identify your strengths and then align those with your beliefs and your core values, you’ll be using them in the best way.
I’m told that I come across as a very calm person; a considered person. Quite frankly you can throw anything at me and it won’t phase me. I think that’s why I’ve been successful in managing teams; if they’re having a panic or a dilemma, or they’re stressed about something, I’m very good at helping them to just take a step back, consider their choices and help to find the solution. I can be quite objective about things and I think that’s been helpful for me; certainly in terms of my leadership style.
Do you feel it’s an innate quality, or do you have to put in the effort to keep yourself so balanced & calm? You’re a working mum juggling a high profile career with the demands of family life; it must get stressful at times for you.
You do need to think about that because yes; it can be very overwhelming, especially when you’re juggling the demands of a young family. I think that for most women it’s a challenge and you do have to look after yourself.
For me it’s all about exercise. If I didn’t exercise at least a couple of times a week, I think I would probably explode! I love to swim; I find it quite meditative as well and it is obviously good exercise. I find the focus on my breathing very, very relaxing. So I’ll swim one morning a week at 6.30 and then I’ll have a steam afterward. I also like spinning which really gets you going; I like things that calm me down and then get me going again.
I believe that you have to look after both your body and your mind. It’s that focus on cardio and fitness levels, combined with practices like pilates and yoga; I find the mix of both, work really well for me, especially as I get older. Being mindful of what you eat is also hugely important.
I agree; taking the holistic approach is absolutely key. Healthy mind, healthy body.
But it’s also important to let your hair down; I find that, without a doubt, one of the most instantly refreshing things, is a night out with girlfriends; it’s an instant cure for anything. A couple of glasses of wine and making time for friends and fun is hugely valuable.
So, Trish, it’s a big year for Marie Claire who are celebrating their 30th birthday; 9 years of which you’ve been at the helm. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen for women in that time?
I think the biggest, ongoing change, but one that still needs addressing and improving, is flexibility within the workforce. A lot of women are at the forefront in terms of driving flexible working hours, parental leave and returning to work after maternity leave or looking after small children; but it’s a subject that still needs a huge amount of work, time, investment and thought from the government. We need those women in the workforce and they want to be in the workforce; they’re educated, intelligent and have spent years building respected careers, so it’s vitally important that we continue to include and support them.
And so this all stems back to respect; to get the best out of your workforce, men or women, they have to feel respected and valued. If the company you’re working for has your back, you’ll be far more likely to give your best. So the benefits are twofold.
Absolutely! So one of the ways that we’re addressing this, at Time Inc, is by hot-desking; essentially sharing desks. One of the benefits of this, and I do see it as a benefit, is that we now have a home working policy where people can
choose to work from home one day a week. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about it, because I think that as a team leader you’re wondering how you’re going to know what your team is doing. The reality is that you don’t need to know what your team is doing; their work should speak for itself.
We’re so digitally connected now and all of my team work from home one day a week. In fact they’re probably more productive when working at home; I think that the level of trust you place in them by giving them flexibility, you get back tenfold because they really value and appreciate it.
One of the other, biggest changes certainly has been with digital technology; it’s been seismic in so many ways, not least because it’s allowed these working patterns to happen. It’s also changed the way in which we consume media, which has obviously had a huge impact on people’s behaviours and what they’re reading. It’s been tough for magazines because we’re not just competing with other magazine brands, we’re actually competing with all those other digital platforms; it’s certainly changed the whole landscape. It’s made it exciting and dynamic but has meant that a lot of businesses are having to change their business structures.
And that’s the thing; businesses have to evolve to survive.
In this world, right now, we have no idea, none of us, what the world is going to be like in five years time. Artificial intelligence and advances in digital technology mean that we don’t know what the jobs of the future are. So you have to be able to change and be resilient. Those are the two key skills.
Absolutely and for young women, stepping out into a very different world to the one you stepped into, what advice would you give to them?
I think that one of the key things is to have a curious mind; you have to have time to think. If you’re a journalist, you’ll naturally have a curious mind, but whatever industry you’re working in, keep your eyes open as to what is going on around you and ask questions. A mind that thinks and stays curious is a great thing for any young person to have; it’s so important.
And also, without a doubt, be confident. Be inspired, confident and believe in your abilities.
I absolutely agree! So tell me, what do you feel about the thought process that the only thing holding women back, are they themselves?
I’m not sure I’d agree with that. At all. There are so many other things that are holding women back; inequality in the workplace, unfair working practices, and harassment; a huge topic at the moment. I know women who have been at the top of their game in the city, or in law, who just can’t deal with the culture anymore. Things need to change now.
I’d love to see companies understand that it’s so important to bring the best male and female traits together, to bring a balanced working culture. The workforce shouldn’t be dominated by a male culture; it’s outdated and not necessarily the most positive thing. Bringing together the best qualities, of both men and women, is so important. At the moment there’s a huge imbalance and that’s where the world needs to change. We, as a society, need to make that happen.
So if you could make one change to the world, would that be it?
Yes. And girls education; without a doubt. It’s the most fundamental problem with the world. The amount of girls not in education is absolutely staggering. Just imagine what a different place the world would be if you had all those women in education. Unless you have an education, you don’t have a voice. And there are millions and millions of girls and young women out there who still do not have a voice.
And to wrap things up; your heartfelt belief?
Be kind; it’s the most valuable, important and possibly underrated human quality. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.
What’s the kindest thing someone’s ever done for you?
It can be just little things. I was walking down the road a few years back; the children were young and I was having a particularly hard day. This woman just stopped her car, wound down her window and said ‘I’ve just been given these flowers, I’m going away for the weekend, would you like them’? Wow, the impact on my day, I can’t tell you; I was so touched! It changed the entire mood of my day; it was just so lovely.
But I think the biggest kindness you can do for someone, is to listen to them. If people want to talk, listen. And properly listen; not just wait to jump in and say what you want to say. Listen, really listen; it’s such an important way of being kind.
Trish, thank you so very much for your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to speak with you. Congratulations on an incredible career; you are a beacon of positive growth and a strong, beautiful role model for so very many. Thank you.
Follow Trish @TrishHalpin