Who is Nicola Mendelsohn?

VP of Facebook EMEA, an advertising guru, and advocate of a four-day-work week, Startups brings you five need-to-know facts about Nicola Mendelsohn

Name: Nicola Mendelsohn
Business: Vice president of Facebook EMEA, overseeing the social network’s business activities for the region. Also a non-executive director of alcoholic beverage company Diageo.
What you should know about her: Described by The Daily Telegraph as “the most powerful British woman in the tech industry”, Mendelsohn was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition for her services to the creative industry in 2015. Co-chair of the Creative Industries Council and director of the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, in 2011 she became the first female president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

Currently on the hunt to find the world’s best start-ups, as judge of The Talent Unleashed Awards 2016 alongside Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak, read on for five fascinating facts about the inspiring female entrepreneur…

1. She believes businesses should adopt a four-day work week

At the centre of Mendelsohn’s successful career has been her belief in flexible working and a four day working week. Prior to joining Facebook, Mendelsohn has said that she would only work four days a week in order to spend more time with her children and she still adopts this approach; working Monday to Thursday.

Based on the belief that the traditional ‘nine to five’ is an outdated way of doing things, she has urged more companies give their employees the chance to choose their working hours. Back in 2014, she told The Evening Standard:

“In all the businesses I’ve been in, it’s a war for talent and you want the best people in the best ways possible. I don’t think it’s a women’s issue, I think it’s a people issue. People work here in the best way that suits them — some work better in the evenings than in the mornings, so why should they have to come in at nine o’clock? You have to riff accordingly.”

2. She’s keen to get young girls involved in STEM subjects and break through the glass ceiling

A passionate supporter of women in business, Mendelsohn believes that there are cultural issues holding women back in the workplace. Though an English graduate herself, she has previously said that more girls in school should be encouraged to take on maths and science – “We get told a lot of things as young girls — what we’re not good at — and I think men and boys don’t ever get told that.

“There are just not enough women in engineering and there need to be more. To think that only one half of the planet are the right people to solve things in the engineering and coding side, that’s just rubbish…

“I want to make sure I help the next generation of women come up. I want to make sure I can inspire my daughter, in the same way as I would my sons, to do whatever it is they’re passionate about […] I’ve always created an environment for the women in the businesses I’ve been in to be the best that they can, however they define that.”

Mendelsohn has also published a book, Lean In, which calls on successful women to ‘lean in’ to their careers instead of assuming that they should scale down their commitments to make more time for their family responsibilities.

Since joining Facebook, Mendelsohn has helped launched the social giant’s first ever Women’s Conference and also holds an annual Women’s Leadership day where she invites all female staff from the EMEA region for inspiring events and table discussions.

3. She’s one half of a power couple

Nicola married British lobbyist and Labour Party political organiser Jonathan Mendelsohn in 1994 and he was created a life peer as Baron Mendelsohn in 2013. Jonathan is on the board of directors of the New Labour pressure group Progress, and is a trustee of the UK charities the Holocaust Educational Trust and the UK arm of the New Israel Fund.

Together, the pair make a formidable duo.

4. She’s an expert in advertising and has some wise words for budding entrepreneurs

Mendelsohn has a 20 year background in the advertising industry (active since 1992). Before Facebook, she was deputy chairman of high-profile advertising agency Grey London and later became partner and executive chairman for advertising agency Karmarama.

In her work for Facebook, Mendelsohn has said that she follows the mantra of ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ Speaking to Campaign in 2015 on her two year anniversary at Facebook – or ‘Faceversary’ as she calls it – Mendelsohn said that:

“Whether it’s creating new advertising products for small and medium-sized businesses or expanding our physical footprint – we are about to open an office in South Africa – we don’t stand still. The pace of change in this industry is incredible and, if the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that there really are no limits – only the ones we put on our own imaginations.”

What’s more, Mendelsohn has said that she tests out her advertising tactics on her children (three out of four of whom are teenagers) and admitted to using them as a ‘sneaky focus group’ for Facebook initiatives.

5. She’s deeply religious and heads up a Jewish charity

Born to a successful kosher caterer, Mendelsohn practices Judaism alongside her husband Jonathan. In November 2015, the pair become joint presidents of Norwood – one of the UK’s leading Jewish charities.

She told The Jewish Chronicle: “The chance to do something with Jon and give something back to the community was too good to resist. Both of us grew up in very community-minded families and that’s always been at the heart of everything we’ve done.

“Two heads are better than one. I work in the world of tech, so innovation is my best friend. We both bring very different skills and will approach challenges in different ways. I’m a strong believer that if you want something done, you ask a busy person.”

Mendelsohn even observes what she calls a ‘techno Sabbath’ on weekends, where she switches off to practice Judaism.

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