Heidi Nazarudin on Paving the Way for a Women-led Business Revolution Heidi celebrates becoming a Marie Claire cover after years of hard work When someone first meets Heidi Nazarudin, whether face to face or through her online feed, one thing is clear—she is unapologetically feminine. In many ways, Heidi is easily who anybody would imagine reading the words “jet-setting style influencer”. This is someone who took her passion for fashion and decided to build a career around it, after all. Even Heidi herself isn’t afraid to admit to her stereotypical female traits: “I love shopping, make-up, and clothes. I’m bad at driving and figuring out directions, and I am a very nice and accommodating person,” she shares. In this day and age, some would think that it’s problematic to label those characteristics as feminine. Heidi’s aware of that, too, and she’s more than well-acquainted with the complexities of gender dynamics. However, she is steadfast in her belief in equality, and her work speaks for her passion for it. Using her platform, Heidi continues to find ways to put the spotlight on women. Beneath all those layers of designer clothes, Heidi is a sharp and very able businessperson first and foremost, even though she’ll be the first to cry because of cute kittens and sad movies. Having previously worked as a high-flying investment banker, and CEO of a Nasdaq-listed company, she’s aware of the cut-throat nature of the corporate world. It’s the exact world that she wants to change and revolutionize to create more opportunities for women just like her. A woman equipped to lead, empower, and uplift others Heidi on meeting Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl, successful businesswoman, one of Heidi’s personal idols It’s when she was working her way up in business that Heidi saw the disparity between men and women. “Historically, there have been more male CEOs and business leaders than women. [Because of the recognition men get], people associate masculine traits such as being unemotional, blunt and being very good at compartmentalizing the professional and personal with being smart and successful,” she says. Heidi’s right—as of 2018, out of all the Fortune 500 companies, only 25 of them are led by a woman CEO. This mindset isn’t only wrong, but it also means women have to put in more effort to prove themselves, regardless of their field. It’s also that exact mindset that Heidi’s career has been working to change. Her blog The Ambitionista is all about showing the world that women don’t have to compromise who they are to be successful. But when it comes to making a difference in the lives of women, Heidi’s efforts to make the world equal and more inclusive aren’t concealed in branding and social media. What matters to her, and what she believes truly empowers women, is “creating an environment that supports them professionally.” It’s important to spread the word of the strength and value of women by being vocal about it on social media. Still, nothing is comparable to the legitimate impact of actually creating work opportunities for women to build their career. Regardless of where these women are from, making sure they have the chance to improve their lives is this CEO’s top priority. “Working women often have more responsibilities in their personal lives,” Heidi acknowledges. That’s why industries that allow for flexible hours and the ability to perform work from almost anywhere can be great for women to thrive. When it comes to her team, Heidi enforces flexible set-ups for time and location, and she makes work-from-home positions available to people from across the globe. Harnessing strength in diversity and pride in femininity Since starting her blog in 2013, Heidi has expanded her horizons at an incredible pace. She has leveraged her skillset of understanding what marketing goals a brand or company needs to achieve and she has translated those goals into action. Heidi founded Marque Media, an agency that now employs more than 50 people from all around the globe. And not surprisingly – 90% of her team members (as she likes to call her staff) are women. Marque Media currently offers its branding, web design, social media strategy and management, and public relations services to more than 50 retainer clients, which is a feat seeing as the company is barely two years old. Heidi working with Back & Olufsen and showing influencers how to do it: with style, grace, and personality When asked about female role models, Heidi says she draws inspiration from the women around her. “For example, my co-founder Melissa Jones has four kids, she takes care of her mom, and she also runs our sales team. I’m also aware that many of my team members are the sole breadwinners in their family, and that alone deserves applause and acknowledgment. Chances are, you don’t need to look far to find female role models because they’re usually right there in front of you. Let’s face it—women are just amazing,” she says. In fact, Heidi’s experience in working with so many women is a testament that they deserve more recognition than they usually get. The Marque Media CEO believes that her heavily female-composed team does wonders for the well-oiled machine of her business. “Working women are more aware of interpersonal dynamics, so they usually read between the lines more than men.” What does that mean for her team? She answers, “For the client, it means having a team that understands nuance and usually goes above and beyond to help them. For our internal team – it means that being more transparent and communicative with issues is key to a harmonious and high-performing company.” “A 15-second video can destroy 15 years of work.” “In a global world where everything ends up on social media, having a diverse team is very crucial,” Heidi claims of the ever-shifting online landscape. “Sometimes we see big brands being tone-deaf in their marketing campaigns. Dolce and Gabbana got slammed [over insensitive remarks about Chinese people], and their sales deteriorated. The Skinny Bitch Collective recently had to close shop because of the way they [used Masaai warriors in their videos].” What’s the culprit for these huge business slip-ups? “If you dive in [and look at the companies], it’s because they do not have a diverse team. The more culturally diverse your marketing team is, the more [these problems] can be avoided.” Heidi showing off her unique and chic sense of style with H&M’s AW17 fashion line In a 2018 report by McKinsey & Company, it was revealed that the proportion of men and women in corporations has hardly changed in the past few years, even though companies are openly committing to gender diversity. This isn’t usually an issue that’s associated with branding and marketing industries, but it actually poses serious problems with big repercussions. It’s now more important than ever for bloggers, influencers, and marketers alike to be more conscious about their content, especially if it has the potential to spread across the Internet like wildfire. People of all genders, sexualities, races, and backgrounds don’t just want to be represented; they now rightfully demand to be respected and treated as human beings. Shaping the woman-accessible future of her industry Though Heidi and her team at Marque Media are making waves, the work that needs to be done is far from over. Women, especially women of color, are still underrepresented in workplaces, and the only way to fix it is if businesses took real actionable steps toward a solution. Even though she’s achieved what many people believe is the dream, making it big in LA’s competitive beauty, fashion, and lifestyle industry while living in by the beach in Santa Monica, Heidi never forgets her roots as a young girl from Malaysia who grew up in a very traditional Asian household. Maybe that’s why her values and principles follow her every business decision and instance of career growth—Heidi has broken the mold and overcame so many challenges, and she wants other women to know that they’re capable of changing their life without changing the core of who they are or compromising their personal lives. Giving them the opportunity and space to prosper professionally doesn’t only improve their lives, but also the way the world looks at and treats working women.