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DNA Recruit

Six leading ad women on the barriers to female success

Six leading ad women on the barriers to female success

Natasha Stark, a Women of Tomorrow Awards judge and associate director, client services at DNA Recruit, asked six leading women in advertising two questions each about the barriers to success. Did they think the same way?

Cilla Snowball, group chairman and chief executive, AMV BBDO

One of the many reasons the gender pay gap still exists is because women’s careers are often stalled when they take time off to look after infants. What is your personal feeling about men taking parental leave?

"Uptake of shared parental leave is slow but there are plenty of role models out there doing it, sharing their experience and pointing the way. We have to make flexible working attractive to both men and women to drive change."

So many 'women of tomorrow' are lost to the industry because of obstacles in returning after maternity leave or extended time out. How can we highlight the benefits to companies and how can we support their path back into work?

"It's crucial we demonstrate continuously that motherhood is not a barrier to career progress. That careers accelerate, not stall, because of it. Mine certainly did, thanks to happy, healthy kids and a good support infrastructure at home and at work."

Imogen Landy, head of account management, Karmarama 

Some say women need to speak up more if they want their voices to be heard. Circumnavigating macho culture is one thing women need to get better at, but what advice would you give to men in your circle to help curb that culture in meeting rooms?

"I think it’s definitely down to men too to start watching the unconscious biases – it’s all those things that you read about and then suddenly you start noticing. Where the eye contact goes in the room, the proportions of who is talking within the room and as a guy, notice. Notice the balance of who is speaking or who is trying to get a word in! And make sure that there is a sense of inclusion. Say, in an unpatronising way, to someone who perhaps hasn’t been heard yet, "Oh, well, what do you think?" It’s the nuances, day to day."

One of the many reasons the gender pay gap still exists is because women’s careers are often stalled when they take time off to look after infants. What is your personal feeling about this and what other reasons do you think there are?

"I run a "surgery" for the team to come and talk to me about any issues. One of my responsibilities is that they are stimulated and happy and something that has surprised me actually, and slightly saddened me, is that women do have more confidence issues – and they are a pretty confident bunch! Whether it’s with presentations, talking to senior clients or pay rises.

"They come to me in equal numbers but it’s the way of expressing themselves that has struck me. It’s slightly apologetic with women…."How would I go about this…?"or "If I wanted to have a conversation," whereas the male way is: "I wanted to come to talk to you about a pay rise. It’s time." It was more pronounced that I anticipated. 

"If you have a certain amount of money to distribute and guys pushing confidently for pay rises more often, I can see how, in some organisations, inequality occurs. Here at Karmarama we’re clear on how we measure value and contribution and we encourage women to recognise and speak up around their own value. We also monitor the comparative pay of both genders at every level."

Laura Chamberlain, managing director, Now

Some people say we shouldn’t recruit to increase diversity but should employ the right people who have the right experience – how would you respond to that? 

"We won't be employing the right people who have the right experience until we are employing a more diverse mix of people. Creativity demands diversity. Homogeneity is a recipe for bland creativity."

So many 'women of tomorrow' are lost to the industry because of obstacles in returning after maternity leave or extended time out. How can we highlight the benefits to companies and how can we support their path back into work? 

"Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright once said, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." I'm a great believer in the power of women to help each other. Mentoring can be enormously empowering for working mothers. Don't wait for your company to support you, find a working mum you admire and ask for her advice and support. No matter how busy I am at work and home, I will always make time for another mum. Never underestimate the power of some practical advice washed down with a laugh and a drink.

"The benefits to companies of retaining women after maternity leave are obvious. If they can't calculate the cost of losing their talented women and the benefit of keeping them, then they deserve to lose them. If you're a talented working mum, then join an agency where you can thrive. There are more of us than you think."

Rania Robinson, chief executive and managing partner, Quiet Storm

There is a general consensus that to move the needle, agencies need to have a top-down approach, with leadership commitment. Can you tell us about a time recently where you had the foresight and opportunity to champion diversity and equality?

"People talk about quotas and initiatives and that’s all good but, for us, it’s just always been very natural to champion diversity. I’m a first-generation immigrant and Trevor (Robinson, Quiet Storm’s executive creative director) is from a deprived background and this has really informed the way we are. People do tend to hire in their own image, so it doesn’t matter to me or Trevor whether someone’s been to university – it’s not one of the first things we look for. For us, (championing diversity) is a cultural thing that’s ingrained in our DNA and our values. It’s great that it’s becoming so widely spoken about now, but, for us, it’s just always been there. 

"Diversity and the benefit of diversity is also very prevalent in our agency. It helps us get to more interesting work. For me, culture beats policy every time. It makes it a lot easier to get to the right insight."

Recently I have heard from a number of agencies that brands are including caveats on team diversity in their RFI’s and briefs. What’s your view on this?

"Well, it’s a shame that they have to do that but it will drive more change than anything else. It doesn’t matter who is driving it, as long as it’s happening. It’s through more diverse leadership that you get better work and are more connected to the people you are talking to.

"In McKinsey&Company’s "Delivering Through Diversity" research updated for 2018, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. To achieve this, agencies really do need unconscious bias testing. People think they are really broad minded until it comes down to things like choosing a school for their children or, indeed, making hiring decisions.

"Our senior management team consists of five people, three of whom are women, and our creative department is also 50/50. People hire people like them, but in fact you need the Yin and Yang instead of trying to create a load of clones. It’s also important to use different sources to hire, use headhunters that understand this, use creative initiatives, use social mobility initiatives."

Emily Samways, managing partner, OgilvyOne and a previous Women of Tomorrow award winner

Do you think diversity is still an issue in the ad industry?

"Undoubtedly. It’s not just our industry though. I was reading the Harvard Business Review over Christmas and was (not unexpectedly) horrified by the list of the top 100 CEOs and the lack of diversity within them. The diversity issue is so much wider than gender. We’ve addressed this many times in Bloom’s panel discussions and debates. We have to keep talking about it and addressing it."

What do you think agencies can do to help retain and promote female talent?

"Diverse role models are really important. A recent HBR (& Korn Ferry) study showed that women don’t tend to see themselves as the future CEOs despite having all the attributes to successfully lead. So promoting a more diverse talent pool will go some way to demonstrating what is possible and encourage others. Sponsors and mentors are also key to guide, support and give the hard-to-hear feedback that enables future leaders to see a path to the top. The biggest thing is a cultural shift away from doing things the way they’ve always been done in the past!"

Alice Scott, managing director, Development Beyond Learning and a previous WOT award winner

What do you think are the most pressing issues women face in their careers and how can we all help with these?

"Undoubtedly, the "motherhood penalty" is significant. While women as a whole earn 82 cents of a man’s dollar, for mothers, this becomes 76 cents. It’s hardly surprising then, that research shows women believe their biggest challenge, if they want to continue to be serious about their careers, is determining if and when they should have children. By creating cultures that are more inclusive of those who need to care for families, and promoting more flexible working, we can help more women (and men) to balance caring with careers. This will mean more female talent and more female role models, which helps other women to thrive."

How do you think government organisations can help in the challenges companies face when women take time out for maternity leave?

"I have seen many women, who have taken time out for maternity leave, be denied the opportunity for flexible working on their return to work. This is a huge disincentive (and worry) for women during maternity leave and as they try to move forward, balancing family and career. Government organisations need to do more to support companies - and, indeed, if necessary, force them through tougher legislation - to help ensure a mother’s right to flexible working on return to work."

DNA Recruit is a proud sponsor of the IPA's Women of Tomorrow 2018, in partnership with Campaign.

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