In honor of Women’s History Month, Campaign US is checking in with women across the industry, from all career levels, on how they’ve navigated the past year personally and professionally.
This interview with Megan Clarken, CEO of Criteo, has been lightly edited.
What has the past year been like for you personally?
Incredibly challenging. Professionally, I started a new role as a first-time CEO at a company undergoing a major transformation. Almost immediately, we were hit by a number of industry headwinds.
Then Covid hit, and I was all of the sudden responsible for the safety and well-being of 2,700 employees. We had to ensure our entire staff could work safely from home in environments where they could focus while also building a new culture and an entirely new c-suite — while keeping the business intact.
I moved to Paris for my new job at Criteo four months before COVID hit, and then had to move back to New York in a sudden upheaval. Paris was challenging, since I didn’t speak the language and lost my two dogs while I was there. To then have to come home so soon and continue to not only keep the company running, but ensure it was accelerating into the future, was very tough.
How have you managed through isolation, burnout and other challenges of the past year? What strategies have you used to balance work and home life?
I’m extremely lucky. I was never without space or a separate office to work out of – whether at my home in upstate New York or in the sunshine in Miami. I feel incredibly lucky for that. I make sure to acknowledge that to everyone at Criteo, and I have compassion that not everyone’s situation is the same, which keeps me humbled.
Working from home is easy for me, because I’m an introvert by nature. While I’d like to spend more time with clients, shareholders and employees, I can manage all my interactions via Zoom. Humans are incredibly adaptable, and for that, I feel privileged.
Still, I am precious about my time. It’s okay to say no sometimes, because ultimately, you are way more valuable at work when you are energized. I encourage everyone to manage their time and take advantage of not commuting every day. Make time to go for a walk, read a book or get outside. Even when things get back to normal, remain precious about your time. Be flexible, but get your downtime in and set guidelines to do so.
What can we do in our industry about the current crisis of women leaving the workforce?
We need to accommodate and provide what they need to feel good about where they are. We are making sure working moms don’t have to make difficult decisions by offering flexible hours. We’re updating our hiring site to outline options for working moms and are setting aside positions specifically for people who are raising children and need flexibility.
Many women leave companies right before they become managers. There is an opportunity to run proper training to prepare women for the next steps in their careers so they don’t feel they need to leave a company to get to where they want to be.
Pay parity is absolutely critical. This seems like a no-brainer, but it tends to fall apart over time. Companies need to commit to ongoing assessments of pay parity to bring women in and keep them for the long run. I’m proud that Criteo has reached full pay parity, regardless of gender. We also commit to regular gender pay equity analysis, and remedy discrepancies as appropriate.
What progress has the industry made in achieving gender parity? What still needs to be done?
Gender parity is a systemic problem that has been around forever, and it isn’t something that will be fixed by pulling three levers. It will take a long time. It’s something we’re working to build into our DNA, versus something we have to consciously think about.
We tend to have an unconscious bias that favors men. But putting forth pay parity actions and introducing young women to role models in the workforce are essential.
What work can still be done to address the disproportionate impact this crisis has on BIPOC women?
Take what I said above and put it on steroids.
I recently read “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, and it shook me to my core. It made me realize that I’m a white, privileged female and, by virtue, I am guilty of biases against BIPOC. I know that I will never understand what BIPOC endure, but I want to try to. We all need to become educated. This book helped me start having tough conversations with myself. The more we can get educated on the issue, the more we can feel empowered to call out biases. Call out unconscious bias and don’t wait for BIPOC to correct you.
The average age of a Criteo employee is 31. It’s a different generation than mine, and it will make a difference. I feel very lucky to help facilitate that.