Are we there yet? Vladimir Jones CEO: 'No justification for not doing the right thing'

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Meredith Vaughan
CEO
Vladimir Jones

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

Last fall, we at Vladimir Jones (VJ) were proud to be one of 17 founding member agencies of the 3% Pledge for Pay Equity, an effort to create and drive momentum in the movement to close the gender pay gap in the advertising industry. These agencies committed to upholding three distinct pillars: conducting wage reviews; rectifying like-for-like pay disparities between women and men with the same experience, roles and responsibilities; and advancing pay equity through identification and promotion of best practices to close the wage gap in our field.

These are critical actions. At VJ, where we’ve had a gender-neutral pay policy since our founding in 1970, compliance is a little like breathing air. But we know it’s not the norm across the industry.

The total number of founding member agencies was 17. Not hundreds. Not the full-scale, industry-wide, whole-body support that will really put this issue to rest. For all of us. The simple matter is pay equity is not a gendered issue. It’s a human issue.


How about something that proves we’re making progress?

I know from being in the room when the Pledge was announced last November that there are many agencies seriously committed to doing right by their employees in this respect. And I know from salary discussions with both women and men with whom we interview, or who now work at our agency, that equal pay is less an issue now than it once was.

This issue will go away as women and men refuse to work with companies that are comfortable with discriminatory practices. Saying "no" is powerful. When people work for companies with transparent, equitable pay practices, they can focus more on the impact they can make. It’s freeing. There’s less fear. Industry-wide pay equity can create more room for good ideas to flourish and smart execution to power thoughtful campaigns.


What else needs to be done to get there?

When my parents Jim and Nechie Hall founded this company in 1970, they could have paid women less, as was the norm at the time. But, they were scrappy and there was work to be done. So instead of worrying about who was going to be cheaper because of their gender, they simply focused on who was going to do the best job and paid that person for the work they needed done.

This is still our mindset, to which we have layered on a formal approach. We use salary bands, or ranges, that apply to each and every position. With these we ensure that we have pay equity for each position and for comparable positions among the departments. These bands are established and informed through a constant audit of the industry, and there are no gender-based analysis points.

But, truthfully, it all comes back to mindset. We see our employees as people, not just components of driving revenue. It’s the right thing to do. There is no justification for not doing the right thing.

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