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In the wake of the ‘Shecession’ we asked male leaders from across the industry how they plan to elevate women, not just on International Women’s Day, but every day.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” On International Women’s Day, and everyday in between, the words of Martin Luther King feel particularly apt.
We know the coronavirus crisis has disproportionately impacted women’s careers. Worse still in the wake of ‘the great resignation’ it is clear that burnout is particularly acute amongst women.
All In Census data found that 10 times more women than men believed parental leave negatively impacted their career progression (53% of women versus 5% of men). While women were six times more likely to be personally discriminated against because of their gender.
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report, 2021 women are now significantly more burned out - and increasingly more so than men. One in three women says that they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year. Yet despite this, women are carrying the load on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. (DEI)
McKinsey’s research revealed that women leaders also spend more time than men on DEI work that falls outside of their formal job responsibilities, such as supporting employee resource groups and recruiting employees from underrepresented groups. Senior-level women are twice as likely as senior-level men to dedicate time to these tasks at least weekly.
So this year to mark International Women’s Day we are asking senior male leaders across the industry what practical steps they are taking to elevate women in their organisations, every day, not just International Women’s Day.
The most obvious way to elevate women in your organisation is to do so literally: simply hire great, senior women. In my case, three of my five direct reports are brilliant women: our Head of Strategy in London (Ruth Chadwick), our Strategy Partner in New York (Jess Roubadeaux) and the CEO of our sister agency Dark Horses (Melissa Robertson). Doing this will make much more difference than woolly talk of empowerment.
This year, I will be listening to them, more closely than ever (and also my fellow founder Helen Calcraft, our MD Cressida-Holmes Smith and Head of Account Management Sarah Quinn). In particular, I’ll be supporting them on tangible stuff like strengthening our miscarriage, menopause and flexible working policies. Again, actions not words.
On top of that, I’ll be using my platform and media connections to make sure that our brilliant women are heard all year round. For instance, our Head of Social Impact Chloe Davies has a brilliant perspective on sustainability as well as DE&I. Our senior strategist Rachel Hamburger is passionate about intersectionality. And our CMO Vickie Ridley is a great champion of creativity and forward-thinking. I need to get out of their way more and let them do their thing.
Finally, I’ll be making a conscious effort to be more mindful of my biases. Because while I try to do the right thing, there will be many ways I can improve. Luckily, all of the women I’ve just name-checked will not be slow in telling me how, which is exactly as it should be.
The best way to elevate women is to respect and celebrate the amazing contribution they make professionally and personally by naming them, so as to never underestimate their commitment to overturning prejudice. So here are 200 powerful words for IWD that have helped shape or impact my own career.
Sabrina Coogan, April Hogan, Iona Inglesby, Amelia Edgell Cole, Jackie Cooper, Ruth Warder, Mel Arrow, Jasmine Brown, Mellisa Matanda, Kitty McEntee, Anna Hardman, Dani Goldberg, Helena Wiltshire, Danielle Heximer, Fiona McHugh, Sonia Afzel, Emma Padden, Claire Sparks, Beverly Churchill, Mary Laws, Shauna McCarthy, Charlotte Scott, Ana Caeiro, Diane Young, Laura Mallows, Lucy Mart, Tashia Cameron, Jo Arscott, Jo Dalley, Lucy Smith, Vanessa Belleau, Suzanna Alleyne, Laura Pauley, Melda Simon, Mel Hinds, Laura Sibley, Lucie Speciale, Olga Hilliar, Candy Cooke, Helen Hyde, Maneeze Chowdhury, Jessica Hardy, Jess Trendle, Sophie Rhatigan, Rebecca Southern, Rach Moule, Kathryn McCauley, Lisa Collin, Sarah Jones, Rebecca De Feu, Melissa Herman, Laura Misslebrook, Mary Mitchell, Nicola Miller, Jackie Antas, Lauren Lake, Emma Noble, Natasha Gould, Sara Cooper, Dee McCourt, Kate Borkowski, Emilie beard, Jemma Downey, Megan Greenwood, Emma Jane Ireland, Natalie Glasggow, Claire Brennan, Kayleigh Ryan, Katie Reddin Clancy, Lucy Davies, Vicky Gomes, Christine Quigley, Renate Nyborg, Anna Butterworth, Nicki Shields, Lesli Finn, Maria Jamola, Jessica Turner, Johanna Dalley, Sarah Jackson, Enna Brasch, Nicole Yershon, Liz Pavitt, Emily Hare, Viet n’Guyen, Gabby Wickham, Claire Selby, Remma Mitra, Jodi McClaren, Jamie Kingler, Sarah Richardson, Leila Fataar, Karen Tillotson, Jody Orsborn, Phillipa Ross, Joanna McNallay, Rachel Shanahan, MJ Widomska.
Like much of the Consumer PR industry, Splendid Communications has always been powered by talented women. Since the very beginning of the business, I have had the privilege of working with outstanding female colleagues at all levels of the company. And while we acknowledge that it should be the norm, we are proud never to have had a gender pay gap and that we have always arranged flexible working terms for parents and carers.
Long may female energy power our company forwardsAlec Samways, CEO Splendid Communications
Fast forward to the present day, and 60% of the Splendid senior leadership team, and nearly 75% of the company overall, is female. Despite the higher proportion of female staff in the company, we are never complacent in seeking to help our female colleagues feel heard. We aim to react in real-time to events going on in the world that affect women, for example holding drop-in meets with our Head of Wellbeing when female colleagues were concerned for their safety on the streets, following the tragic Sarah Everard murder. We also adjusted our late working and taxi home policy because of what we heard during those sessions to ensure all colleagues – male and female - feel comfortable at all times. We are currently also exploring how to support female staff even further, such as bespoke support for those going through menopause, as well as putting in place opportunities to learn from colleagues about their various intersectional experiences, including ethnicity and sexuality.
International Women’s Day is an annual celebration at Splendid, though we celebrate our female colleagues every day, as experts that make our work great. Long may female energy power our company forwards.
Every day should be International Women's Day. I don't think treating people differently based on gender or anything else is right.
To start, I don't believe equality exists without equal pay and equal opportunities. Sounds simple but not always the case. So, I work closely with our Talent team to make sure we do not simply abide by the law but promote and nurture talent equally too.
Our work is the most important thing we do. It’s where we and our clients grow, it’s what makes us unique in business, it’s what helps us flourish professionally and personally. And it all begins with the brief. I make sure everyone has the same access to the best briefs because diverse voices mean diverse ideas and better work.
Thirdly, we’ve torn down traditional barriers to women's professional success - such as flexible working, childcare, parental leave. I try hard to lead by example: I’m visibly offline from 4 to 6 PM two or three times a week because I take care of my daughter.
Finally, I believe in feminine inspiration as a driver of success. And we’re lucky to have fantastic strong women voices in the creative team. Elevating these voices in both our agency and externally is crucial for me, from all-agency presentations to thought leadership in press. They challenge my own thinking and make me a better leader in turn.
There are lots of practical things we do to ensure the elevation and progression of women in our business.
Firstly, we are a tech business and half of our management team are women. This is vital because women need to see other women in senior roles - there has to be female sponsorship at a senior level.
Secondly, we’ve built our business around a ‘People & Culture’ team (2/3rds women), which sits separately to formal HR and is focused on developing and sustaining our high-performing team. This gives us discipline and consistency in the way we treat people, overriding some of the stereotyping and unconscious societal bias towards women. We find this keeps us true to our word.
Thirdly, we’ve started to formally structure career and succession plans. We feel that women in our team gain disproportionately from this. Deliberate career mapping helps better bridge career gaps and caters for part-time working weeks or split careers. We believe that it builds successful development and promotion over the long term.
And finally, we talk about diversity and elevating women at an individual, team, and Board level. Without dialogue, things don’t change.
Since I started working in advertising I have always been frustrated by the industry’s Alpha male formula for successful leadership. It makes it a tough environment for those who don’t inherently possess a supernaturally large personality, rock-solid confidence and a sporting analogy for every occasion. It’s particularly tough for women.
So, as a manager, I have made it a priority to challenge this by creating an environment that helps women (and people of all different personality types) elevate themselves by allowing their unique qualities to shine.
There are three practical steps I take to do this:
Understand where people want to be and what is stopping them from getting there. Every single one of us has different ambitions, drivers and anxieties.
Give people the strength and confidence to succeed. Take time to help people recognise what they do better than anyone else and why this is their superpower.
Smooth the path to success. Remove blockers, create opportunities and celebrate success.
For me, these behaviours are imperative if we want to reverse the negative trends affecting women in the workplace and create a truly kinder, more compassionate and flexible future creative culture that works for everyone in our industry.
McKinsey’s findings on women’s tendency to pick up ED&I work highlights an important new reality. This new ‘office housework’ might fall outside the remit of day-to-day responsibilities but is proving an invaluable fillip to businesses.
One of the most important things men can do to elevate women is recognise and support them in these vital company initiatives and, crucially, be inspired to follow suit. Within my team, we have a fantastic Media Manager, Kandice, who – upon joining – quickly volunteered to join Open House, our ED&I initiative, and has gone on to become the lynchpin of our inclusivity and diversity agenda. In the space of a year, she’s masterminded virtual work experience, scoped out ED&I partnerships, been the voice for change at Board-level meetings, devised an inclusive internship and apprenticeship programme, completed IPA courses and educated us with her wider reading on diversity, inclusion and implicit bias, all the while holding down the day job. As a result, she’s been shortlisted for the IPA iList 2022.
One of the most important things men can do to elevate women is recognise and support them in vital company initiatives and, crucially, be inspired to follow suitSteve Chambers, Media Director at Bray Leino
On top of all this, Kandice mentors a male, junior member of the Media team, imparting not only her experience within Media, but also her holistic approach and the impact women’s work can make. Championing women’s passions is good for the team and good for business.
I lead our Diversity and Inclusion taskforce, which was re-launched in 2020 just as the Black Lives Matter Movement gained pace, to explore and action ways to make our workforce more inclusive. Our Iris Women initiative forms part of this, providing a space for women to connect with a supportive network and share inspiration, overcome shared challenges and give guidance to one another. We have also taken a step back to review workplace policies and create new progressive policies that benefit the female workforce including better maternity/paternity packages, and inclusive support policies around fertility and menopause. Iris runs an Annual Diversity and Inclusion Survey and it’s heartening to see in its third year, in response to “Does Iris have a culture that embraces diversity?” 96% of Women answered yes, a 26% increase from last year.
I always try to use my voice as part of the senior leadership team to advocate for all our talent, to ensure roles are being held open for the right talent and not just given to someone ‘good enough’ and that we’re promoting and hiring female talent at all levels. And while big initiatives are crucial, it’s also vital that we as men look at our day-to-day office behaviour and conversations to ensure we are acting as allies and acknowledging the power dynamic in every situation. Are we ensuring we’re introducing ourselves to everyone in the room? Are we spotlighting success from our female talent? Are we including all parties in discussions and mediating so everyone has a say in meeting agendas? I hold myself to account and self-reflect, so my position can be used to influence every situation in the most positive way.
I’m aware that I am a white male CEO in a white male-led sector of business publishing sector - so it’s my personal responsibility to really look at what we are doing to #BreakTheBias within our industry, not just for International Women’s Day, but all year-round.
It’s not enough to just support the cause, as men and allies we need to actively support the women in our industry and create more opportunities for equity. Talking the talk is never enough, we definitely have to walk the walk through the whole career journey from recruitment to retention.
I’ve introduced female-active headhunting to encourage more women to join our team and source applications for roles that would otherwise get predominantly male applications and we have diverse interview panes to ensure comfort and balanced feedback on all female applications.
We deliver unconscious bias training to all staff to minimise the bias in every aspect of the work lifecycle as well as offering leadership training for our mid-senior level female staff to build a pipeline of women in leadership roles. I also personally mentor four junior women in the company to offer guidance and help them climb the ladder at Raconteur.
Once in the workplace, we recognise that women often carry a disproportionate amount of caring responsibilities, so we offer enhanced parental and flexible return to work policies.
And we are as open as we can be. We measure and publish our gender pay gap statistics, and we are committed to eradicating the gap entirely in the next 12 months.
It’s critical that men, like myself, in senior leadership roles are listening carefully to the women around us so that we can be active and effective allies. Through conversations, I’ve become acutely aware that the responsibility for driving DEI initiatives often falls disproportionately to the female workforce, which is a significant factor in women being more likely to experience burnout.
It’s critical that men, like myself, in senior leadership roles are listening carefully to the women around us so that we can be active and effective alliesNat Poulter, Co-CEO at Jungle Creations
This is why I’m passionate about creating a very powerful assembly of male allies in our office, who take a far more proactive role in shouldering the responsibility for creating an inclusive work environment and fostering Jungle’s core values, including our strong set of DEI initiatives.
I’m honoured to share the CEO position with Melissa Chapman, whose journey through all levels of seniority at Jungle Creations is the perfect example of how our company aims to properly celebrate and elevate the amazing women on our team.
In my role alongside Mel, I throw my voice behind progressive policies which address traditional ways-of-working that might favour men and implement structures that support the needs of women. This includes supporting flexible working, which typically is of higher importance to women, and working towards better representation at senior leadership team and board level that matches the more even balance across the wider company.
The tech industry faces an enormous challenge when it comes to getting more female representation at both operational and senior levels. On average, women comprise only 26% of the tech workforce in the UK. Dept’s UK workforce is 34% female, and our global c-level now has more women than men, but there’s still a long way to go.
We know that self-promotion can be especially difficult for underrepresented groups, such as women, as they’re often conditioned from a young age not to speak openly about their achievements. That’s why we recently announced our participation in Google’s #IamRemarkable initiative, which provides a platform to empower women, other underrepresented groups and allies to celebrate their achievements, have their voices heard, boost their confidence, and ultimately, strengthen teams by building stronger connections through improved communication. We’re also due to launch our first employee resource group, WOMEN/DEPT, to promote cultural awareness and allyship while inspiring and motivating Depsters across the globe.
There are so many benefits to building a gender-balanced and diverse workforce. In the tech world specifically, when people with different backgrounds and perspectives come together, they can create the most pioneering digital products and solutions. We’re proud to say that women play a vital role in achieving this every day at Dept.
It starts at the top. Media Bounty is co-owned by myself and my business partner, Emma Tozer. We are paid the same salary. The leadership team of six is 3 women and 3 men. This is not an accident. Representation matters
We have comprehensive policies on Flexible Working, ED&I, maternity, sexual harassment, menopause and more. Policies are important but they need to be backed by action. We have had flexible working since long before the pandemic, so people could timeshift their day around core hours. For working parents that means that school drop-offs and pick-ups are more easily manageable. As we exit the pandemic we have gone fully flexible so people can work from the office, from home or a mix of both. Women are more likely to be carers than men, so our working patterns allow that flexibility to care for children, elderly relatives or indeed pets. We support taking time out for children’s school plays, parents’ evenings, supporting family for medical appointments or trips to the vet. We have paid primary caregiver leave expressly for that purpose. We know that parents, and particularly mothers are often plagued by guilt. We try to normalise caring. Presenteeism is not part of our culture.
On sexual harassment & bullying, we do not brush anything under the carpet. A few years ago a female colleague was inappropriately treated by a male client on a shoot. Fortunately she felt able to speak up and in close consultation with herI phoned the CEO of the business and called the behaviour out. An apology was made and the male client was removed from any contact with the agency. At all points we spoke to our colleague to understand if she was happy with the action and would have wholeheartedly supported her had she wanted to go any further. This year we have committed to undertake the Timeto training as a whole agency.
In work life and at home I am always super conscious of the default male language. I will always try to say ‘her or him’ when speaking about a role or character. It’s the same when talking about a potential partner/spouse. I always try to say ‘girlfriend or boyfriend’ if I am speaking to my kids and I don’t know if the person we are talking about has a partner. Language matters! It also matters in the a wider context too – legal contracts, job applications and the tedious habit of lawyers and accountants writing ‘Dear sirs’. Call it out!
Finally, I would encourage men to notice when you are talking too much. Those that know me know I am not short of an opinion. I try to check myself, consciously shut up to ensure others have space to talk and have also asked female colleagues for feedback to make sure I am not railroading a meeting. This can be even more pronounced on zoom. Know when to shut up. Notice when a colleague is about to speak. Read the bloody room even if it is a zoom room.
I’m so pleased that male leaders are being asked to contribute to this to mark International Women’s Day and that we’re not simply seeing this topic as a ‘female issue’; this is an industry and societal ‘issue.’ It’s vital that men are leading and supporting efforts to empower women in the industry. But, that said, it would be remiss of me to not start with a special shout-out to our managing director Carly Avener and our talent team who’ve been instrumental in spearheading our programmes to help empower women.
It’s vital that men are leading and supporting efforts to empower women in the industryCharlie Rudd, CEO, Leo Burnett London
One highlight from last year is our ‘Get more of what you want’ training programme (run by FizzPopBang), open to all, which helped people prepare for and initiate empowering conversations and negotiations to outline their ambitions, including their pay – an area in which research shows women particularly struggle with. We’ve also driven forward market-leading family-friendly policies that include paid leave and support for pregnancy, adoption, surrogacy, menopause and miscarriage.
We are making good progress. For example, 57% of our creatives are now women which must place our creative department – headed by Chaka Sobhani – among the best balanced in the industry. Testament to how we’re empowering our female creatives is that one of our junior teams, Amy Bushill and Cristina Rosique Gomez, handled one of our biggest briefs of 2021, ‘Reindeer Ready’ for McDonald’s. Imaginary Iggy was a Christmas highlight and they have just been shortlisted by the British Arrows in the ‘upcoming creative team’ category.
We won’t rest on any laurels, there’s so much more work to be done. But we believe we are building an agency where people want to be for the long-term, a place where people feel empowered and can thrive, especially women – and that makes me proud of the team and their work to date.
It might not be as flashy or as PRable, but we believe deep changes to the system are what's important first. It's this that makes somewhere an attractive place to work, belong and thrive. So we set about creating a new wave of progressive policies - ones that solved the specific anxieties women have about work.
We enhanced our pregnancy/maternity, adoption, surrogacy and shared parental leave entitlement to 26 weeks full pay; we’ve put in a new fertility policy to give women or their partners 2 weeks off to go through this more calmly; we made it so women can take a month off if they suffer a pregnancy loss; we doubled down on professional development resources for women, like the new evidence-based course 'Success Strategies for Women at Work'; we provided coaching for anyone who needs a collaborative space to develop; we asked what individuals' preferred hybrid working rhythm is and catered for it; we set up HR-led groups to support new senior female leaders so everyone feels in it together and has a place to share issues and improve the experience of our next leaders.
In short: we are doing our best to remove potential barriers by putting tangible new policies in place that help women thrive.
There are deeply entrenched challenges for women in the marcomms industry – from the “childcare penalty” to the lack of genuine flexible working, and the readdressing of a historical underrepresentation at management level. The pandemic has brought this into sharp focus, and we need to act before more exceptional women’s value is not realised.
We recognise that actions speak louder so for many years, RPM has had a progressive set of employment policies for women and a culture of promoting female talent in the business which sees over 50% of our department heads being women.
We are always listening to our teams with regular surveys alongside meaningful conversations and open forums. We are a B Corp with a proactive DE&I agenda that ensures that gender equality is at the forefront of our governance and have full transparency across hiring decisions, pay brackets and professional development. Our commitment is doubled down in 2022 with internal promotions, reappraised job roles and new policies around menopause support and a more actionable shared parental leave scheme.
As a sector, Technology comms has good gender representation, but it could be better — particularly in the senior ranks. Here’s how I’m driving the right opportunities, inspiration and career development for female colleagues of all levels:
1. Giving access to good role models and mentors. I may not always be the most appropriate mentor for the women in my team. As well as bringing in others from the business to give advice and support, I encourage sign-ups to external programmes to help provide different perspectives and inspire new ideas. Networks like Bloom are a great place to start.
2. Understanding my biases. I make a conscious effort not to treat people differently because of their gender, but the reality is we all have biases — whether we realise it or not. Taking unconscious bias tests has helped me uncover areas for improvement, so I can assess, address and take action.
3. Avoiding making assumptions. This may sound obvious, but, as with unconscious biases it’s easy to assume others’ life experiences and ambitions match yours. Asking questions, getting to know what makes us different or where we’re similar has helped create an inclusive environment and better shape career paths.
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