Interviews

Kathryn Jacob, CEO of Pearl and Dean

The chair of The Inclusion Group on why we all need to make the time to fill in the All In census to build a future of work that works for everyone.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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If you could change the industry in just 30-minutes wouldn’t you invest that time? Today marks a milestone for the creative industries, a day when across the industry employees are being asked to ring-fence 30 minutes of their time to complete the All In census to provide a benchmark to measure and track progress towards building a more inclusive industry.

As chair of The Inclusion Group, Kathryn Jacob OBE is passionate about the importance of this moment of mass-measurement. She explains: “This is your chance to be part of creating a change in our sector and making sure that it is the best workplace it can be. Where we can attract the best talent and enjoy our jobs. You can be part of that change.”

Getting such an ambitious, industry-wide initiative off the ground was never going to be easy, not least in the midst of a global pandemic. But Jacob points to the driving force of Sharon Llloyd-Barnes, Commercial Director of the Advertising Association and member of the Inclusion Working Group, who quickly identified the need for broad, industry-wide data to provide the basis for change. As Lloyd-Barnes explains: “It gives us a benchmark, and no one can say I don’t know anymore. If we are going to get different talent in the industry we need to know where we are.”

Lloyd-Barnes says that the response to the All In initiative has been incredible since its launch at RESET 2021. “It reflects the industry’s commitment to inclusion and diversity and an understanding that we need to work together to create the inclusive workplace that we all want,” she says.

Everyone has had a tick box experience of diversity, but there is a real opportunity to learn from each other.

Kathryn Jacob

Measure what you treasure

While a myriad of data points shows the way in which the coronavirus crisis has disproportionately impacted people of colour and women, the Black Lives Matter movement and the response to the murder of George Floyd has shone a light on the need for action.

For all the conversations around who is not in the room, a robust data set from across the industry will provide a lens to peer into rooms across the industry and understand who isn’t at the table. According to Jacob the data will allow for the industry to better understand its talent pipeline. “It’s a foundation for people to really take the time to look at the makeup of their organisations,” she explains.

The cross-industry makeup of the census will also provide a unique insight and Jacobs points to the positive influence of fellow inclusion group member Jerry Daykin, EMEA Senior Media Director at GSK. “Clients have to use their influence to really positively drive change,” she adds.

The inclusion of agency, advertiser and media owner in the survey underlines the common need for diversity and inclusion and the power of driving together in one direction. “Media is a hugely influential sector,” explains Jacob. “We are the first sector to be doing this, but we really should be the ones to be leading the way.”

Collaboration for change

“It's interesting to hear perspectives from across the industry. Everyone has had a tick box experience of diversity, but there is a real opportunity to learn from each other,” Jacob continues.

It was this drive for collaboration that lies at the heart of the All In initiative. “If you are going to write a menopause policy, why not steal Channel 4’s brilliant one?” she says. “If you don’t have a head of HR, or a big support structure it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. It can feel like you are trying to take the Alps down with a teaspoon.”

It's a fact reflected in research in Belonging, the ground-breaking book she penned alongside Sue Unerman and Mark Edwards. The research reveals that 52% of people simply don’t believe that their leaders take diversity seriously.

A central hub of cross-industry solutions will help with this. “The benefit is a real sense of contribution and the perspective of everyone. Everyone’s input really counts,” she explains.

Flexible futures

The results of the census will be used to inform an Action Plan to be launched at an industry summit this summer addressing how greater inclusivity across all areas of industry talent will be achieved. In essence taking 30 minutes out of your day today will provide the foundations for the industry for decades to come.

For Jacob embracing flexibility will be key to building back better. She notes that the industry has moved on significantly; 8am management meetings and the stigma of putting up pictures of your children on your desk belongs firmly to a previous generation.

Yet the trepidation surrounding what the future of work will look like crosses generations. “For a lot of the people I am mentoring there is a sense of fear. Some people are scared of the idea of going back to an office with lots of people,” she notes.

What we need to do is ensure that no one gets left behind.

Kathryn Jacob

Raising the bar

Yet like most progressive leaders across the industry Jacob dismisses the idea of a rush to return to ‘normal’. Reflecting the fact that when so many across the industry have got used to a different way of working, those companies that attempt to put the genie back into the bottle may find themselves haemorrhaging talent. “Flexibility is going to be so important,” explains Jacob. “Companies are going to need to ensure that there isn’t a hierarchy that says that someone isn’t ambitious if they aren’t in the office.”

Jacob has a typically thoughtful and detailed approach to the future of work which is mindful of the lived experiences of employees and the practical realities of working in an inclusive way in the midst of a pandemic. For example, she highlights that companies will need to address how they would support an employee who had to deal with a child being sent home to isolate from school for two weeks. It's an approach which puts humanity first, rather than the one-size fits all approach of presenteeism.

“We have to come back and be a lot more honest about what support people will need as individuals moving forward. If we do that then staff will be a lot more loyal,” she explains. It’s an agenda which stretches across the diverse needs of each team. Namely the need for young people in flat shares to have the support structures of an office but also for parents and carers to have the support that comes hand in hand with working in the midst of the unknowns and unplanable moments of a global pandemic.

Speaking up and moving forward

Jacob is very clear on the levers for change within the industry, pointing to the importance of being an ally to anyone who may feel isolated or alone. On a practical level she highlights the role of allies in being mindful of protecting others’ boundaries. For example, if you have a colleague who you know has to leave at 5pm, you can be the one to say that isn't a good time for a meeting. Purposefully create that circle so one person doesn’t have to constantly speak up.

It’s an approach that she lives and breathes at Pearl & Dean. “I work with empathetic, feminist men,” she notes. She speaks about the insight of her fellow Belonging author Mark Edwards, pointing to the gap between the hours put into interviews and psychometric testing for new employees across the industry, with the lack of awareness with what that person actually needs to thrive at work.

“We need to be more proactive as individuals and as employers in establishing what people actually need on an individual level,” she explains.

Leadership lessons 

Maintaining these human connections in the midst of enforced remote working isn't always easy. “I hate Zoom. It is not natural; it doesn’t have the same space as a normal meeting. It’s very transactional, there is no body language to read, there perhaps isn't an agenda on the side. It’s hard for everyone and we need to be kind,” explains Jacob.

In practice this means having a real sense of who is speaking and if someone doesn’t speak in meetings just pick the phone up and talk to them. “It’s an easy thing to do,” she says. “Just give people the space. It’s a very easy thing to do to just pick up the phone.”

For Jacob this need to be intentional about creating space for people has been one of the key leadership lessons of the pandemic. She explains: “Leadership is about giving people time and it's not just about saying here is your allocated 15 minutes. It is about thinking about your team and showing them that thought. This is really important for furloughed colleagues. I try to be intentional about checking in. If you are kind to people and you give them the space and the time to talk you can have an impact.”

Jacob is bubbling with joy and excitement as she prepares for cinemas reopening. Yet the team is equally intentional about and excited by preparing for a future of work which includes everyone. “The key is that you can’t have a one-sized fits all approach. Everyone is unique. If you are a man who has a partner who doesn’t work full time your experience will be very different to two working parents for example,” she notes, adding, “All those people who support us, they need our support too.”

The team already has four working groups up and running: one focusing on wellbeing, one on training, one on flexible working and another on reconnecting. “What we need to do is ensure that no one gets left behind. That's been our starting point,” she explains. A starting point from which the industry has a once in a generation opportunity to build a more inclusive approach to work, one that includes everyone.

Support the work of The Inclusion Group by visit the Advertising Association’s website and filling in the All In Census

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