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International Women's Day: The Long & Winding Road to Gender Diversity

With International Women’s Day on 8 March, ExchangeWire asked leading women in the industry if they feel we are any closer to gender diversity, the positive initiatives taking place, and what work still needs to be done. Twenty five brilliant women share their views on their experiences as women in the industry, as well as the steps they believe need to be taken, to encourage more workplace and industry gender diversity; from workplace flexibility, training for women in leadership positions, inclusive networking opportunities, on-stage representation at industry events, allowing women to embrace their own leadership styles, and generally encouraging women to have more of a voice.

Consider how we as individuals can affect change

“International Women’s Day 2020 presents the ‘Each for Equal’ message – encouraging individual contribution to a gender-equal world. As an industry, we’re quick to place the onus on change at a business or organisational level, lobbying for equal representation across events and reviewing the gender pay gap, but perhaps it’s also worth simultaneously considering how we as individuals can effect change. It might be putting ourselves forward for speaking opportunities, offering thought leadership or contributing opinion in industry forums. All of these actions stem from an individual, but collectively could help to balance the gender narrative overall.”

Daisy-Blue Tinne, Agency Development Director, Impact EMEA

Gender equality only addressed by transforming mindset at source

Celine Craipeau

“I started my career thinking that glass ceilings were a thing of the past. How wrong I was. Because 93% of EU companies are led by men, whereas 52% of our population is female. Although ad tech doesn’t have a greater degree of representation, some people are making a stand – and a difference – by extending paternity leave to support women’s career development. This initiative stresses the complexity of gender equality in the workplace. It’s a real, global issue and it’s one that can only be addressed by transforming mindset and behaviour at source.”

Céline Craipeau, Marketing & Strategic Planning, Senior Director, Tradelab

Digital marketing industry as a catalyst for change

Darcy Baber

“When you think about what we do in the digital marketing industry, ultimately it’s about people. It’s our job to understand and adapt to the way people think – their beliefs, their passions, their likes and dislikes. We, as digital marketers, are in a unique and privileged position to design products that empathise with the changing attitudes around gender roles, making us an important player on the journey towards a truly gender-equal society. We shouldn’t take that responsibility lightly, and I’m personally grateful that I can use my profession to be a catalyst for change on a larger scale.”

Darcy Baber, Director of Product Management, Sovrn

Shared responsibility to address inequality

Elsa Demain-Griffiths

“Gender equality in the media industry has improved in recent years, although still has some way to go, with the release of the Gender Pay Gap regulation and with brands challenging stereotypes and championing equality. There is also greater representation of women across panels, with initiatives such as DICE and Women Present. I feel grateful to work in an organisation that actively promotes equality and inclusion. However, as individuals and as a society, much of our daily actions are driven by unconscious bias; we all have a responsibility to address inequality everyday.”

Elsa Demain-Griffiths, Head of Commercial Innovation, The Telegraph

Fair representation leads to better performance

Jenny Antoniou

“In previous roles I have experienced first-hand how intimidating it can feel to take part in a senior management meeting consisting mainly of men. It shouldn’t be intimidating, but self-doubt and imposter syndrome inevitably creep in. If women are represented fairly and equally they are much more likely to perform better, leading to a boost in productivity, and a sense of belonging and empowerment. It’s all about striking the right balance – by ensuring we recruit talent that spans gender and diversity, we’ll shape a much healthier and more collaborative culture that incorporates a wider set of perspectives.”

Jenny Antoniou, Publisher Account Director, UK, Telaria

Exploring creativity within realm of diversity

“We have seen positive progress in achieving gender equality in the media and advertising spheres, with gender stereotyping banned in ads, among other things. Ensuring we are striving for gender equality should be a priority, and creators and copywriters alike should use it as an opportunity to explore their creativity within the realm of diversity, thinking of innovative ways to appeal to wider audiences. I think the industry needs to continually self-assess to ensure that it keeps abreast of its evolving audience and workforce.”

Karina Klimenko, Creative Director, MGID

More to do for gender and diversity

Clara Grelsson

“Just over two years ago, I was offered the role of CEO for Mindshare in Sweden, as the first female ever to be in the role at GroupM. Today I am accompanied by a female colleague at Wavemaker in Sweden, and within the other media agencies in Sweden there are more female leaders. As a business, we are slowly moving forward and are getting more gender neutral when it comes to leading positions, but we have a long way to go, not only when it comes to gender, but to get a more diversified workforce in general. One could argue that International Women’s Day could be seen as something silly and almost unnecessary, that we shouldn’t need that day, and I agree. But on the other hand, it’s good that we are raising this issue on a yearly basis as a reflection of how far we have come during the last year, if we have.”

Clara Grelsson, CEO, Mindshare Sweden

Industry prioritising measurable actions over meaningful progress

“Things have absolutely been getting better for women in the industry, but I get the sense that the industry is prioritising measurable progress over that which is perhaps more meaningful, but harder to track. I love the idea that we’re correcting the imbalance of gender equality in leadership, but I worry the industry often settles for the easiest solution to bump up the numbers, rather than considering what roles would give women the most exposure internally and externally, or offer an influential platform for leaders of all types in the workforce. The case is worse yet for women of colour, immigrants, LGTBQ+ women, those with disabilities, and other under-represented modes of intersectionality. What we need is women in positions where they have a chance to meaningfully impact and influence the business – and we need to accept that impact can, will, and should mean change. If your diversity and inclusion efforts don’t empower minority or under-represented groups to fundamentally influence your organisation, those efforts fall short of the intent and fail on their outward objective.”

Claire Grinton, SVP, Head of Experience, Essence

Advance discussions on leave, career development, and leadership

Charlie Johnson, Digital Element

“Although I have been surrounded by successful, accomplished women throughout my career – and I’m fortunate in being able to say this – my experience has made me conscious this isn’t the standard. Across the industry, we need to leverage platforms such as major industry events to advance discussions on parental leave, career development, and representation in leadership all year round. By building a workplace where women can thrive and keeping inclusion at the forefront of our progress, we can push for substantial change as a collective and achieve it.”

Charlie Johnson, VP, UK and Ireland, Digital Element

Attrition rate disproportionately affecting women

Jenny Kirby“Despite the positive gender balance at a junior level in advertising, the attrition rate of talent in the industry disproportionately affects female staff, with the result being so few rising to the top ranks. There are three key areas we can make constructive progress – increase inclusive networking opportunities; make flexible working accessible for all employees to remove barriers; and encourage leadership training specifically for women.”

Jenny Kirby, Managing Partner, GroupM  

Industry needs more support for women who speak out

Fran Cowan

“One big stride recently is the recognition of, and opposition to, ‘manels’, which has culminated in the creation of the Diversity and Inclusion at Conferences and Events (DICE) initiative. It’s great to see a proactive step to improve diversity and inclusion at advertising industry events, however, there’s still a lot to be done to tackle pay gaps and sexism in the workplace; we need more support for women who do speak out, because many still don’t for fear of repercussions.”

Fran Cowan, VP marketing, International Advertising Association, UK

Pledges must be linked to measurable outcomes

Amy Yeung

“The media industry plays an important role in voicing issues around gender balance and diversity. But I truly believe that a pledge to change inequality and discrimination must be linked to measurable outcomes. A successful inclusion programme must be aligned with the company’s mission to create opportunities across the board, from junior educational and mentoring programmes, to gateways to senior leadership positions. Strong commitment from management, together with a data-driven approach to measuring progress, is key to creating an inclusive work culture capable of nurturing and rewarding diverse talent.”

Amy Yeung, General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer, Lotame

Balance the scales at a senior level

Libby Robinson

“As an industry, we’ve come a long way and now have excellent female talent within media. However, we must nurture these employees to ensure they achieve their full potential and, ultimately, balance the scales at a senior level which is where the biggest gender gap still lies. This needs to change. Proactivity is the answer: companies must action greater support to narrow the gender gap. We’ve launched initiatives such as flexible working, mentorship, and sending emerging female leaders on Shine’s Worldwide Women’s Leadership Programme, to build an internal environment of energised, motivated women actively setting their sights on achieving success.”

Libby Robinson, EMEA Managing Director, M&C Saatchi Performance

Proud to be a woman in the industry today

Virginie Dremeaux

“I believe that today gender equality is becoming more and more visible across the industry, and represented in the media. Motivational and inspirational women are progressively changing the previously male-dominated environments – especially in tech – and this is apparent through the prevalent speaking slots now being curated. Personally I am extremely proud to be a woman in the industry right now, with a strong female presence behind me, ahead of me – including my manager – and alongside me.”

Virginie Dremeaux, Executive Director, Product Sales Marketing, International, FreeWheel

Industry events taking centre stage

Julia Smith

“Over the last year, we have seen industry events take centre stage in highlighting issues of imbalance in both gender and diversity. For too long, speaker line ups of most events were 80% male and it was tough to either secure women speaking slots or source women to speak. Now, thanks to groups and initiatives from Digital Leading Ladies, DICE, Digifest, WomenPresent, dawn London, Femme Niche and Bloom, there is no excuse for events organisers not to have gender-equal speaker lineups. On a wider level, more work needs to be done on putting pressure on companies in the digital advertising industry to show a commitment to providing a mindful, flexible working environment that enables a successful work:life balance. It will be great to see more examples of companies who can prove how effective diversity is on their performance, outputs and position in the market.”

Julia Smith, Founder, The Digital Voice, and Partner, The 614 Group

Ask questions of your own business

Cat Agostinho

“For the last ten years, dawn has strived to make the digital advertising industry #EachforEqual by running free events with inspiring speakers for women across the industry. We agree that individual actions have a larger collective impact and that these actions will create a gender-equal world. We ask men and women in the advertising industry to look within and think: what small thing can I do? Can I volunteer a female colleague for the panel instead of myself? Can I ensure the quiet female in the meeting has her voice heard? Does my leadership team represent #EachforEqual? On IWD this year, we hope that more companies ask these questions of their own businesses and make changes where needed to deliver a comprehensive gender-equal business moving forward.”

Cat Agostinho, co-founder, dawn London & Director, Agostinho Consulting Ltd.

Address the underlying causes of inequality

Lisa Goodchild

“While we have made some steps in the right direction over the last 12 months to improving gender and diversity equality there is still much that needs to be done. We need to address some of the underlying causes of inequality in the UK by delivering high quality training, mentoring networks, and development opportunities to young people who are often excluded, or have no access to such support structures, using digital technology to create a structure for learning, connectivity, inspiration and progression. It is vital that families and children from low income families are provided with skills they can thrive in and young people are provided with a route to creative industries. Digilearning’s community initiative ‘Digifest’ is happening for IWD this weekend and is about leveraging technology for all walks of life to promote economic growth, increase social well-being and narrow social gaps. We hope that this is just the start of more initiatives with the digital ad industry to drive real change.”

Lisa Goodchild, Founder, Digilearning

Embrace own leadership style

Sara Buluggiu

“Working with the next generation of professionals is refreshing, as their attitudes towards gender is much more progressive, and they value and respect colleagues on merit, not gender stereotypes. This was not the same 20 years ago. I remember being in meetings where I would ask questions, only for clients to direct their answers to my male co-workers. To progress gender equality further, we need to encourage more women to embrace their own leadership style, so that they can be authentic and not feel they have to adopt a persona, or traits they think will help them succeed and rise to the top. Being a leader doesn’t mean we have to act differently from who we are.”

Sara Buluggiu, Managing Director Italy, Spain & MENA, Rubicon Project

Champion women in the workplace

Hilary Goldsmith

“One thing that International Women’s Day highlights for me, is that we need to be placing more focus on championing women in the workplace. Currently, only 32.7% of women hold C-Suite roles in the advertising industry, and this figure is even lower (16.8%) for women in tech overall. At Unruly, we are proud that 49% of our staff are women, but there is a lot the industry needs to do to reach gender parity. According to a recent survey from Unruly on gender stereotypes in advertising, at least half of young people (18-34) globally are frustrated by the way advertisers portray gender roles, with ‘unrealistic’ being the most popular word used by respondents to describe how women are currently represented in ads. In order to improve creative, it’s important that we build a diverse workforce, to ensure that all creative is authentic to the way women see themselves today. Developing and encouraging female talent is the first step, but maintaining it via a strong work/life balance should also be at the heart of every work culture.”

Hilary Goldsmith, Chief Customer Officer, Unruly

Focus on flexible working to retain key industry talent

“The championing voices of organisations like WACL and Bloom are paving the way towards parity. As an expectant mother, it’s especially great to see many companies advancing maternity benefits and shared parental leave – although normalising shared paternity leave still needs work. There is a distinct lack of women aged 40+ in digital sales. This needn’t be the case, especially as McKinsey highlights our future economy requires millions of UK women to transition into higher-skilled jobs. To retain our industry’s brilliantly skilled women, we must focus on the benefits flexible working offers; creating the environments where they – and the next generation of female talent – flourish long-term.”

Natalie Dawson, Agency Sales Director, The Ozone Project

Balance important to life as a working parent

“Work- and home-life balance is really important to me as a working parent. As you are working your way up in the industry you have concerns there is the chance you could fall short on development opportunities, when starting a family or already having family commitments. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never had this worry whilst working at News UK; there is complete flexibility in the workspace, for all working parents. My development is measured on my success and on the work I deliver during my time in the office. My gender and commitments as a mother have never come into the equation. This mindset is how we are able to have great senior female representation at News UK in the shape of a female CEO and is a key route of success to a gender-equal work environment.”

Louise Crosby, Strategic Development Director, News UK

Groups working together to deliver change

Jenny Stanley Headshot“Since last years’ IWD, the industry has made some positive steps towards becoming a gender-equal industry and it has been encouraging to see a number of groups working together to deliver change and initiatives, like those being driven by Amy Kean, to develop lists of female speakers for events. It is important to ensure that events moving forward provide a platform for every voice to be heard and we will be making sure that Femme Niche events have a diverse and gender-equal share of voice.”

Jenny Stanley, founder & MD, Appetite Creative

Very few trendsetters are reaching the top

Rashi Khurana

“Having worked in technology for over 14 years, it’s encouraging to see more and more women succeed in this traditionally male-dominated space. Today, we see many women talking to and supporting the community, trying to make a difference with their work. However, still very few are reaching that top position to be looked up as disruptors, as the trendsetters. I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have been supported by great managers, all of which were men. I’m seeing leaders make more of a concerted effort to offer women opportunities, mentorship, challenges and most importantly reinforcing feedback to help accelerate their career and recognise their contributions. One thing I have learned is that setbacks happen to all genders, sometimes more with certain groups or minorities due to the unconscious bias that exists in society, but I’ve learned not to let these crush my confidence.”

Rashi Khurana, Director of Engineering, Shutterstock

Box-ticking is not enough

Silke Zetzsche

“Ticking the ‘female’ box is not enough. We need to encourage genuine change from the industry. Initiatives such as DICE’s ambition to ban ‘manels’ by 2021 are a promising start to bring about enduring transformations. But more can be done for women. Mothers are typically underrepresented in commercial leadership roles, while a stronger support structure and more inclusive culture would enable women with families to access senior positions.”

Silke Zetzsche, Head of Commercial Partnerships, A Million Ads

Encouraging increase in media companies striving for representation

Rebecca Rosborough

“There seems to be more recognition of gender equality in general, and there has been an encouraging increase in media companies striving for more representation at awards, in creative work and on panels. However, as recently as February, a leading trade outlet published a report featuring 21 male contributors which shows that there is still a lot of work to be done. At MiQ, we are actively working on our inclusion in 2020. This is why we have just recruited our first Head of Inclusion and Diversity – another woman on the board who can help us to drive change from within. And fittingly, she joins us in the week of IWD.”

Rebecca Rosborough, Chief Marketing Officer, MiQ

Creating a path for future women in tech

“The technology industry on a global scale still has a way to go to ensure more women are not only a part of it, but are playing a significant role and having their voices heard. Social stigmas still exist and can deter women from entering STEM careers and pursuing relevant subjects they are passionate about. I was fortunate to have a great support network of men and women who encouraged my studies early on, so I know how important it is to foster change by creating a path for our future women in tech. One initiative I’m involved with is Women in Tech Oslo, which organises hands-on workshops and meet-ups where women can learn and practice new skills in various fields of technology. It’s this type of grassroot initiative that has spurred even the biggest tech companies in the world to make their mark. For International Women’s Day 2020, Microsoft and Apple are running their own respective events in the UK to help women, young adults and children to upskill in areas like coding. It’s encouraging to see these female-focused initiatives in the tech sector and we should encourage more of this work, both small and large scale, to continue globally.”

Andressa Kalil, Senior Director of Engineering, Tapad

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