How would you describe the overall culture at your agency?
The agency fosters an inclusive and collaborative environment and encourages employees to develop and grow within their roles. We have a strong focus on diversity and even though a majority of our senior leadership are men, we’ve made great progress in reducing gender disparities, an initiative which has been supported and championed by the entire leadership team and not just encouraged by the voices from our women leaders.
In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?
One of the biggest changes is how we advertise and write creative to consider all consumers and break down stereotypes to reflect the world we live in. Senior women leaders have the power to encourage and educate colleagues, raise issues and call out behaviors which otherwise may go unnoticed or even brushed under the carpet.
The increase in women leaders has expanded the number of mentors and role models who can encourage other women to have the confidence to obtain their ambitions and share experiences.
Do you think that women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they?
There remains a majority of men in senior leadership roles in the industry and women still feel they have to prove themselves and work harder at recognizing and reducing stereotypes. I’ve always been supported and respected in my role, but it remains the case that a lot of men feel more comfortable around other men, which often results in them being less open and less inclined to want to educate themselves to and understand different perspectives. Even if they are receptive, the absence of senior women leaders can make appreciation of alternative thinking more challenging.
Men dominate the production arena, and even with fantastic initiatives like ‘Free The Bid’, women are massively under-represented amongst directors and behind camera talent.
How should we tackle an issue such as equal opportunity?
We need more men to recognize and call out their own behavior and that of their colleagues, to challenge the status quo, and be more open and aware of other perspectives (or, more simply, the need to employ and promote women). There are plenty of agency forums, talks, lunch and learns, articles, etc., they could participate in or learn from, and employers should encourage their education. It remains a balancing act. We want to hire and promote women because they are the best choice, not just to fulfill a quota but to appreciate the value they can bring to the business. We need to avoid the perception that women in senior roles are there solely because of their gender.
Education, mentoring, openness and interaction training will remain key until all the barriers to the advancement of women within the industry have been removed.
How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry and what professional achievement are you most proud of?
I started my career at the BBC and moved over to advertising production as I was seduced by the craft and dynamic nature of the industry. I hounded heads of TV for an entry-level role in the production department and worked my way up through various creative agencies to departmental head. I’ve had a really varied career with numerous highlights, but I would have to say steering the production department of MullenLowe Group UK through the last year in lockdown and producing a prolific body of work as part of the agency’s Covid-19 response team has been extremely challenging but immensely fulfilling. It has required us to adopt new ways of working, resulting in the production of multiple campaigns at speed responding to time-critical comms for the government and NHS. It has been a real achievement to produce such amazing and important work against a background of significant and unique production challenges.
Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?
Aline Santos Global EVP Marketing and Chief D&I Officer at Unilever for delivering Unilever’s global Unstereotype initiative and a key driver of Diversity and Inclusion throughout the marketing industry. A real force for change.
The director Becky Martin who I worked with at the BBC when we were both production assistants. I followed her successful career journey which she achieved through sheer determination and drive. A journey that took her from directing more select comedy shows to achieving tremendous success directing Peep Show, Veep, and more recently, an episode of Succession, winning BAFTA and DGA awards along the way. She chose a path dominated by men in the comedy world and I have the utmost respect for her achievements and her self-belief.