JWT's CEO Shares Her Wisdom on Women's Equality Day

We need to support one another, especially the up-and-coming women around us.

 

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?         

Everyone works differently, and how they work best changes per person. When it comes to women, like everyone, we work toward fostering an environment that allows everyone to flourish. That may require us to consider flexible work hours, unconscious-bias training, mentorships for people in leadership positions and so much more. As we work to reimagine the future of a diverse work force, we are constantly evaluating the environment that our employees work in. As it relates to the composition of our office, we are bringing in new talent that includes a broader representation at the most senior global levels within JWT’s leadership. And most recently, we brought on a female CEO, Amanda Seaford, to lead the North American region for our digital agency, Mirum.

One of the interesting things about having a global network is that each office has their own independent culture that embraces their local customs but dovetails nicely within the overall JWT ethos. From Saudi to São Paulo our offices are creative spaces powered by their unique energy and innovative spirit.

In Sri Lanka, our female CEO, Alyna Omar, empowers women to lead and has a 50-50 gender parity. 

Out of our London office, Rachel Pashley is the Head of Female Tribes Consulting. Rachel’s group takes the insights and understanding from the global Female Tribes Women’s Index study (8,000 Women in 19 countries) and helps clients redesign their businesses through a female lens by delivering a full set of bespoke consultancy products and services.

Megan Van Someren, took her passion for food and founded Canteen, a Food Consultancy of JWT. She created a food-futures consultancy that helps food brands, big and small, grow and innovate within the ever-dynamic world of food culture.

I’ve also added more women to the global executive committee and built an annual executive leadership program called LeaderShe. This program has concentrated on igniting even more strength and support in our female executives while advising them on how they can encourage women in more junior positions around them to meet their own career goals.

 

In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?         

Women now comprise half the workforce and hold more university degrees than men do, yet the proportion of women in senior roles still only runs about 30 percent. There are many systemic social factors at play that lead to these statistics… But in our industry, we actually have the opportunity to influence these societal customs by portraying the domestic responsibilities of men and women differently. And because of this, I believe that we are poised to see real change in the coming decade.

There’s been a shift, and now more organizations are taking concrete action and having purposeful conversations around helping women to succeed. I think that’s partly due to those women at the top pushing to make progress a priority.

 

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

I'm a great believer in the power of women to help each other. Empowering women, promoting and supporting women is crucial within any work force.

One of the changes we can make is focusing more on a fully diverse and inclusive work environment. Advertising reflects our culture and society, and without inclusion our campaigns will continue to perpetuate stereotypes about women, people of color and other underrepresented groups.

 

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?          

On a personal level, I don’t believe in the word balance. I’m passionate about work, family, and personal interests. I throw myself at everything.

 

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Sitting on the board of Save the Children has been one of the great privileges of my life. I’m immensely proud of the impact they have made in aiding children most in need.

And of course, it was a great honor to receive an OBE for our Visit London work.

 

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?

I’ve worked with many great people and mentors in my life, but the people I learned the most from are my family. My father for his creative and his entrepreneurial approach (he was always predicting trends), my mother for her deep psychological insights, and my brother for his utter kindness. Last of all, I am always learning from my children and their view of the world.

 

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

I am a strong believer in helping those around you. We need to support one another, especially the up-and-coming women around us. I believe that we have a responsibility to support others and provide them with guidance from our experiences and learnings. The beauty of mentorship is that both parties benefit and I’ve found that I’ve learnt from those I’ve mentored as well.