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Now is the Time for Gender Balanced Leadership



INFLUENCER: Madam’s Pippa Bhatt reflects from ADFEST on the importance of mentorship, flexibility and role models for gender parity

Now is the Time for Gender Balanced Leadership

I’m currently at ADFEST to immerse myself in the work and people of the APAC region. In addition to very much enjoying (read: loving) catching up with old friends and meeting new, I’m here to discuss a topic that is a part of daily conversation in the West: the importance of balanced leadership and encouraging women into leadership roles. Yesterday, I chaired a panel of four incredible women business leaders within the commercial production sector of our global industry. The title of our talk: More female voices in the advertising pipeline encouraging parity in the business. Our panel came from Australia, China and the UK.

As my research began as chair of this truly inspiring and powerful panel, a quote came to mind: Diageo’s chief marketing and innovation officer, Syl Saller said ‘balanced creative teams produce better work, balanced leadership makes better decisions and gender-balanced workplaces benefit others’.

This became a key quote for the basis of recognising the importance for companies to know that to succeed means to reach the kinds of targets that our brand clients are beginning to demand in their suppliers. Combine this with the fact (brought to my attention by fellow panellist Victoria Conners of The Producers, Australia) that an MIT study found that workplaces with a mix of genders in leadership roles increased revenue by up to 41%. Clearly, women valued in the workplace and in leadership positions is very good for business indeed. 

Coming from the UK, I read articles on a daily basis discussing where companies are failing, where some are succeeding or indeed proudly shouting about how they have the lowest gender pay gap. Yet, wow, do I feel the imbalance. So, let me share with you here some of the insights and relevant takeaways from our panel of women who have been and are already living the journey and creating businesses that support and promote parity for men and women in the workplace. 

Before I do, as I write this from Asia, something I have learnt since being here is that our position in the West is very different indeed. Maria Laletina of SHP & SHP+ Shanghai spoke about China as a leader in gender equality with agencies such as BBDO, Cheil, Publicis Media and Grey with women in top managerial positions. Her discussions around parity with numerous women producers, creatives and managers came back with the same answer: ‘the idea of inequality simply never crossed their mind’. Isn’t that something deeply powerful?

Coming back to those takeaways. These key points are not to be dismissed as heard before but very much to underline the extreme need for them.

Mentorship. Flexibility. Role models. 

Let’s start with mentorship: Without their mentors, the women on our panel would not have been in their positions without that encouragement, support and belief in them. Well, let’s say it happened sooner because of it. Carly Stone of Madam Films, UK spoke of the impact of women in her career development. It highlighted that you cannot underestimate the importance and value of someone pushing you to believe in your ability to lead and achieve. To be the sounding board to confidentially discuss your concerns and vulnerabilities. Once you’ve got to the top, the need for the mentor doesn’t diminish, it becomes even more important as you navigate a new set of challenges. Women in leadership need women mentors who are or have been in the same position.

Flexibility. Workplaces need to support lives. Any other point of view is archaic. Three of my four panellists are working mums and the challenges of juggling families, households and careers is an endless, exhausting and guilt-inducing nightmare – most of us know this. Ways to combat the very real and demanding pressures of these set of personal choices is by providing flexible working. Not just for women, but as Emma Daines of Fin Design & Effects says: ‘for the men too in my company who have young children and their career wives want to return to the workforce’. Recognising what it means to have young families, the pressures that come with that and how hours and location can be movable.

Both of these points go hand in hand with role models. With them, we see that it can be done, whatever ‘it’ is. We need to see women role models at the top, not just for those women at the start of their career, but those who have reached leadership. We need to see the company owners who have implemented the changes to support their workforce, we need to know where to find these leaders in business who recognise the value of parity and actively endorse this through the very fibre of their company. 

Whether you are at the start of your career, wanting to change your company’s policies, need support at the top of your career or a brand client seeking suppliers who embrace your modern-day values and aspirations, I can tell you one place to start, to find all of these companies and people who can support you in this journey: OWNED

You can see the industry changing intention and I can tell you that something wonderful is awaiting us. So, my call to you is this: Be here now for now is the time. Embrace the fullness of this moment and choose a powerful way to live. Ask yourself, where do you aspire to be?

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MADAM, Fri, 22 Mar 2019 16:39:16 GMT