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Russ Lidstone On the Under-Representation of Women in Advertising

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CEO Havas Worldwide speaks at SheSays forum

Russ Lidstone On the Under-Representation of Women in Advertising

The lack of women in senior roles advertising is not just a female issue, warned Havas Worldwide London CEO Russ Lidstone, speaking at the SheSays forum on the topic of women in advertising at Cannes Lions 2014 on Sunday.

Referencing the words of US politician and diplomat Madeleine Albright who famously said there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women, Lidstone stated: “I think there’s a big structural issue here - and there is place in purgatory for men who don’t address this,” adding: “It’s not just a female issue and panels like this can only help.”

Lidstone, the only male panelist alongside SheSays co-founder Laura Jordan Bambach; Kat Gordon, the founder of The 3% Conference and marketing agency Maternal Instinct; and Collyn Ahart, Founder, Bowndling Adventurewear, discussed the big issues facing the future of the creative and marketing businesses, such as the lack of women in the industry despite the fact that 80% of purchases are made by women, and clients demanding more senior women in advertising.

Lidstone put forward the business case for getting more females into senior and board roles in advertising. “There’s a real business opportunity here. A real opportunity not just to be more representative in the way we develop our content.”

He pointed to The British Women in Business Council’s calculation that if equal gender representation is achieved there could be a 10% increase in GDP by 2030, and McKinsey research which shows a 10% greater return on equity and 48% improvement on EBIT in companies where there are greater proportions of women.

He noted that some advertising disciplines have an encouraging proportion of females, such as account management, with 62%, and planning, with 50%, according to IPA figures. But he pointed to the creative discipline with 25%, and digital development, with just 10%, as key areas of concern. “These are a growing part of our business going forward,“ Lidstone said, adding: “We do fundamentally have an issue within the creative discipline.”

“The best agencies work with serendipity and diversity at their core,” he said. “It’s about defeating habit through originality. That’s hard to do that without fair representation, particularly in the creative discipline.”

In terms of how the industry can progress and change for the better, Lidstone pointed to the importance of increased flexibility for working mothers, as well as mentoring, training and guidance to promote confidence in women.

“It’s been proven there is a confidence gap between men and women, “Lidstone said, noting that men are quicker to put themselves forward for tasks they may not have ability to undertake, whereas women tend to hold back.

Lidstone also pointed to the challenge of retaining women over the age of 40 “There is a broader issue of age,” he said. His own company, Havas Worldwide, bucks the trend however, with the board comprising 50 per cent women, and high profile female leaders including Mercedes Erra, the executive president of Havas Worldwide and Kate Robertson, the co-global president.

On the issue of how women are represented in advertising, Lidstone said: “Stereotypes and clichés enable you to tell a story and maybe that was the best and only way years ago. Clearly we need to break out of that.”

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Havas US, Mon, 16 Jun 2014 15:05:58 GMT