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By Maddy Smith
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Marketing Procurement iQ explores the state of representation in creative production, marketing procurement and programmatic ad-ops worldwide and talks to some of the organisations responsible for helping the movement.
“Some studies demonstrate for example that women only apply to jobs if they feel like they meet 100% of the requirements, while men apply when they meet around 60% of them”
While research suggests that if leaders were judged solely in terms of the traits that are most valued and effective, 70% of leaders would be female, according to Women in Advertising and Communications, Leadership (WACL). The network goes on to explain that women are still woefully under-represented at the most senior levels in advertising and communications.
Cultural differences in supporting women
Mélanie Chevalier, WACL member and Founder of certified Women Owned business Creative Culture, a transcreation agency that helps brands effectively navigate cross cultural communities around the world, runs a 100% women owned and 95% women managed organisation certified by WEConnect International, through which they contribute to the professional development of the female team who come from multiple cultural backgrounds, providing clients with customised programmes to support ethnic and cultural diversity.
“Many of the recent conversations we’ve had so far show that companies, regardless of their industry, want to be more inclusive towards women and all under-represented groups”, Chevalier says. “Where we can make a difference is around getting that cultural approach and relevance right the first time”.
The challenges remain significant in many cultures and areas of focus across markets can vary greatly, she explains. For example, she outlines that violence towards women is a very important topic in Mexico, child marriage is a phenomenon that still affects too many young girls. “While in the UK, women represented 43% of the workforce in 2016, but only 4% were in senior management and 11% at Board level, against 25% being entry level professionals”, she adds.
Women Owned Businesses
As a successful Founder of a Woman Owned business, Claire Randall has been in the creative production industry for over 25 years, starting off her career as a Producer at Saatchi & Saatchi before leaving to launch Claire Randall Consulting, that serves major brands worldwide.
“When I started the business with one client over 26 years ago, I was warned that as I was female and so young, I might not be taken seriously! And, that I might not have the gravitas to pull it off”, Randall comments.
She adds, “Obviously, that only made me more determined to succeed. Today, the company works with over 40 advertisers around the world, many of whom have been with us for more than 17 years. We have grown organically, through word of mouth and I am extremely proud to have an incredible and highly experienced team – the vast majority of whom are also women!”
Jillian Gibbs, CEO and Founder of certified Women Owned global production consultancy Advertising Production Resources (APR) explains that she has not experienced many roadblocks which were specific to being a woman in business. “This may be because I am an entrepreneur-founder and have remained at the helm of the business since the beginning, rather than trying to break into and climb the ranks within the male-dominated ad industry”, she considers.
Gibbs, however, takes this opportunity to highlight and to celebrate the different skill sets which women can offer, that can be a great addition in business. “We tend to have well-honed soft skills, which is good for our clients as well as for our people within the organisation. I think being able to tap into that, especially throughout the pandemic, was really important to unifying and supporting team members”.
But it’s not all plain sailing for female entrepreneurs as Randall points out, when she participated in a book titled ‘Female Entrepreneurs, the secrets of their success’. Co-author, John Smythe said: “Time and again, we hear from talented women that they’ve been driven from their corporate careers and had to become entrepreneurs out of necessity”.
Smythe continues, “They are then hampered by the fact that 91% of venture capital money funds businesses founded solely by men. It’s time to get serious about creating and supporting a vibrant culture of female entrepreneurship in the UK and unleash this incredible resource for the good of women and society as a whole”.
As a women owned business, Randall expresses her support of the various supplier diversity initiatives that advertisers have put in place over the last few years, to drive growth for minority owned businesses. She also highlights John Smythe’s statement on inequality in the UK. ‘’Concerningly, female entrepreneurship in the UK lags behind other countries, with only six percent of UK women running their own businesses, compared to almost 11% of women in the US”.
Career versus Family – Can you have both?
However, Randall says the biggest change, in her opinion, is the growing recognition that women can have a family and still be successful in business.
“You CAN ‘have it all’. It might not be perfect and it’s pretty tough to do both really well but juggling is a skill that working mothers have learned”, Randall says. She adds, “One should never feel guilty for wanting to be successful at both and I think the industry now fully recognises the contributions women make across the board”.
“As a working mother, the biggest challenge is always going to be finding the right balance between being around for your family and running a successful business”, she considers.
A patriarchal society
Outside of Europe and North America, many areas of the world still have a strong patriarchal structure.
Shufen Goh, Co-Founder and Principal of global marketing consultancy R3 Worldwide, which has an extensive footprint in the Asian market says, “Most Asian societies are patriarchal, so practices that would be recognised as prejudice in the West, like the default expectation of women being the primary caregiver of the family, have been normalised as traditional family values”.
In this societal structure, Goh says that to help women in the workplace, “Companies need to think about how they can enable women to thrive not just in the office, but also at home. When you create an environment that is empathetic and conducive, you’d get women who would give back many times more. Because there are just not that many companies out there who are seriously addressing this inequality”.
With Environmental, Social, and (Corporate) Governance (ESG) initiatives being scrutinised more by institutional investors, Goh explains that companies will need to accelerate diversity and specifically female leadership representation at C-suites and boards and so this presents opportunities for women to step forth. But, she iterates, corporate chiefs need to first recognise that they need a different strategy of talent spotting and recruiting as she believes women are way behind men in the game of self-promotion and networking.
Reaching your full potential – Workplace development, mentoring and networking
With over 20 years of experience in marketing procurement, Senior Manager of Indirect Sourcing at The Hershey Company, Sherry Ulsh, looks back at her career and outlines the most significant change in her view, which she says is, “The ability for women entering the workforce to access so many varied avenues for networking, professional development and mentoring”.
Having spent much of her career at Burger King and Church’s Chicken, Ulsh explains, ”This includes individual company business resource groups and cross industry non-profit organisations such as the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF), that is relentlessly focused on advancing women leaders in the Food Industry.” Ulsh continues that importantly now, “Universities and colleges have [also] come to understand the importance of women’s leadership organisations for students”.
At times, she says, it can be overwhelming in how to allocate your time across the many options but ultimately, the ability to have such a choice is a great thing. Ulsh explains that there is more to be done, such as establishing male ally-ship as a complement to programs, moving beyond mentorship to advocacy and sponsorship and engaging women at the earliest levels in their careers. She concludes, “So much has been accomplished and so much more is to come”.
In order to gauge the state of the industry and where women are currently positioned in terms of equality, Jillian Gibbs gives a comment on today’s support networks.
“There is a lot being done today all over the industry and around the world to support, connect, and encourage women to succeed. I can see increased momentum and the expanding opportunities for women”, Gibbs says.
“For me, I have been very intentional about expanding my female founder network to surround myself with other successful women business owners (primarily through the Women’s Presidents Organization) and female founders in the ad industry. It’s inspiring to see the success of others and help each other overcome challenges. Things are moving in the right direction when it comes to women’s empowerment in the workplace”, she states.
Women In Procurement
At the recent ProcureCon Marketing conference hosted in San Diego last December, the inaugural Women In Procurement Breakfast briefing was held. One of the co-organisers was Cody Tunney, Executive Vice Principal at the leading secure digital media management company Yangaroo, has been involved with many women in business advocacy groups throughout her career.
At this breakfast briefing however, she noticed a pivotal shift in the conversation. “Women are moving past venting about “onlyness” (being the only woman or mother on the team) and towards supporting each other, advocating, mentoring, and learning tricks to improve our confidence and presence”, Tunney says.
Women in marketing procurement hold an incredible amount of purchasing power, yet still struggle with things like credibility, intimidation, machismo, our physical size, and internal buy-in, she explains. “In our small forum chats, we talk about these issues, and we support each other with potential solutions”.
As a champion of DE&I, Tunney says that she always reassures management that change is not about taking away from the status quo – but that we have to believe that everyone has worked hard for their position and proves their worth every day. “Right now”, she says, “we can evolve diversity by simply adding more seats at the table. Then, if we make diversity a priority by educating, advocating, mentoring, and supporting this effort, certain job positions will naturally become more diverse”.
Women in Programmatic
Forming working groups to provide guidance and networking support has been around for a number of years, for example in IT and finance, but as new markets emerge, new groups are formed. One of these is The Women In Programmatic Network (TWIPN) who will be hosting a meeting at the Programmatic Pioneers Summit taking place in London in May 2022.
TWIPN helps to improve opportunities for women in programmatic marketing, covering everything from communications, self-branding, career progression and how diversity should be used to gain a competitive advantage on digital media businesses.
Cameron Townsley, Senior Communications and Events Executive at The Digital Voice and a member of TWIPN says, “Diversity is important for reasons above and beyond business gain. However, there is much to be said on the personal, economic and corporate benefits of diversity”.
“Having a diverse mixture of opinions, voices, backgrounds and experiences lends itself to novel and out of the box thinking”, she adds. “In the digital world, many markets are saturated, so creative thinking is the only way to stand out. Nothing interesting has ever come from a group of like-minded individuals who are unwilling to change norms or offer new ways of thinking”.
The Women In Programmatic Network was set up as a monthly discussion amongst industry friends, where topics could be discussed and experiences could be shared. The Network rapidly grew within a few months and this prompted a realisation – that the industry needs a much more diverse workforce.
At its core, TWIPN’s core mission is to establish a place for women in digital to find inspiration beyond work, as well as to create a safe community where everyone is welcome to contribute. Sophie Toth, Co-Founder of The Women In Programmatic Network comments, “It’s so important to address the difficulties, collaboratively communicate and build confidence in incredible individuals, from career advice or sharing jobs, to coaching or wellbeing. We believe that together we can achieve greater things. We just need to shine a light on greatness in each other”.
Women behind (and in front) of the lens
UK-based Creative Equals is an award-winning global consultancy, who believe inclusion is the future. Founded by Ali Hanan, the organisation strives to continuously challenge the status quo for creative production, to push for a world of fairness, diversity and belonging – moving boundaries across all sectors to create change.
Similarly, founded by Ani Ha’rel in the US, FREE THE WORK is an organisation rooted in Ha’rel’s personal experiences at work, and the premise of having one female director in every triple bid. This pledge by brands and their agencies would then increase the female director’s exposure, skill set and overall chance of actually winning the bid. This idea “took off” and has gained more and more traction across the industry.
FREE THE WORK relaunched from Free The Bid, which originally focused solely on female-identifying individuals in advertising.
Through their curated talent-discovery platform, FREE THE WORK advocate for the LGBTQI+, creators living with disabilities, female-identifying, non-binary people, people of colour and military veterans communities. These are much wider terms of reference than the original Free The Bid movement and coincides with the ongoing field work, advocacy campaigns, editorial content and events and partnerships.
Additionally, FREE THE WORK also runs a ‘reflection pledge’, which states that production sets should reflect the demographic figures in the country of production. So, if that is 40% BAME, then 40% directors should come from that community.
Gender equality and racial diversity behind the camera
As well as thinking of gender equality, in the role of women in business and society, we also need to think about diversity and underrepresentation.
Black Girl Film School (BGFS), a US-based organisation, is working to improve representation for Black women behind the lens.
Executive Director Jayda Imanlihen says, “I’m excited about the future of Black Girl Film School because our pipeline and process to increase the number of black women working behind the camera is sustainable. Not only that, but in just two short years in operation as a 100% online film school we’ve seen amazing results that demonstrate that our model works”.
“We have students pursuing education opportunities at Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon, University of Georgia and New York University”, she adds.
BGFS was the first film course which many students have taken that was taught by a Black female professor. Black Girl Film Foundations has truly become a ramp for girls to learn and lead across industries from behind the camera. Not only that, but the program and community influences them to pursue STEM and STEAM majors in college which is a key goal of the organisation.
As they launch their newest course, Black Girl Film School Camera Foundations Lab says they will put quality cameras directly into the girls’ hands and teach them critical technical skills that they can take from BGFS to every part of their lives from the classroom to their communities.
Growing in confidence, but still a long way to go
The journey to achieving real gender equality across the globe is inevitably ongoing. While progress has been made over the last decades, there still is a way to go and according to Mélanie Chevalier of Creative Culture,
“My experience as a mentor as part of WACL has made me realise that many young women tend to lack confidence in themselves and this is the key obstacle to their professional development”. She adds, “Some studies demonstrate for example that women only apply to jobs if they feel like they meet 100% of the requirements, while men apply when they meet around 60% of them”.
However, aside from confidence, Chevalier says that there still are real inequalities that have grown during the pandemic: access to finance for female entrepreneurs (in the US, women only had access to 2% of venture capital investment in 2021 – around 1% in the UK) due to unconscious bias around women and minority owned businesses; lack of support groups and systems around childcare, which tend to impact women more than men – just to name a few.
There is a real role for all of us to support mindset change and progress in countries where women’s conditions are even more at risk, concludes Chevalier.
The Women of Influence insight series is published in partnership with Decideware
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