As a New Year starts, the subject of gender diversity has never been more pertinent, DNA are proud to be partnering the Women of Tomorrow awards alongside the IPA and Campaign.
To highlight female talent in the industry and support them through their careers is undoubtedly going to make a difference in the boardroom and c-suite. Awards like this, show that promoting those in the industry that might not otherwise be recognised is essential to create a gender diverse landscape in the future and it’s one of the things we can all get behind to make sure that happens.
The awards champion talented women in the marketing and creative industry working for agencies, media owners or client companies. Candidates that can nominate themselves for these awards are sought from the mid-senior level of company structures and should be consistently demonstrating exceptional leadership qualities.
I sat down with previous winner, Sophie Lewis, Head of Planning at Iris Worldwide to discuss what the awards have meant to her….
How did you first get into advertising as an industry and why?
I started as a graduate at DFGW. This followed a long mailer campaign in which I targeted Client Service Directors and Heads of Account Management with an ongoing campaign, based on quotes from the book ‘The Diceman’. DFGW had just won the (then) Commercial Union Business and they decided to hire me.
I’d been working for a literary agent who mainly looked after playwrights and I knew fairly quickly that I didn’t love the theatre enough to spend my time looking for new writers. But I wanted to do something that had a connection to creativity. I also knew that I wanted to work with lots of people, so this is the direction I headed in.
What made you apply for Women of Tomorrow?
It was quite a long time ago and I have had twins since then! but I am pretty sure that Bridget Angear at AMV BBDO suggested that I put myself forward.
Do you think diversity is still an issue in the advertising industry?
It is a huge issue in the advertising industry and anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying. More needs to be done to tackle this so that it isn’t a problem - we should be embracing diverse teams to get the best results.
What do you think agencies can do to help retain and promote female talent?
I think that agencies need to actually bother to find female talent. Look for it and look harder! They need to hire women into senior roles and promote women internally - this includes promoting them when they’re pregnant or when they come back!. It’s actually a lot less difficult than agencies pretend. Great women are out there. But as Mary Beard would tell you, women have been silenced for thousands of years, so there’s still a lot of work to do.
As G. D. Anderson says:
“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength”
What do you think the most pressing issues women face in their careers and how can we all help with these?
I feel that the most pressing issues are concerned with self-doubt and under-valuing themselves. Women need to believe they can do it, because they can.
How do you think government organisations can help in the challenges companies face when women take time out for maternity leave?
I think they should be pushing harder for companies to provide coaching and mentoring when women return to work. Support needs to be in place for both the women returning and the people employing them, as well as helping companies understand in more detail, the true value women can provide.
My view is that a culture driven by machismo and bravado still persists in many agencies (disseminated from the highest levels) and this has to change.
How has your career developed and changed for the better by being a ‘woman of tomorrow’?
I have since left AMV and became Head of Planning at Iris. I joined a group of great people, doing something I love. And I am having a laugh doing it. I think part of the prevailing culture of advertising is believing that it’s more important than it really is. I don’t think you should take it, or yourself, too seriously.
Most recently, I was part of the pitch-winning team for the Starbucks EMEA business, this was the icing on a nice big cake.
If you know anyone that you think would be suitable for this award then suggest that they put themselves forward for the award as soon as possible - the entry deadline for this is the 18th January. To learn more about the Women of Tomorrow Awards visit the website and for all things DNA visit our insights page.