Ahead of the Women of Tomorrow Awards our Director, Robin Longes, sat down with previous winner Alice Hooper to discus working in the industry and life after the awards….
How did you first get into advertising and why?
I’ve always loved advertising. As a child, I used to recite TV ads to my family. At uni, I loved studying psychology, and thought a career in advertising would allow me to continue to explore how people think and behave. In my final year, I applied for 10 grad schemes; I was interviewed by the wonderful Jonathan Mildenhall at TBWA\London and when they offered me a place on their grad-scheme, I literally jumped at it.
What made you apply for Women of Tomorrow?
I was encouraged to apply by my mentor at Leo Burnett, Sarah Baumann on the strength of the work Kit Altin & I did setting up Leo Burnett Change, working with the RNLI and NSPCC. I didn’t think I was good enough, but I realised the importance of Women for Tomorrow for the industry and was chuffed to have been asked, so I swallowed my reservations and applied. Naturally, I’m very glad now that I did.
Do you think diversity is still an issue in the advertising industry?
Yes, and as with most industries, it’s an issue that’s most keenly felt at the top. The IPA’s diversity survey reveals that our senior management teams are not representative of the total workforce; nor are they representative of our audiences. And this matters: beyond the fact that fair-representation is just the right thing to do, the business case for diversity with inclusion has never been stronger. McKinsey’s recently published ‘Delivering through Diversity’ reveals, the benefits (which include financial outperformance through attracting better talent, making better decisions and better client- orientation) are particularly contingent on leadership teams being diverse and inclusive.
What do you think agencies can do to help retain and promote female talent?
Design environments and processes that allow women to thrive to their full potential. Specifically, adopt a process, which ensures that hiring and promotion practices are less subject to unconscious bias and which promote better flexible working practices that allow women (and men) who want and need to care for families to better balance these priorities without having to make an either-or decision. Too many women (and increasingly men) end up leaving the industry because they find the balance too hard.
What do you think the most pressing issues women face in their careers and how can we all help with these?
Undoubtedly, the ‘motherhood penalty’ is significant. While women as a whole earn 82 cents on a man’s dollar, for mothers, this becomes 76 cents on the dollar. It’s hardly surprising then, that
research shows women believe their biggest challenge, if they want to continue to be serious about their careers, is determining if and when they should have children. By creating cultures that are more inclusive of those who need to care for families, and promoting more flexible working, we can help more women (and men) to balance caring with careers. This will mean more female talent, more female role models, which helps other women to thrive.
How do you think government organisations can help in the challenges companies face when women take time out for maternity leave?
I have seen many women who have taken time out for maternity leave and have, on their return to work, been denied their request for flexible working. This is a huge disincentive (and worry) for women during maternity leave and trying to move forward balancing family and career. Government organisations need to do more to support companies (and indeed if necessary force companies through tougher legislation) to help ensure a mother’s right to flexible working on return to work.
How has your career developed and changed for the better by being a ‘Woman of Tomorrow’?
The woman of tomorrow campaign undoubtedly gave my work on behaviour change a broader profile, which led to a career change for me out of advertising and into a behavioural science consultancy. During that time, I became increasingly interested in diversity and inclusion, and particularly gender equality, and as a result last year started studying for an Executive MSc in Behavioural Science at the LSE alongside my job. In 2018, my research in the MSc will focus on how to reduce the implementation gap between Diversity & Inclusion initiatives and reality (less unconscious-bias training, more tangible-action), and I am also starting a management role in a new organisation, which boasts a 75% female global leadership team and positively enables flexible working.
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