#Loeries2018: Women in marketing, adland organise for change in Africa
by Herman Manson (@marklives) In 2017, only 3% of creative directors globally were female and, out of the top 50 most-influential CMOs, only a third were women. Women in Marketing, an organisation set up to address this gender imbalance in the advertising and marketing industries, is launching WiM Africa in Durban on tomorrow, Thursday, 16 August 2018, during Loeries Creative Week (book your ticket here for the launch event).
In this interview with MarkLives, Andrea Opoku, a director at Women in Marketing and founder of WiM Africa, discusses the launch of WiM Africa, the impact of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements on adland, and what companies may do to an equitable work environment for women.
What are your objectives for WiM Africa and what do you see as its major opportunities and challenges?
Andrea Opoku: For WiM Global and WiM Africa, our aims are the same — to offer a platform for women in the marketing and advertising fields to be recognised and celebrated for their work. Also for women of all levels of seniority to feel empowered, be educated, inspired and connect with other women in the industry.
For WiM Africa, there is also the opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world (and we’ve made it our mission) what 21st Century Africa looks like. We want to show the transformative creativity and innovation that comes from the continent, the African stories that can resonate with anyone and the world-class work being done here. We do this through the WiM Awards which recognises the crème de la crème of brand and agency marketers around the world. The 2018 WiM Awards are now open for global submissions. I’m really hoping to encourage more submissions from the continent and particularly from women of colour.
The challenge for us in launching the WiM Africa network and sharing the platform is the size and complex nature of the continent. Each market has its own challenges and priorities when it comes to gender diversity in the industry. But there are always opportunities and, as we grow, we will meet the challenges of those markets where they are.
Who will be driving this African hub initiative?
AO: That will be me, with support from many key people across the region. My background is varied and cuts across industries, largely working client-side and as a consultant, and, in the last seven years or so, working on client projects in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. As a second-generation Ghanaian living in the UK [and] enjoying regular visits ‘back home’, I’ve seen how Ghana and the continent has evolved since the time of my parents and the speed of change now. I feel my work in recent years and my role as one of the directors at Women in Marketing has done a great deal to bring together my passions: branding, entrepreneurship, the empowerment of women and young people and to make a real difference in the development of the continent.
In my 18 years in the industry, and as one of the founding members of Women in Marketing, I have seen firsthand the challenges women face, particularly those who’ve taken time out to have a family and have tried to step back onto the ladder and make their way up… This is why I’m so passionate about the work we’re doing in at WiM and why I’m bringing it ‘back home’!
What are the issues facing women in the modern (marketing, communications and advertising) workplace today?
AO: Many of the issues women faced in the workplace decades ago —inequalities in pay, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, exclusion from certain projects — these are still very much prevalent today.
There are the challenges that are ‘part of the job/industry’ and that everyone faces: the pace of change, emerging technologies, squeeze on budgets and increased demands for ROI. But I feel there has been of late a real lack of clarity that has emerged in the aftermath of recent campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp. There is a sense of unease from both men and women, in some quarters, as to how to process the revelations, how to act now within their organisations and with colleagues of the opposite sex. A sense of not wanting to say the wrong thing or wondering if certain behaviours will be misconstrued.
Organisations have to do some real work around opening up conversations, allowing people to speak freely and, at the same time, ensuring measures are in place for recourse when accusations arise.
What is structurally wrong with the industry (in South Africa, at least) that we consistently see such limited scope for the emergence of female ECDs and CCOs?
AO: Every market on the continent has its own challenges and priorities. Given South Africa’s history, the economic empowerment of black people (the BBBEE Act of 2003) has been made a priority for most organisations and many times will trump the work required to be put in for gender diversity.
It is difficult for organisations — we understand that — but, at the end of the day. the business case for diversity and inclusion across all categories, gender, race, physical ability, sexual orientation, particularly in our industry, still stands. When diverse teams and organisations are more representative of our customers, they offer a variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experience, which improves decision-making and problem-solving. Most business leaders agree with this and we are now seeing the business results from organisations such as HP and others to prove it.
Your vision statement speaks to inclusiveness — about including men to achieve WiM’s objectives — have men come to the party?
AO: Men have always been invited to the party! Change can’t happen if we exclude 50% of the population from the conversation .As much as we’d like to think the dial is moving, men still hold the reins of power in society and business.
I’m happy to say that some of WiM’s strongest advocates are men. Antonio Lucio Global, CMO of HP, for example, who Women in Marketing awarded the Equality Advocate of the Year award to in 2017, has done some amazing things within his organisation and for the industry. Also, if you take a look at some of the men on the Women in Marketing Advisory Council — Paul Frampton Calero, former group CEO, Havas Media Group UK and Ireland; and Colin Byrne, former CEO, UK & EMEA Weber Shandwick — all are doing great things in this space and supporting the work we do.
What best practices should business put in place to ensure an equitable work environment for women?
AO: You know, every organisation is different but I would start with just talking to your staff. Make a way for them to have frank and open discussions in confidence and really hear what they have to say about the challenges they face on a daily basis, both professionally and personally. Start from there.
Generally, having practices in place which encourage options for flexible working, a level of pay transparency, blind CV reviewing, ensuring that teams are made up of diverse individuals. Also ask the same of the agencies and suppliers your organisation works with. Hold them up to the same standards that you have in your organisation and make them accountable.
Please would you tell us about your Diversity and Equal Opportunities Audit programme?
AO: It’s evident that there is a sea change in the industry and most organisations are somewhere along the journey to incorporate diverse teams. Later this year, we’ll be launching the WiM Diversity Charter, which will give organisations the opportunity to show their commitment by agreeing and signing the charter. The pledges within the charter will cover best practice in employee wellbeing, codes of behaviour, targets for increasing diversity across all lines (not just gender), and more. It’s an opportunity for brands, agencies, production houses to show that they are working towards making their teams fully diverse and inclusive. As part of the charter programme, we will provide guidance and share benchmarks for the industry in order to support those who have signed up.
A promise of action without accountability doesn’t amount to much, so we will periodically be assessing those organisations to identify shifts and provide opportunities for airing the challenges they face and sharing best practice.
How has the #MeToo movement impacted on WiM and on the marketing and advertising industries?
AO: The #MeToo movement has had a huge impact on the industry; it’s definitely been a watershed moment. Gender equality, inclusiveness and pay parity were already on the agenda and a priority for many in the industry. #MeToo , #TimesUp and other such campaigns calling out sexual harassment across all industries have definitely accelerated the need for change and we are definitely seeing certain parts of the industry take action.
We are seeing it in advertising across certain markets; brands are working towards fairer, more inclusive and balanced representation of women in their advertising, which is what the WiM Africa launch event focuses on. In addition, agencies and brands are also making strides to change the industry from the inside out by bring more diversity in their ranks.
For WiM, this just amplifies what we’ve been saying for years, that women need to be seen, be recognised and celebratedbut also empowered and inspired to rise up and take their rightful place as drivers within the industry.
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.
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