MAY 1, 2024
Article by Ashley Regan. Read the original post on the Adnews website here.


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Women CEOs from media agencies, who had to overcome gender biases when climbing the career ladder, are fighting to create a more equal industry for the next generation.
The leaders collectively advocate for workplace inclusivity, hybrid work from home models, investments in training and the promotion of women to create a more equal future.

Marilla Akkermans started her agency Equality Media + Marketing in the hope that women and overlooked minorities would have a safe and happy place to come to work each day.

“I had seen so many talented women fall out of the industry once they’d become a parent because the industry was so ridged on full-time in-office work,” Akkermans told AdNews.

“I personally experienced my corporate value decrease once I became a mother too, and knew that returning to work the only thing about my role that would change would be my salary, and it was going down to a part time wage even though the expectation was that my full time role responsibilities would remain.

“I’ve had to come back from having both my children early, with my daughter after only two weeks because of client demand.

“It’s something that makes me really sad personally that I had to choose between some time off with my newborn or having a successful business, something a lot of male CEO’s don’t have to choose between.

“Sacrifice is one part of the struggles of a female CEO but there are also many ‘small things’ that make being a female CEO more challenging. Suggestions not being heard around a boardroom table, not being privy to the deals that take place over lunch or over a handshake, and my favourite, being referred to as ‘the girls’.”

However, progress towards gender equality is being made.

Carat SA managing director Adele Gibb has seen a tremendous shift of barriers for women in this industry compared to the earlier days of her career.

“It’s wonderful that the industry is leaning into flexibility to allow not just for family circumstances but for other ways of working and to get the best out of a diverse range of team members,” Gibb said.

“Approaching leadership as a cookie cutter exercise will never open up these roles to different thinkers, it is about ensuring we have the right structures in place to support our teams so they can be their best and bring their never before thinking to our clients’ businesses and really help solve real problems that will crack new growth.

“It’s the leaders that consciously work to bring a practice of EQ, not just IQ, into how they are creating an environment where all individuals can thrive, that will be able to attract and retain the best talent our industry has to offer.”

While Match & Wood CEO Lyndelle O'Keefe admits that the gender equality struggles she encountered in her career were frustrating and demoralising - it did build her courage and make her more determined.

“We are lucky to have so many strong female role models in the current landscape. In days gone by there were simply fewer women in leadership positions, although I was lucky in my early career to work for Anne Parsons who was CEO of Mediacom in the early 2000s. She was a trailblazer, and she showed us what was possible,” O'Keefe said.

“I think women in particular are bringing new and inspiring leadership styles to the table, that are more open and empathetic. And I believe we all have a responsibility to own our authentic leadership styles and pave the way for the next generation, so they never question their capabilities.”

Gibb too mentioned she has been fortunate to have had a lot of strong female role models, with Carat Adelaide originally founded by Krystyna Wielgosz and her own predecessor Vikki Friscic.

“We must ensure when women step up into leadership roles that the support is there to ensure they succeed,” Gibb said.

“Cracking the glass ceiling isn’t the ending of a story, it’s just the beginning, and leaders and businesses must have the right scaffolding in place to elevate that person beyond the glass ceiling.”

Similar, the challenge for Atomic 212°’s Claire Fenner is overcoming a ‘limiting personal belief’ that a CEO should be a male.

“Beliefs which I’ve formed as I’ve observed the male executives that have held these positions as I grew up and then throughout my career,” Fenner said.

“These beliefs are something that I seek to challenge and overcome to ensure I will always lead authentically to who I am and help to model a new standard for what leadership looks like for the next cohort of leaders in our industry.

“I recognise that I am part of the change, and we have an opportunity to set a new example of leadership.

“I’m proud to be a single mum and a CEO, but I also try to be honest about the challenges that brings because we need to recognise that we can have it all, we can be a mum and a leader and more, but that comes with compromise and sacrifice.

“I’m fortunate to have two very supportive business partners who believe in me and continue to support my growth and development.”

But progress is unsustainable without male allies

Bohemia CEO Paul Hutchison is one to make equality a conversation and take action.

“As a privileged white male I recognise that I must use my position to influence change and provide voices to women and all under-represented groups and ensure that I walk in other worlds to better understand everyone's beliefs and experiences,” says Paul Hutchison, CEO of Bohemia.

“I urge everyone reading this to commit to at least one action if you haven’t already. If you are ever in an environment and your perception is that women (or other under-represented groups) are not equally represented please raise it and positively work to understand why that is and discuss what can be done to address it.”
Article by Ashley Regan. Read the original post on the Adnews website here.back to news

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