Benchmarking the status of women in leadership across marketing, media and communications industries reveals improvement is needed


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Diageo CMO Syl Saller calls for diverse teams across industry

Diageo CMO Syl Saller calls for diverse teams across industry

Popular women's industry network, Women in Advertising and Communications in London (WACL), has called on industry to close the leadership gap for women.

While women are recruited into around half of all marketing, media and communications roles in the UK, they only comprise 36% of leadership posts - so having a means of benchmarking the status of women in leadership across marketing, media and communications industries is crucial.

Research confirms lack of gender equality

WACL unveiled research, alongside partners LinkedIn, regarding the lack of gender equality in leadership roles in marketing, and outlined a series of actions to assist in tackling the problem.

A "leadership gap" was identified by LinkedIn research, that showed around half of people employed in the marketing, media and communications industry across the UK are female. However, there is significantly lower female representation holding down key leadership positions of director level and above - at around 36% women in these roles. This equates to a 14 percentage point "leadership gap" across the industry.

The leadership gap is worst in the publishing sector with around a 14.3 percentage point gap. The smallest gap occurs in communications and PR companies, that sees a 6.4 percentage point gap.

The President of WACL and UK chief executive of Amplifi, Pippa Glucklich, says that the study is the first of its kind and looks at all sectors across the communications and marketing industry. "At WACL, our purpose is to accelerate gender equality in this industry, and having a benchmark of where we are and how far we have to go was critical in our mission. Unsurprisingly, women do not have equal leadership status in many of the sectors that make up our industry," explained Pippa.

Change is needed across marketing, media and communication industries

WACL hopes the research might provide a springboard for change across the entire marketing, media and communication landscape.

Syl Saller, chief marketing and innovation officer at Diageo, said: "Today, we are calling on the marketing, media and communications industries to invest in female talent and close the leadership gap. The evidence is clear – diverse teams produce more creative work and diverse businesses perform better. It’s time for everyone to work together to create more gender-equal workplaces – because when we do, all boats rise."

The power of diversity to drive a business forward was also underlined by Lisa Thomas, vice-president of WACL and chief brand officer at the Virgin group. She said the report is not just about closing the gender gap, but a fundamental shift in attitudes for the future. She said: "It’s unacceptable that gender inequality continues to exist in marketing and communications. Too few women get to the top and we can do much more to promote equality across the board. I would urge leaders across the sector to support the WACL commitments and bring about systemic change. We need to ensure our creative output, and our internal culture, mirrors the diverse world we live in.

Eradicating bias in hiring

The research revealed that, over the past decade, the percentage of women hired into the sector increased by 10%, while the percentage of female leadership hires grew by 19%, suggesting that the industry is making incremental progress in closing the leadership gap. (The research defined leadership positions as LinkedIn members who have job titles including vice-president, CXO, owner or partner.)

Josh Graff, UK country manager and vice-president, EMEA, at LinkedIn, said: "It’s no secret that diverse businesses grow, innovate and outperform the competitors and by ignoring inequality, companies could be setting themselves up for failure. The insights in this report reveal the scale of the issue, as well as the fact that more needs to be done across the sector."

Best-practice guide to help companies achieve gender parity

In a bid to empower businesses to speed up progress, WACL has put together a best-practice guide to help companies achieve gender parity. Recommendations include signing up to the TimeTo code of conduct to eliminate sexual harrassment in the workplace, undertaking annual diversity and inclusion surveys and publishing the results, and establishing equal-pay practices and tracking their progress. Other suggestions include establishing a "transparent and fair career ladder" through steps such us ensuring flexible working for all.

After analysing why some companies are further ahead than others in their quest for equality, WACL identified some practical tips that all their members could adopt in the workplace.

Get your house in order

  • Establish who is accountable for gender diversity and inclusion at a senior level and ensure it is part of their objectives
  • Undertake a diversity and inclusion survey across the organisation annually and publish the results
  • Set clear, transparent goals: measure the gender split annually (minimum)
  • Establish equal-pay practices and track progress against this (publish results)

Transparent and fair career ladder

  • Establish a future leaders and returners programme to nurture talent
  • Commit to structured mentoring/sponsorship so employees reach their maximum potential
  • Improve workplace flexibility for men and women, and encourage the uptake of shared parental leave (outline uptake)
  • Publish promotion criteria and data (and rationales) and encourage salary negotiation – for example, by showing salary ranges

Bring in the right talent  

  • Use structured interviews for recruitment (and promotions) and ensure gender-balanced interview panels
  • Create 50/50 gender-balanced recruitment long lists and demand multiple women in shortlists for recruitment (and promotions) – no all-male lists or use of a "token" female 
  • Only work with recruiters that follow and publish clear guidelines for equality and diversity

Don’t discriminate

  • Sign up to the TimeTo code of conduct
  • Include the Equality Act 2010 legislation on sexual harassment as an integral part of the Employee handbook and employee contracts
  • Hire managers, HR and recruitment personnel to undertake unconscious bias training from external providers, such as Creative Equals and Stonewall. LinkedIn Learning’s Unconscious Bias Learning course are available as a great resource

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