Publicis Groupe: Investment heads discuss championing women and continuing progress in the industry

Publicis Groupe - Lizzie Baker, Lucie Jansen and Louise Romeo

The trio also discussed inspiring women-driven initiative and improvements the industry can make

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

To mark the occasion, Mediaweek spoke to Publicis Groupe’s investment heads – Spark Foundry’s Lucie Jansen, Zenith’s Lizzie Baker and Louise Romeo from Starcom – about the representation of women in the industry, how the agency holding company is championing women and the improvements the industry can make for the voice of women.

Publicis Groupe’s investment heads on the representation of women in leadership roles in the industry

The representation of women in the industry is an area many agencies want to improve on, particularly in leadership roles.

Looking at the representation of women in the industry in leadership roles, Jansen noted that some optimism could be had with recent growth. She cited the MFA’s industry census report released earlier this month that highlighted a further positive shift for women in leadership positions in media agencies, which sits at 46% – 2% higher than the previous census.

Jansen also pointed to recent data from WGEA that noted just over 30% of all Australian leadership positions are held by women, “so in that respect, we are a long way ahead,” she said.

“However, if you consider that 62% of our industry is female versus 38% male, then the story is less favourable, as it means that the percentage of males in leadership positions is nearly double that for women,” she explained.

“The gender pay gap numbers in the industry are more encouraging and a good indicator of continuing change for the future, as this reflects all levels (4% vs the national average of 23%),” she added.
Jansen said: “I believe it is our duty as an incredibly powerful and influential industry to help drive that 23% in the right direction as well. We are most certainly making progress, but there is still work to be done.”
For Baker, she shared that she’s worked with many impressive leaders – both men and women – throughout her career. On reflection, the leadership style of women leaders from 15 to 20+ years ago “tended to appropriate a typical male MO.”
However, she noted that there had been a definite shift in approaches over the years. She explained: “Increasingly, I feel women in leadership feel empowered to act like, well, themselves.
Baker said that she believes values have changed about what makes an effective leader, embracing traditionally feminine characteristics such as Emotional Intelligence (EQ), knowing how to motivate humans, and understanding how people tick.
“There is now a freedom to behave and show up more authentically, versus how females might have felt they needed to present themselves in the past. And men have that freedom too, to behave outside what’s perceived as the traditional ‘masculine’ leader – which is a positive progression,” she added.
Romeo noted that the representation of women in the industry has come a long way since she first started her media career.
“I find it encouraging to see more and more women taking senior roles, proving that you can be a mum, have a life outside of work, and hold a senior position in a supportive organisation,” she said.
“It is also very inspiring to see a balanced group of leaders at Publicis Groupe ANZ. The diverse representation makes me feel like we are taking steps in the right direction,” Romeo added.

How Publicis Groupe champions the women in their company 

Jansen has been with Spark Foundry for nearly four years and shared her pride in Publicis Groupe’s representation of women in leadership roles. She noted that women represent 50% of Publicis Groupe’s leadership in Australia.

“There is a huge importance placed on maintaining balance and championing women in leadership roles.”

Jansen highlighted the Groupe’s network ‘Viva Women!’, set up in 2010 and aimed at inspiring and empowering women to achieve their full potential at the company. She noted that it offers a range of initiatives, including the opportunity to hear from many female leaders, inside and outside of the Groupe, from across the world.

“Viva Women! addresses key issues and encourages people to talk about their own experiences, navigating amazing careers whilst balancing happy and fulfilling personal lives.

Jansen said that the championing of women in Publicis is also evident in the talent they have in Australia.

“At Spark, I am part of a leadership team made up of 55% women, most of whom have young children. The support we all receive is part of a culture that transcends all levels of the business,” she added of her agency.

Baker has been with Zenith for close to two decades, and for her, Publicis’ flexible working framework, Publicis Liberté, has been a game changer for working parents.

“As it’s governed by behaviours rather than strict policies, I wish this was in place when I was returning to work seven years ago!” she said.

Outside of the flexibility Publicis provides, Baker noted that regular reviewing, evolving of paid leave policies and implementing time in lieu guidelines with inclusivity in mind have been vital and valuable.

“They recognise that there are many reasons people might need to take time out – aside from the traditional buckets of ‘sick’, ‘bereavement’ and ‘maternity’ – and this has made a real difference – to both women and men,” she explained.

Romeo, who has been at Starcom for over two years, also echoed the same positive sentiment as her counterparts about Publicis Groupe.

 “Whether that be through the number of initiatives around career development and training as well as the long-standing Groupe policies around Parental leave and having a family,” she said.

“The flexibility Publicis provides is what stands out as the most important for me so that working is not at the expense of missing key family moments and milestones,” Romeo added.

Lizzie Baker, Lucie Jansen and Louise Romeo

Inspiring women-driven industry initiatives

Overall, there are many women-driven initiatives – inside and outside of the industry – aimed to inspire, drive, and guide women throughout their careers.

Jansen noted there are many opportunities for agencies to provide pro-bono services to not-for-profit organisations that support women, which she highlighted is something Publicis also participate in.

For her part, Jansen shared that she has come across informative podcasts. “One that springs to mind is called PepTalk, hosted by Caroline Hugall.

“The episodes are intentionally short and digestible and offer advice, experience, and wise counsel from brilliant women in the media, marketing and communications industry. They give me a little nudge when I need it and offer some good little tips to try out,” she added.

Baker noted that Publicis Groupe is a founding member of the Unstereotype Alliance Australian Chapter.

“It’s an industry-led initiative convened by UN Women that unites advertising industry leaders, decision-makers and creatives to end harmful stereotypes in advertising, which can be related to gender, but also includes things like race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or education,” she explained.

Baker said that the Unstereotype Alliance has been embraced by businesses and organisations championing the end of bias. “It’s inspiring because it works to affect positive cultural change by using the important power and influence of advertising to help shape perceptions,” she added.

Romeo also highlighted Publicis’ VivaWomen! and its purpose of inspiring and empowering women (including cis, trans, intersex, non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals) to achieve their full potential at the Groupe.

“We do this by supporting and developing existing, and future female employees through tailored training and connection opportunities – focusing on work that empowers gender equality and that demonstrates our commitment to tackling societal issues to drive positive change,” she added.

Continuing progress and improvements in the industry 

While the industry has made many positive changes to improve the voice and representation of women in the industry, much more can still be done.

Jansen echoed that sentiment and said that improving the voice of women in the industry is not just about monitoring the percentage of women employed and in leadership positions.

“Policies that allow for women to balance the needs of their families and their careers are crucial, but they need to apply to everyone (not just mums) so that responsibilities outside of work can be shared and managed,” she said.

Jansen highlighted that within workplaces and teams, there needs to be a culture of support for one another and flexibility around how individuals work.

“As an industry, we play a hugely important role in our culture and in reflecting the social norms of society. We can influence the voice of women both inside our industry and beyond,” she said.

“Representation of women in advertising content has changed for the better over the past few decades, but as the range of platforms and content types broaden, we must ensure that women are represented in a modern and positive way across all of them,” Jansen added.

Baker shared that she believes with many inspirational female leaders having a voice in the industry is not necessarily an issue. Instead, she noted that other areas are still a work in progress in the industry.

“Whilst I was fortunate to have a positive maternity leave experience, I have spoken to others working across different sectors of the industry, and there is still a fear of stifled progression,” she noted.

Baker also pointed out: “I am not into quotas, but the sales side does seem to have less gender balance in the top job. And finally, the recent spotlight on pay also has highlighted that inequality still exists in the wider industry.”

Romeo was optimistic about the industry’s progress in giving women a well-deserved seat at the table.

“As a wider industry, it would be good to see this same level of progress and appreciation for each person’s unique lived experience embraced across the board,” she highlighted.

“I am excited about the future of the industry and our emerging leaders who will pave the way for change,” Romeo added.

Top image: Lizzie Baker, Lucie Jansen and Louise Romeo

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