Zenith Australia’s CIO Elizabeth Baker reflects on embracing the shift of women in leadership

Elizabeth Baker -Zenith

“I think our values have changed regarding what we think makes an effective leader”

Elizabeth Baker has risen through the ranks of Zenith Media Australia, starting her career with the full-service media agency as a trading director.

In her 20th year with the Publicis Groupe agency, Baker has seen the industry evolve and develop with new technology, innovations and its attitude to people and culture.  

Baker spoke to Mediaweek about the shifting attitude of women in leadership roles, inspiring industry initiatives and her thoughts on improvements needed in the industry.

The representation of women in leadership roles in the industry

Reflecting on her career, Baker shared that she has worked with many impressive male and female leaders.

“However, if I reflect on the style of leadership from 15-20+ years ago, I think female leaders tended to appropriate a typical male MO. I have seen a definite shift in this over the years.”

Baker noted that women in leadership roles feel empowered to act like themselves.

“I think our values have changed regarding what we think makes an effective leader, and what we are currently embracing are some of the more of the traditionally feminine characteristics, like Emotional Intelligence (EQ), knowing how to motivate humans, and understanding how people tick,” she explained.

Baker added that 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.”

Baker on how Publicis Groupe champions women in the company

For Baker, Publicis Groupe has championed women in the company in several ways. She noted that its flexible working framework, Publicis Liberté, has been a game changer for working parents as it is governed by behaviours rather than strict policies.

“I wish this was in place when I was returning to work seven years ago!” she added.

Baker also noted that in addition to flexibility, Publicis provides a regular review of paid leave policies and implements time-in-lieu guidelines with inclusivity in mind have been so 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.

Baker on the inspiring women-driven industry initiative

Elizabeth Baker highlighted the Unstereotype Alliance Australian Chapter, of which Publicis Groupe is a founding member, as a particular women-driven industry initiative that has inspired her.

“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 said.

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

Improvements in the industry

When it comes to improving the voice of women in the industry, Baker said there are many inspirational female leaders in the industry and that she did not think there was necessarily an issue with the women’s “voices” in the industry.

But she noted that some areas of the industry are still a work in progress throughout the industry at large.

“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 said.

“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,” Baker highlighted.

Top image: Elizabeth Baker

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