Moving Forward – Gender in Media

Last Wednesday evening saw the launch of a new, and I think a rather brilliant initiative by Victoria Ryan, Chair of the IAA Young Professionals Committee. The first of the IAA’s Learning and Drinks evenings. For the audience, of some 40 young professionals, the topic of ‘Gender in Media’ clearly resonated, but so did the opportunity to learn something which would enhance careers.

Rather than making it a moaning session or rehashing the data from media’s gender pay gap, we wanted this to be about how women, men and the industry as a whole can move forward. The panel, which I was honoured to chair, was made up of experts from across the media and marketing industry including; Fran Cowan, Chief Marketing Officer at Inskin Media and VP Marketing at IAA UK, Amy Laurence, Joint Head of Media Investment at Mediacom, Jon Hook, Founder of Mallory Ventures and an expert in gender, leadership and neuroscience in business, Jan Hills, (yes, the name is familiar… she’s my mother!)

Jan and I wrote a book last year on gender in the workplace, Brain Savvy Wo+man, which looks at how women and men can thrive in their career by understanding how the brain works. Everyone at the session received a copy so we now have 40 people set up to manage their career.

We asked the panel to comment on a number of questions including their reaction to the pay gap results, how companies should address the results, their advice to us as individuals and (perhaps most importantly) how we keep the conversation and momentum going so that the results are better in 2018. Our panel had lots of advice, stories, and anecdotes and the audience contributed their own questions too.

My key takeaways were:

  1. No one was surprised about the gender pay gap data, but some were outraged, especially about the gap in bonuses paid to men and women in some companies.
  2. Companies need to pay more attention to hiring and promoting the best talent irrespective of gender, or any other characteristics. Things like men taking paternity leave and more acceptance of flexible working for everyone will help.
  3. Young professionals need to understand the standards expected in a role and do a great job not just seek promotion on a time served bases. The panelists also felt it was important to follow areas of interest and passion not just seek to climb the corporate ladder.
  4. Women should not be afraid to state their ambition, engage their boss in a discussion about advancement and seek to be known in the company and the sector.
  5. Progress on gender equality will only happen if men are on board and going forward there needs to be a focus on engaging men and helping the current leadership understand what is needed to lead companies in the future. We can’t wait for the current generation to retire. Initiatives like reverse mentoring are powerful tools in helping current leaders.
  6. We need to keep the conversation going, be challenging and point to the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive workforce. The companies that make headway on this will reap benefits in terms of reputation, retention of talent and ability to hire the best people.

Considering the above, at OMD EMEA’s headquarters in Kings Cross, we are focusing on four key areas to address these challenges:

  1. Bringing a wide range of ‘bigger picture’ culture into our agency through inspiration speakers and thought leadership
  2. Creation of a diversity OPCO aiming to inform leadership and bring a broader set of opinions to making decisions and driving change
  3. Placing emphasis on Emotional Equality, throughout our business and our individual client teams through new training
  4. Keeping ourselves informed and open to change through regular check-ins on our pay gap data, new hiring policies and selection process, while still hiring the best talent

The IAA Young Professionals Committee will be organising more learning and drinks sessions. They are a great benefit and I’d encourage my colleagues to attend future sessions. If you’d like to find out how you can join the next IAA session please contact us at


About Author

Francesca Hills

Francesca is an Executive Director of Communications Planning.

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