Close-Up: Celebrating the next generation of female ad leaders

Claire Billings looks at the six winners of Wacl's Future Leaders Fund, which aims to help realise the potential of the industry's brightest talents.

Last night saw Women in Advertising and Communications London (Wacl) host a glitzy reception to reveal six women who it thinks are going to be industry leaders of the future.

These are this year's winners of the Future Leaders Fund - the only bursary scheme of its kind in the UK - which offers young women the chance to win half the funding for a course to help them develop professionally.

Money comes from the events Wacl holds throughout the year, while the industry charity Nabs provides administration.

The scheme was set up six years ago during Tess Alps' presidency to help further the careers of the industry's promising young women. This year, the fund benefited from a cash boost when it received the money left over from the Mann Award for Women, which was held last year in memory of the former JWT international vice-president Patricia Mann.

The applicants had to make their case in writing, including answering one of two essay questions. They then had to subject themselves to a grilling by a team of judges, comprised of the Dare managing partner Lee Wright (the organiser of this year's award), the honorary Wacl members Judith Salinson and Lyndy Payne, and Campaign's acting deputy editor, Larissa Vince.

As the name suggests, the winners had to prove that they have the aptitude and determination to be potential industry leaders, according to the Wacl president and Boots marketing director, Elizabeth Fagan. The judges also looked at whether the course they chose would benefit them personally as well as professionally and that their employers were supportive of the ambitions. Even in this market, most employers seemed willing to provide half the money to fund the schemes they picked.

So what made these six stand out from their peers? Although they differ in terms of experience, the winners all had a few things in common: drive, intelligence, creative thinking, personality and an inspiring enthusiasm for the business. Expect some of them to be running it in years to come.

- Jennifer Barthe, account manager, Publicis

APG Training Network

Barthe joined Publicis' graduate training scheme as an account executive a year ago and was this month promoted to the position of account manager on Garnier. Her first job was as a strategic assistant to Dr Tonio Kroger, the chief executive of DDB Germany, and she is taking the APG Training Network course with the objective of returning to a strategic role.

The judges noted that Barthe not only wanted to develop her skills to benefit her clients and herself, but also saw it as a way to contribute more on a strategic level to her employer.

Having grown up in Germany, she also sees the course as a way to build her network of industry contacts in the UK.

Barthe has a broad education, having studied for an MA in international marketing from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce et de Management in France, and ultimately sees herself in a senior planning role on brands that use her international marketing skills.

- Carina Martin, head of copy, Dare

Masters in screenwriting for film and television, Royal Holloway, University of London

This is Martin's second year as a recipient of the bursary and she has had to reapply to receive funding for the second half of her course. Her objective is to learn scriptwriting skills so that she can write long-form content for digital platforms. Martin has ambitions to write her own film and she is currently working on one for her Masters as well as a TV series.

The judges were impressed that someone with Martin's experience wanted to learn new skills that would broaden what both she, as an individual, and Dare could offer. On completing her Masters, Martin will be able to teach and is already holding workshops at Dare.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Dare has put up half the money and requires that out of the course's three-week retreat, she takes only two as holiday.

- Claire Bowers, account manager, Touch DDB

Masters in ethnicity, globalisation and culture, Birkbeck, University of London

Bowers first learned about the Future Leaders Fund when an internal e-mail was sent around at work telling female staff they might be eligible to take advantage of it.

With an upbringing that saw her live in Brunei, Holland, Thaliand and Gabon, Bowers is passionate about developing the global insights she has obtained to benefit her work, particularly cross-cultural projects. The judges were impressed by the scope and scale of her ambition. They found her driven, clearly focused and having found a course that met her objectives perfectly.

Bowers works on global accounts at Tribal DDB, including RightGuard, Exxon Mobil and Star Alliance.

She believes social responsibility and cultural awareness should play a bigger role when agencies are advising clients on how to have a two-way conversation with customers. Her objective in taking the course is to be involved in discussions where big strategic decisions are made for global clients.

- Ashley Saunders, account manager, Tribal DDB

IPA 3 - understanding business strategy

At 26, Saunders has been in her first job at Tribal DDB since June 2007. Having already paid to go on other IPA courses herself, the judges liked her early aspirations to become an account director or managing director and the fact that she recognises that the way to get there is through learning.

Saunders has ambitions to run her own agency one day, but understands the need to gain experience first. In her application, Tribal DDB described her as bright and eager to learn, and is supportive of her goals.

The course aims to provide greater understanding of the business context for advertising decisions from a client and agency perspective. Saunders believes that better understanding of strategic decisions will help further her career. She also sees the course as a chance to meet people and take in what she learns in a non-work environment.

- Amy Whittaker account planner, WCRS

Postgraduate diploma in economics, London School of Economics

Whittaker initially applied to do an MA in public relations, but the panel persuaded her to talk to The Engine Group joint chief executive, Debbie Klein, about what would benefit her most. She returned with a proposal to do a PgDip in economics at the London School of Economics.

Whittaker's objective in taking the course is to become more accountable in the work that she does for clients by understanding the metrics for success in advertising, as well as the more emotional brand metrics that have traditionally been applied.

The judges were impressed by her varied background in digital and traditional planning. She started her career at Dare, where she worked for 18 months, before joining Lowe in February last year. She then moved to WCRS in June.

In her current role, Whittaker works on Weetabix and new business. She aspires to be more business-minded and empathetic to clients' needs when building business cases.

- Louise Pither, strategy group head, Primesight

MBA in business and management, University of Westminster

Pither stood out because of her determination to climb the ladder in a largely male-dominated field, the judges say. She recognised that, due to Primesight's growth, there was scope for her to progress internally, and she has been encouraged to broaden her skills by the company's management.

Primesight's backing is crucial because the MBA is an intensive two-nights-a-week course and is the most expensive of this year's awards at £8,000 a year. Pither must reapply to the Future Leaders Fund to secure funding for the second year.

She says: "This will give me so many more opportunities in the future and open up doors to whether I want to be a sales director, chief executive or managing director a few years down the line."


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