Lindsey Clay, the chief executive of Thinkbox and president elect of Wacl, noted: "Notice anything unusual about this panel? Yes, it’s all female. And yet, male panels – or those with one woman – are so common they go unremarked. Our industry is filled with incredible women but the future isn’t female, just equal."
I have rarely been on an industry panel where women were in the majority. Yet I sit in meetings every week at MediaCom where it is, of course, commonplace. So what is different about 124 Theobalds Road? We have never had gender quotas. Our business consistently returns a great set of results. And we are a meritocracy – we don’t only promote women because we work in a business that ultimately markets products bought by women.
Arguments about women knowing best how to sell to women are irrelevant. Was it a problem when Karen Blackett was the director on an account that predominantly sells fast cars to men? Of course not.
What was a problem was when I arrived at a previous agency to find that I had been given the Royal Doulton china figurines account because I was a woman. My ability to empathise as an urban twentysomething with whatever drives ladies to spend north of a pony on one was not aided by my gender.
We don't only promote women because we work in a business that markets products bought by women
According to popular opinion, confidence is one of the key issues hampering the career progression of women. The Atlantic’s May 2014 cover story, "The confidence gap", seemed to sum up the mood by proposing that women are simply less professionally confident than men. When they are equally confident, they are labelled "ball-breakers". Not everyone will agree. This isn’t the only reason for a lack of equality in the numbers of women leaders. But the good news about a confidence gap is that it can be overcome.
This is why Kathryn Jacob and I are writing a book with the kind of career advice you never get taught, including how to acquire confidence. As one contributor to The Atlantic wrote: "Ten years ago, I began teaching shy medical students the ‘tricks of the trade’ for appearing confident. Early on, I noticed that my students began to feel more confident just by practising the techniques for appearing confident." So if anyone has any stories, tips or tactics for our book, please get in touch.
As for what’s different about MediaCom, the winner of the Campaign Media Awards Grand Prix this year, I hope and believe that we have a culture that encourages everyone’s confidence, regardless of gender.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom