The working patterns of the winners across marketing, media and advertising underline the ability of the creative industries to flex and experiment to retain world-leading talent.
However, the industry as a whole is failing to embrace the opportunity afforded by flexible working, according to research from Timewise, the organisation which helps businesses to attract and develop the best flexible talent and the creator of the awards. Colluding in creating an "all or nothing" game means businesses and employees both lose out.
A lack of creativity
Despite being an industry predicated on innovation and creativity, imaginative approaches to work remaining the "exception not the rule", according to Timewise co-founder and joint chief executive Karen Mattison.
Just 7% of jobs in the marketing industry are currently advertised as flexible positions; below the business sector as a whole in which 10% of roles are advertised as flexible.
Mattison explains that all too many companies still revert to a "response model" when it comes to flexible working; "They are giving flexibility as a concession to an individual employee rather than really necessitating the structural change. they need," she explains.
However, according to the data, one in four of the UK’s full-time workers would prefer to work part-time hours and would be willing to accept a drop in salary, if it did not affect their pay per hour or their career progression.
The flexibility gap
The research showed that workers are currently paying a heavy price for part-time working, which is linked to careers flatlining and 77% of part-time workers often feel "trapped" by their flexibility and see their careers stall at key points when they want to progress or move to a new role.
Mattison says the reason she launched the list was because in her own career she was always told there was a level you could get to with flexibility and then your career would flatline. This is certainly the experience of a number of women in adland who have returned to work after maternity leave and faced significant salary cuts without any material change in their responsibilities all the while feeling "like a secondary citizen because I had to leave early to pick up my child."
In the advertising industry the blame for this behaviour has traditionally been placed at the door of clients. However, Mattison argues that while many companies are using clients as a "conversation stopper", when it comes to flexible working questions must be asked as to whether anyone is actually talking to the clients about it. "Businesses are having to get their heads around flexible working and they will face real problems if they ignore the way in which people want to work."
Fearless flexible futures
Despite these challenges, the green shoots of different ways of working are sprouting up all around. The glacial pace of change at traditional agencies is sparking a new breed of companies such as The Fawnbrake Collective; a third space between home and work.
There are now an estimated 849,000 Britons who are working formally part-time in the higher income bracket (earning a minimum of £40,000 full-time equivalent). This represents an increase of 10% in the last year alone.
Mattison points to a range of factors driving this shift beyond simply mothers returning to work. "The drive for flexibility is across all age, gender and salary brackets, we have seen lots of changes in the workforce but not in the workplace."
She believes that companies need to think differently about how the treat people as they get older, as well as addressing how and when people are at their most creative.
The diversity dilemma
There is also a real link between the lack of flexibility in adland and its well-documented diversity problem.
Mattison says companies can gain a "competitive advantage" and become places where women want to work by "rewarding output and not focusing on how many hours you sit in the same chair for".
"In an industry that prizes creativity and innovation prioritising where people are sitting and for how long is surprising," she adds, pointing to the fact that employees will vote with their feet.
The command and control form of business is not a route to business success. As Mattison concludes: "Time is a finite commodity and if you don’t give enough of it employees will simply go to start-ups or technology companies where they get more autonomy."
Smart companies, like those listed below, are tackling this issue head on. Timewise hopes that the following profiles are not just a source for celebration and pride for the individuals listed, but the spark for new ways of working for those reading them.
The power part timers
Global category director: customer marketing, Diageo
Pattern worked: 4 days per week
Newnham heads up a customer marketing procurement team based across New York, London and Singapore, with responsibility for identifying opportunities, driving visibility and brilliant execution for Diageo brands.
Her role includes building category strategies which are executed globally, and driving productivity and change to fuel the growth of the business. In June 2017, she was part of the global marketing team who were awarded Team of the Year; she has also led her productivity colleagues to gain distinction at the Procurement Brilliance awards. Newnham returned to Diageo after maternity leave into her part-time role and has continued to develop her strengths and skills while working flexibly, as well as encouraging others in her team to do the same.
Managing director, Kantar TNS
Pattern worked: 3.5 days per week
Dixon is a member of the Kantar TNS UK board, representing the consumer, retail and leisure sector, as well as mother to two primary school-aged boys. As the managing director, she leads a team of 70 people; in her board role, she helps drive the strategic direction of the organisation and holds responsibility for the P&L. She also enjoys unlocking purpose, pride and passion in her colleagues and clients.
Throughout her career, Dixon has worked with global brands, providing them with insight to help drive growth within their business. Outside of her sector focus, she is a leading figure in Kantar’s inclusion and diversity strategy. She champions greater awareness of mental health issues at work and is a qualified business coach.
Managing partner, Mediacom
Pattern worked: 4 days per week
As managing partner, Marshall sits on MediaCom’s leadership team, helping shape the future of the agency as well as overseeing one of its biggest clients. She has played an instrumental part in MediaCom's "The Place To Grow", an initiative which aims to stimulate, grow and reward talented people within a supportive environment.
Returning to work part-time after having her daughter, Marshall won two pitches for important global clients, and led the team that secured the strategic planning for the "This Girl Can" campaign which won Gold at the MediaWeek awards. She has continued to work part-time after being promoted to managing partner, and is part of Shine, a WPP movement that helps women progress to senior levels within the advertising industry.
Editor-in-chief, Style magazine, and luxury content director, The Sunday Times, News UK
Pattern worked: 4 days per week
Candy's two roles at News UK centre on the development of the company’s luxury fashion and beauty presence. She is responsible for developing new ideas across both digital and print platforms, and creating new collaborations and partnerships within the luxury sector, all of which extend the awareness and influence of the Sunday Times brand. She has recently spearheaded a redesign of Style magazine and introduced StylePlay, a new video-only channel. Candy negotiated a part-time role when she joined News UK, having previously worked part-time at Elle UK to balance work and family life, as a mother of four. She also supports the paper’s partnership with The Female Lead, which promotes the mentoring of young women at work.
Associate director, UK & Ireland, Olay and head of shopper marketing, Northern Europe, Procter & Gamble
Pattern worked: 90% contract
Johnson’s work at P&G covers two distinct areas, both requiring high levels of strategic focus. As head of shopper,marketing, she works with retailers across Northern Europe to drive growth; additionally, her associate director role sees her masterminding commercial plans for the Olay brand across the UK and Ireland. After having their first child, Johnson and husband Paul, who also works at P&G, took advantage of the company’s flex@work programme. This has allowed them to share childcare by working a 90% work schedule, and ensured that her skills were retained and maximised within her new part-time arrangement. As well acting as a role model for other P&G employees wanting to excel within a flexible career, Johnson is an active voice on a local network for mums in business.
Dee Gosney and Samantha Bethune
Heads of content planning, HSBC
Pattern worked: 3 days per week each
Gosney and Bethune began job sharing in 2016 to balance their careers with family life. After a successful stint sharing the senior editor role, they were promoted to head of content planning in December 2017. Their new role sees them setting up and leading the bank's digital communications planning desk, defining the publishing and distribution strategies across HSBC’s global communications, functions and the business. In November 2017 they launched FLEX, a support network for flexible workers in HSBC UK, and have since been invited to feed into the business’ perspective on flexible working at a global level.
The power returners
Marketing director, Golin
Pattern worked: 4 days per week
Weston took a four-year career break when she was unable to find a role that would offer the right balance between her career and her young family. She subsequently took part in the Back2Businesship programme and secured a three-month paid returnship at Golin. Now the agency’s marketing director, she works closely with the board-level team to manage the brand and drive new business. She is responsible for promoting Golin’s work, values and successes through marketing and communications, including campaigns, research, content and events. Among her career highlights to date are launching a scheme to help interns with London’s housing costs, securing prestigious awards for two years in a row and partnering with the Women & Equalities Committee to run a gender pay gap event.
The power founders
Founder and chief executive, f1 recruitment
Pattern worked: 5 days per week, flexibly
Fone set up f1 Recruitment in 2004, with the principle of flexible working in mind. A mother to two young sons, with 22 years’ experience in recruitment, she felt strongly that three days was the most she could spend in the office if she was to balance her home and work commitments, and designed her business on that basis. Fone's original staff team were all parents who needed to work flexibly, at a time when this was relatively rare, and she still offers flexible working to any employee who wants it. She also champions flexible working for her candidates, successfully persuading clients to incorporate flexible options into their vacancies. Fone co-founded the Back2Businesship returner programme, which has supported more than 100 returners since 2013.