Wacl calls on industry to close 'leadership gap' for women

Women are hired into half of all positions in marketing, media and communications but make up just 36% of leadership posts.

Glucklich: 'Having a benchmark of where we are was critical'
Glucklich: 'Having a benchmark of where we are was critical'

Wacl has unveiled new research, in partnership with LinkedIn, about the lack of gender equality in leadership roles in marketing, along with a plan to tackle this problem.

A "leadership gap" was identified by LinkedIn research, which showed that half of people employed in the UK marketing, media and communications industry are female. However, there is significantly lower female representation in leadership positions (director level and above), with only 36% of women holding these roles. This equates to a 14 percentage point "leadership gap".

By sector, the leadership gap is worst in publishing, with a 14.3 percentage point gap. The smallest gap is in PR and communications, with a 6.4 percentage point gap.

Pippa Glucklich, president of Wacl and UK chief executive of Amplifi, pointed out the study is the first of its kind that looks at all sectors across the communications and marketing industry. She explained: "At Wacl, our purpose is to accelerate gender equality in this industry, and having a benchmark of where we are and how far we have to go was critical in our mission. Unsurprisingly, women do not have equal leadership status in many of the sectors that make up our industry."

A springboard for change

Wacl hopes that the research will provide a springboard for change across the entire marketing, media and communication landscape. Syl Saller, chief marketing and innovation officer at Diageo, said: "Today, we are calling on the marketing, media and communications industries to invest in female talent and close the leadership gap. The evidence is clear – diverse teams produce more creative work and diverse businesses perform better. It’s time for everyone to work together to create more gender-equal workplaces – because when we do, all boats rise."

The power of diversity to drive a business forward was also underlined by Lisa Thomas, vice-president of Wacl and chief brand officer at the Virgin group. She said the report is not just about closing the gender gap, but a fundamental shift in attitudes for the future. She said: "It’s unacceptable that gender inequality continues to exist in marketing and communications. Too few women get to the top and we can do much more to promote equality across the board. I would urge leaders across the sector to support the Wacl commitments and bring about systemic change. We need to ensure our creative output, and our internal culture, mirrors the diverse world we live in.

Hiring bias

The research revealed that, over the past decade, the percentage of women hired into the sector increased by 10%, while the percentage of female leadership hires grew by 19%, suggesting that the industry is making incremental progress in closing the leadership gap. (The research defined leadership positions as LinkedIn members who have job titles including vice-president, CXO, owner or partner.)

Josh Graff, UK country manager and vice-president, EMEA, at LinkedIn, said: "It’s no secret that diverse businesses grow, innovate and outperform the competitors and by ignoring inequality, companies could be setting themselves up for failure. The insights in this report reveal the scale of the issue, as well as the fact that more needs to be done across the sector."

A path to progress

In a bid to empower businesses to speed up progress, Wacl has put together a best-practice guide to help companies achieve gender parity. Recommendations include signing up to the TimeTo code of conduct to eliminate sexual harrassment in the workplace, undertaking annual diversity and inclusion surveys and publishing the results, and establishing equal-pay practices and tracking their progress. Other suggestions include establishing a "transparent and fair career ladder" through steps such us ensuring flexible working for all.

Wacl has also highlighted Sky as a case study of an organisation committed to putting necessary changes in place to achieve a 50/50 balanced leadership team by 2020. These include 50/50 gender-split shortlists for all leadership positions and supporting women already working at Sky with its Women into Leadership programme.

In addition, Sky is tackling the male dominance of STEM careers with a dedicated Tech Scholars initiative, which offers three young women £25,000 in funding and mentoring to develop their own technology project and partnering the Women Returners professional network to hire five women for a six-month paid returner programme.

The company has also led cultural shifts, such as considering flexible working for all of its roles.

Wacl's recommendations in full

After analysing why some companies are further ahead than others in their quest for equality, Wacl identified some practical tips that all our members could adopt in their workplaces.

1 Get your house in order

  • Establish who is accountable for gender diversity and inclusion at a senior level and ensure it is part of their objectives

  • Undertake a diversity and inclusion survey across the organisation annually and publish the results

  • Set clear, transparent goals: measure the gender split annually (minimum)

  • Establish equal-pay practices and track progress against this (publish results)

2 A transparent and fair career ladder

  • Establish a future leaders and returners programme to nurture talent

  • Commit to structured mentoring/sponsorship so employees reach their maximum potential

  • Improve workplace flexibility for men and women, and encourage the uptake of shared parental leave (outline uptake)

  • Publish promotion criteria and data (and rationales) and encourage salary negotiation – for example, by showing salary ranges

3 Bring in the right talent  

  • Use structured interviews for recruitment (and promotions) and ensure gender-balanced interview panels

  • Create 50/50 gender-balanced recruitment longlists and demand multiple women in shortlists for recruitment (and promotions) – no all-male lists or use of a "token" female 

  • Only work with recruiters that follow and publish clear guidelines for equality and diversity

4 Don’t discriminate

  • Sign up to the TimeTo code of conduct

  • Include the Equality Act 2010 legislation on sexual harassment as an integral part of the Employee handbook and employee contracts

  • Hire managers, HR and recruitment personnel to undertake unconscious bias training from external providers, such as Creative Equals and Stonewall. LinkedIn Learning’s Unconscious Bias Learning course will be available for free between 30 October and 31 December.

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