Wacl Future Leaders: You are your biggest investment

This year's Wacl Future Leaders are sending the industry a clear and simple message: that the skillsets women need in order to move up in their careers lie firmly in personal development and self-belief, Jackie Stevenson writes.

Wacl Future Leaders: You are your biggest investment

The Wacl Future Leaders Award is a programme started by Tess Alps in 2005 while she was Wacl’s president, providing women across our industry with financial awards to spend on training that will equip them to make the journey to the boardroom. We believe that, as members of Wacl, we should be helping fellow women get to senior-level positions – by sharing learning and skills we have gathered on our own journeys and by supporting and nurturing future talent. 

As Nina Jasinski, chief marketing officer at Ogilvy & Mather Group UK and current Future Leaders chair, said when we embarked on finding the class of 2017: "You can’t be what you can’t see." And with diversity still our industry’s number one priority, helping future female leaders make that leap is essential for everyone’s future. 

A whopping 65% chose a course they felt would help them build their confidence – confidence to lead a team, to communicate in effectively, to build self-belief

The great news is there’s a huge amount of serious female talent in our industry. With just under 200 entries across every discipline and role, it was the largest and most diverse set of applications we have ever received. The calibre was also incredible. So many women not only spend time on their careers but learn from third- sector and charity projects that they contribute to or even started up. 

But the real insight came with the courses they chose, painting an interesting picture of the skills our future female leaders feel they need to help them move on and up in the workplace.

A whopping 65% chose a course they felt would help them build their confidence – confidence to lead a team, to communicate in effectively, to build self-belief. In addition, 49% wanted to learn more about leadership and the skills needed to become part of management or a board member – formulating leadership styles, understanding the psychology of teams and decoding boardroom language. 

What was loud and clear from these results? That even our industry’s most forward-thinking women feel they need help to build confidence and support to develop the behaviours of a "leader". They had identified a truth we’re only just beginning to get to grips with: many women believe working hard and being good at your job is what you need to get on when, in reality, that’s only half the battle. 

Kathryn Jacob, former Wacl president and co-author of The Glass Wall, often talks about women holding themselves back and their belief that they have to be 100% perfect at their current role before taking the next step. She says: "Women can fall into a belief that being quietly excellent in your current role is enough. They express a reluctance to push themselves forward and to seek the spotlight. Sadly, many find out too late this strategy tends to get you nowhere."

So our current Future Leaders are sending us all a message and it’s a simple one. That the skillsets you need if you really want to move on sit firmly in personal development and self-belief. That being confident is a good thing. That it’s important to learn early the broader skills of being a great leader. That being curious beyond your remit will be applauded and exploring areas beyond your own discipline that make a company tick is essential. 

The winners of this year’s Patricia Mann Award – the overall prize, named after a former Wacl president – are a great testament to the different types of leader you can be. Developing your own style is crucial – there is no "one size fits all" and all the old leadership clichés are just that: clichés. (And we all need to learn to code if we’re to be relevant in the future!)

We are hugely proud that we have helped this incredibly talented group of women take a huge step forward and are delighted to share the courses they have chosen to inspire more women to be ambitious, look broader and believe in themselves.

However, we’re keen to go further and continue to work inside the industry to help tackle issues head-on. We need more schemes such as Charlotte Beers’ inspired X Factor programme at WPP and Dentsu Aegis Network’s One initiative, pioneered and supported by our own Waclers Annette King and Tracy De Groose.

In the words of Maya Angelou: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass." To all our ass-kicking Future Leaders winners and applicants, we salute you. And to all the fabulous women in our industry, whatever your age or stage in your career, grab your destiny by the scruff of the neck and make personal development as much of a priority as professional development. 

Jackie Stevenson is a founding partner of The Brooklyn Brothers. She is a member of Wacl and its Future Leaders Committee.

Award winners


Tara Austin

Planning director, Ogilvy & Mather

Lateral Thinking, The Holst Group

Emma Callaghan

Group account director,
Trinity Mirror Solutions

Executive Presence for Women,

Rada in Business

Rachel ClutterbucK

Event manager,
J Walter Thompson London

Stage Management Skills,

Guildhall School of Music & Drama

*Priya Datta

Account director, iProspect

Communicate with Impact,

Business Design Centre

Jenny DouglasS

Operations manager, Primesight

Business Psychology MSc,

University of East London

Philippa Dunjay

Senior planner, Karmarama

Personal Impact in Meetings,

Rada in Business

Vikki Hutton

Video production editor,

Leadership Advantage Series, Advantage Business Partnerships

Kate Ivory

Strategy director, Carat

DesignThinkers Bootcamp, DesignThinkers Academy

Frith Janes

Strategist, Arena Media

Code First: Professionals Women,

Code First: Girls

Sonia Karia

Board director, Iris

Mini MBA Executive
Development Programme,

London School of Business
& Finance

Juliet Kent

Creative, Now

TV Presenting, City Lit

Sara McCraight

Head of marketing, Street League

Mini MBA, Marketing Week

Sarah Mead

Business director, sales, JCDecaux

Women for the Board,

Westminster Business School

Anne MØgelvang

Associate director, global strategy, MediaCom

Rising Women Leaders,

University of Cambridge

Lucy Moody

Planner, J Walter Thompson

Mini MBA, Birkbeck,

University of London

Jennifer Morris

Strategic communications planner, Google

Mini MBA, Management
Centre Europe

Jox Petiza

Worldwide associate director,

content strategy, MediaCom

Designing Strategy for

Competitive Advantage,

The London School of Economics

and Political Science

Alison Quinn

Project manager, Yahoo

Executive Presence for Women,

Rada in Business

Fiona Ravlic

Head of sales, 8 Outdoor

Rising Women Leaders,

University of Cambridge

Nicola Shepherd

Head of media, Barclays

Executive Presence for Women,

Rada in Business

Lois Shimmen

Marketing manager, Giffgaff

Strategic Decision Making for Leaders, 

Cass Business School

*Geri Tuneva

Head of marketing, Qubit

Code_in a Day, Decoded

Sam Vine

Account director, Now

Stage Fright, Rada in Business

Patricia Mann

Award winners

Spotlight on the winners

Rachel Clutterbuck

Event manager
J Walter Thompson London

Rachel is truly outstanding with a personality that embraces challenge with persistence. Currently at J Walter Thompson’s experiential arm Live, her specialist knowledge brings creative ideas to life in engaging ways to give brands tangible personalities.

Rachel selected the Stage Management Skills course, which focuses on communication and co-ordination, bringing together all production and creative departments during theatre and live events. She is a new breed of super-producer, capable across TV, print and digital, and now brings her skills to bear on experiential. 

What struck us was the two different yet similar strands to Rachel’s capa-bilities and ambitions. Aside from her demanding day job, she is an advanced search advisor and troop commander in the army. A completely different workplace and environment – yet interrogating information and deploying defence assets is not too far removed from deciphering a creative proposal or deciding on a production strategy. What both roles have in common is male dominance at a senior level. 

Rachel is working hard to empower women to help their voices be heard at the same level as their (often loudly spoken) male colleagues. She also achieved the Queen’s Commission while at Sandhurst (from a platoon of 31, only two were women), where she was ranked in the top section of all commissioning officers on that course. Rachel is an engaging talent with a huge future.

Priya Datta

Account director

A driving force for change, Priya seeks opportunities to shape her company and, alongside her team, is excited to bring out the best in people while promoting diversity. 

Priya chose the Communicate with Impact course, which helps attendees create personal impact by exploring effective interpersonal communication, presenting and relationship-building. This is especially relevant to an introvert – as Priya describes herself. Recognising the rising number of introverts in the industry, Priya wants to be in a leadership position so she can act as a role model for, and help harness the potential of, these individuals. 

She is also involved in a number of corporate social responsibility initiatives including Common Ground, which brings together the world’s six biggest marketing groups to tackle United Nations sustainable development goals – health is the area Priya contributes to. She also works weekly with Childline to provide counselling for young people – by giving everyone the best start possible in life, Priya believes, they will help create a better society for tomorrow. 

A forward-thinking, caring individual who has proactively sought to work on herself to achieve success.

Sarah Mead

Business director, sales

We were surprised and delighted to have our first 52-year-old apply for the Future Leaders Award. 

Starting her career in outdoor in 1985, Sarah later left London for the Midlands, where she had a 20-year break raising her three girls. In 2013, she came back to work in a very different industry. As Sarah says: "In my head, I’m in my thirties professionally, but the world had moved on." She found a role at JCDecaux and, in 2015, was appointed to a new "people team" responsible for enriching the work experience and developing a healthy work/life balance – a pioneering move for JCDecaux. 

We were impressed by Sarah’s tenacity, her intelligence and her belief that nothing was going to stop her from achieving her career and life goals. Sarah chose the Women for the Board course – a comprehensive pro-- gramme teaching tangible skills such as understanding finances and boardroom language, as well as initiatives and challenges other organisations have experienced. She feels the course will increase her confidence, allow her to add value at a senior level and offer the expertise she needs to attract and nurture talented people irrespective of gender, ethnicity and background. Sarah is an incredible role model.

Geri Tuneva

Head of marketing

Geri impressed us with the clarity and positivity with which she is mapping out her future. She chose the Code_in a Day course – the essential intro-duction to web technologies and the culture of innovation they enable.

With an ambition to become a chief marketing officer and leader in the tech industry, Geri wants to drive positive disruption and innovation to help brands get closer to customers through technology. As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, knowing the basics of coding will become a necessary requirement of CMOs, and these skills will make Geri more versatile and provide a pathway to the role she wants to achieve. 

A driven and disciplined individual, Geri became the Danish national figure-skating champion at the age of 13. This took hard work and dedicated training, but she believes that sport also teaches tenacity, self-control and discipline – qualities that have helped her in later life. Geri has lived in four countries, speaks three languages and thinks experiencing different cultures enhances the ability to understand people from every walk of life. 

She is intent on opening up more networks and creating opportunities for women to connect with senior leaders, providing equal access to assignments and broadening promotion criteria so that leadership is no longer characterised by an archetypal aggressive management style. Geri is a terrific talent and an exciting future awaits her.