HeForShe: one of a number of movements rising in prominence that encourage men to speak up
HeForShe: one of a number of movements rising in prominence that encourage men to speak up
A view from Paul Frampton

Wanted: manbassadors to join the diversity fight

Agency bosses, especially those who are men, must also focus on inclusion, equality and well-being, Paul Frampton writes.

As a white, male agency chief, it can be difficult to say the "right" thing when it comes to diversity. I think that is why many remain silent.

But with a brighter spotlight being shone on diversity, I am determined to join the handful of male leaders who break their silence. 

It’s about time more men stepped up and pushed the diversity agenda. In a world where men dominate the top of agencies and brands, this is the only way to force conversation and demonstrate meaningful action. 

The legacy culture in agencies has been "laddish", "old boys’ club" and non-inclusive. Media agencies have celebrated and even encouraged female talent to behave in a ladette fashion. 

I believe more men are feeling uncomfortable about this culture – but it takes bravery to call out male "banter". 

So how do we encourage more men to speak up in favour of women? Two movements that I am in favour of, both of which have significant traction on Twitter, are HeForShe (from the United Nations) and Manbassadors.

With the rich creative and planning minds in our world, we should be campaigning for a Manbassadors-type movement in the UK ad industry. 

But the challenge is not just about gender or diversity; it’s about inclusion, equality and well-being. The recent IPA/Campaign study revealed that those from a black, Asian and minority-ethnic background account for 14.5 per cent of media agency staff but just 6.2 per cent at management level and 2.9 per cent at chief executive or chairman level. A Marketing Agencies Association survey last year found that only a third of LGBT staff felt comfortable being themselves at work. These statistics are more shocking than those around gender.

As the Direct Line boss, Paul Geddes, said at a recent Oystercatchers event, today’s employees deserve to feel able to "bring their whole selves to work". For agencies, this is essential for the future.

Not only is a diversity strategy the "right" thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.

McKinsey & Company data shows that gender-diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely, and ethnically diverse companies 35 per cent more likely, to outperform those that lack diversity.

I can and must do more. Within Havas, we conducted a survey to understand which elements of diversity were most important to our talent; surprisingly, the most important to the majority was mental health. Agencies are stressful and exhausting places, so we must create environments where parents can attend their children’s assembly, remote working is accepted and counselling can be given to those who need it. 

But it’s just as important that change is driven from the ground up. Havas has just launched Fusion, an employee-led initiative aiming to ensure that we’re a diverse, inclusive and supportive place to work. It’s a step in the right direction but we are only 1 per cent started on this journey.

It is imperative that agency leaders properly consider the breadth of change needed to create better work/life integration, with an emphasis on staff’s well-being. 

As with so much in this industry, we need less talking and more doing. If we want to accelerate advances in diversity, we need more men to stand up and be counted.

I thought twice about writing this piece, but that would have been burying my head in the sand. I hope it inspires others (yes, in particular, men) to speak out or at least consider how they could do more.

Paul Frampton is the chief executive of Havas Media UK and the group managing director at Havas Media Group UK