Women: how can we manage what we can’t measure?
By Cilla Snowball
I’ve always subscribed to the Madeleine Albright principle that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.
On a personal level, helping others is a decent way to return the support and inspiration I’ve received from countless women in the business. But I also know it’s good business to do so. Developing the female talent pipeline is a matter of commercial imperative.
Just over a year ago, I was asked to sit on the Women’s Business Council — an independent, one-year working group advising Government and business on how to maximise women’s contribution to economic growth. I joined a team of male and female leaders from the recruitment, enterprise, retail, legal and pharmaceutical sectors, supported by the Government Equalities Office at DCMS.
Our report showed there’s an overwhelming business case for fulfilling women’s economic potential — up to 10% growth in UK GDP by 2030 if we equalise men and women’s participation at work. And up to a million more female entrepreneurs.
Our report articulated, yet again, that businesses with balanced boards and senior management teams deliver better results, better talent management, better customer interface and better business culture.
It showed that Government and business need to remove barriers for women at all stages, in classrooms as well as boardrooms, forging better links between schools and business on subject and career choices and work experience. We ignore the youth squad at our peril, especially aspiring entrepreneurs.
It showed that working parents, especially returning mums, need support and flexibility, affordable childcare and effective talent management.
That older women offer great untapped business potential.
That mentoring and role models can make an impact at every level, raising confidence, ambition, skills and opportunity.
So what can we do about all this in the ad industry?
The IPA 2012 Census shows women are doing well at industry level, which is 49% female, but less well at management level, where only 21.5% of agencies are led by women.
This looks promising by comparison with the 2011 census figure of 13.5%, and brilliant by comparison with the FTSE 100 where there are only three female chief executives. But it’s not enough.
In future, let’s measure the proportion of women on agency boards and in agency management teams in the census; not just chairs, chief executives and managing directors as we currently do. This will expose the industry laggards and the pioneers, giving us a framework for action to develop the pipeline. We can’t manage what we can’t measure.
Let’s continue to expand and encourage the wonderful work the IPA have initiated with Women of the Future, and the excellent WACL and Gather programmes, which so consistently inspire and motivate women coming up through the business with leadership and mentoring advice, as well as providing ace role models.
We can be much more systematic about managing work experience. We can get into schools and universities to talk about our industry. We do it to recruit, but we must also do it to inspire. Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools programme is a brilliant start. So is Robin Wight’s Ideas Foundation and the IPA apprenticeship programme.
Let’s also take a hard look at the demographics of the ad industry at the other end of the age spectrum. We’re a young business with an average age of 34. A massive 45% of the UK population is over 50 but only a tiny 6% of the ad industry population is over 50. So we have a double challenge to address, if we’re to avoid looking sexist as well as ageist in our industry profile going forward.
I’m lucky to work in a company where gender is no obstacle, where I’ve been supported and encouraged throughout my career, where diversity is celebrated and where men and women are actively and equally developed.
We have the results, the work, the culture, the management team and the talent pipeline to prove it. I know it’s not the same everywhere in our industry. The Women’s Business Council reckons it’s a pretty good time for us all to act. And better that than, according to Madeleine Albright, face the prospect of hell.
Cilla Snowball is Group Chairman and Group CEO at AMV BBDO and a member of the Women’s Business Council.
Read the full report at womensbusinesscouncil.dcms.gov.uk