How to get more women in the C-suite, according to IPG, Unilever, and AOL

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From left to right: Janet Balis, leader of Ernst & Young's strategy/customer consulting practice for the media and entertainment industry, leads a discussion on gender parity with Rob Master, global VP of media, categories, and partnerships at Unilever; Allie Kline, CMO of AOL; Nadine Karp McHugh, L'Oreal's SVP of omnimedia, strategic investments, and creative solutions; and Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of Interpublic.

When Lynn Branigan, president and CEO of She Runs It, formerly called Advertising Women of New York, looks at statistics about the number of women in advertising who make it to the C-suite, the numbers don't add up.

Women comprise only 25% of executive leadership roles in the media and marketing industry even though 41% of the employees in the early stages of their careers are women.

“The numbers are sobering and they're going in the wrong direction,” Branigan said Monday at Advertising Week in New York where she unveiled the results of a global survey comparing men and women's career journeys in the media and marketing industry.

The study analyzed the LinkedIn profiles of 3.7 million individuals from 4,000 companies in the media and marketing sector.

It found that women had low representation in leadership roles, with a significant drop-off at the non-executive level, yet performance was not the issue. The lag had to do with personal branding, building connections, and balancing performance with influence.

This issue, while prevalent across the industry, is also one that healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers and agencies are grappling with.

“I think it does take a community of sorts to really drive this issue,” said Rob Master, global VP of media, categories, and partnerships at Unilever. “I think it's important to bring the men's perspective in. We play a large role in making it happen.”

Here are three key findings and what executives from Interpublic, Unilever, AOL, and L'Oreal have to say about them.

Source: EY & LinkedIn

FEWER WOMEN MAKE IT TO THE C-SUITE

The report found that in the early stages of their careers, 41% of marketing and media employees are women, yet women comprise only 25% of executive leadership roles in the industry. The only exception was in public relations, where 46% of C-suite leaders are women.

There were some differences within the sub-sectors, noted Branigan during the session. In more established sectors, such as media and creative agencies, publishing, and PR, women represent 50% or more of early-stage roles, while they represent only up to 40% in ad tech, digital pure play, and broadcast and cable networks jobs. Reaching the C-suite continues to be the biggest barrier for women across all sectors, particularly in media and creative agencies.

“The most significant drop-off point — I was very surprised by this — actually happens when leaders get to that non-executive leadership area,” said Branigan. “Think of that as the VP level. So this means they're either stalled or they're exiting our industry after having accomplished quite a lot.”

Nadine Karp McHugh, L'Oreal's SVP of omnimedia, strategic investments, and creative solutions, said the reason for the drop-off at the middle-management level may be because women are choosing alternate paths as they reach the stage in their lives where they must decide whether to have children or not.

“All of a sudden, you're redefined instantly — you're a mother now, but you still take your career very seriously, and you want other people to take you seriously, and you also have this beautiful human being that you're responsible for,” said Karp McHugh. “It's tough, and I've heard this from other women that I've mentored throughout the years.”

Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group, which owns healthcare agencies like FCB Health and McCann Health, added that the issue may not just be about women exiting at the non-executive level but may also have to do with the fact that there are not enough women entering the industry.

“When I first came into IPG from the board of directors, and I met our agencies, I looked at the audience, and frankly they were all white males,” said Roth. “We're in the communications business, and our clients expect us to represent the consumer, so communicating to white males just won't cut it.”

Roth eventually concluded that the company needed to hold its business leaders accountable with standards and goals and also develop tools to encourage recruitment and career development. Fifty-four percent of the company's managers are now female, a 16% increase since Interpublic launched its diversity and inclusion program in 2005.

“It's the right thing to do for a number of reasons,” said Master. “It also happens to be very good for business. At Unilever, our core consumers are women, so it makes sense that your leaders represent the consumer.”

Master said that 49% of Unilever's managers are women, and the company seeks to address gender parity by setting up infrastructure that offers benefits such as 16-week paid maternity leave, paternity leave, and backup childcare.

Source: EY & LinkedIn

WOMEN NEED TO WORK ON THEIR PERSONAL BRANDS

According to LinkedIn professional branding scores, which measure how well people use the social media platform to create connections, publish content, and endorse each other, the average score for VPs across all Fortune 1000 companies is 9 out of 10.

The report compared men and women's scores, and found that once women were promoted to leadership roles their scores exceeded men's. But they lagged behind in all other stages leading up to those jobs. Women also had 15% fewer LinkedIn connections than men in both the leadership and mid-career stages.

“The reliance on performance is something we see a lot of women doing instead of necessarily balancing and combining the performance with influence,” said Allie Kline, CMO of AOL. “So we spend a lot of time talking about slowing down. Performance is amazing, but you have to be very aware of your behavior in addition to that performance.”

Men tend to pitch a professional promotion before they are ready, while women wait until they are over-ready, added Karp.

“I think it's an innate thing they have to get over,” said Karp. “So these communities, the networking, helping to boost each other up, definitely helps.”

It's a challenge for older executives who didn't grow up with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, assured Master.

“For many of us who are Gen-Xers, you lived two separate lives,” said Master. “There was weekend Rob, and there was work Rob, and they shall not meet. I remember 20-plus years ago, going to a work-related picnic, and seeing senior management wearing shorts and t-shirts, and it was like weird. And today, you go on Facebook and you see senior management in bathing suits.”

Master said that personal branding is easier for millennials, who grew up with social media outlets.

Source: EY & LinkedIn

WOMEN NEED TO ENDORSE EACH OTHER MORE

The report found that about 70% of all professional endorsements on LinkedIn came from men, and that men tend to endorse other men at higher rates than women.

“So we're simply not endorsing others and enriching their network,” said Branigan. “So we're not bringing those skill sets to life on our social channels.”

“I don't know the answer, but I do know that women need to get better at endorsing each other, and taking the time to network, and really build each other up, because I've heard some things from young and more mature women about how there are still these myths about women not being the better kind of boss,” said Kline. “It's about the people you connect with and how you help each other. Men get that, quite frankly.”

Roth added the importance of a sponsor, who is responsible for managing an individual's career and making sure they are recognized, compared to a mentor, who is “someone you go to complain to,” is valuable. He said that this can lead to talent reviews that focus on career development, which also encourages retention.

And being able to retain an employee also benefits a business economically, because it costs more to hire a new employee than to keep a high performer, pointed out Kline.

“When we evaluate high performers, we believe that we underestimate their even higher potential by as much as 50%,” said Kline.

Also at Advertising Week, the 3% Movement, a leadership group for women in advertising, released the results of its study of creative women who work in advertising, after it surveyed 600 women in the industry. The survey found that 54% of these women had experienced unwanted sexual advance during the course of their career and 58% have been excluded from important business meetings. 

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