To mark International Women’s Day, AdForum is gathering opinions from women working in advertising and marketing communications. They asked women from a range of job roles both agency- and client-side, for their view of the state of the industry.
Stronger Together: Heather Gupta, MullenLowe Lintas Group
“There are thankfully now more women in leadership positions (although this is work in progress), and leadership styles as a result are becoming more balanced.”
How would you describe the overall culture at your agency?
The culture at MullenLowe Lintas Group stems from our values of integrity, creativity and agility and from our long history of creating employee-oriented solutions and a safe and supportive working environment for all. It is often described as being “like a family”, where people come together to support each other.
In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?
There have been significant changes since the days when the advertising industry was largely male dominated, and women were relegated to support roles. There are thankfully now more women in leadership positions (although this is work in progress), and leadership styles as a result are becoming more balanced.
Do you think that women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they?
Unfortunately women still face many challenges in our industry. This has always been a “work hard, play hard” culture which often means that work goes on late into the night. This can pose huge challenges for many women, particularly those trying to juggle the demands of family life. New mothers struggle in particular – and while MullenLowe Lintas Group takes great care to support women returning to the workplace, it can still be very difficult for them. We ensure that women returning after having a child are not disadvantaged in any way, whether on role, compensation, or any other element. We also provide a private room for new mothers to express milk if required, with a fridge to keep it cool.
Another issue is one of confidence – many women, even senior women struggle with confidence issues and the so called “imposter syndrome”, where they can feel inadequate and question their ability. Coaching and support for women, particularly as they rise through the ranks, can help here.
How should we tackle an issue such equal opportunity?
There are many ways that we can help to tackle this, including ensuring that we have a good mix of male and female candidates for roles, working hard to support our women when they need it, and coaching all of our employees to help create a safe and supportive environment for all. MullenLowe Lintas Group has an initiative for our women employees called “Stronger Together”, where we bring women from the across the organisation together to support and mentor each other, and collectively raise issues which we feel need attention.
How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry and what professional achievement are you most proud of?
I always wanted to work in advertising, and worked very hard to land a graduate trainee job in London, initially (I am from the UK). The industry was extremely competitive and I had to work hard and learn very fast. I am most proud of my transition into HR from account management – I spent a decade managing clients all over the world before switching into an HR Head role, and picking up a whole new career literally overnight. I made this work thanks to the faith that others placed in me, and my own passion for people and transforming their lives for good.
Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?
One of my biggest inspirations is Sue Knight, who has been one of the world’s most influential NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) coaches and trainers for several decades. Despite being at an age where many women would be “written off” and expected to fade into the background, she is brimming with energy and travels the world helping people on their journeys of self-discovery and self-awareness.
I am also inspired by Patty McCord, the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix who created the company’s famous culture deck, and ensured that a strong set of values and a thoroughly empowering approach to leadership was embedded into the company, helping make it the success story it is today.
Finally, I am inspired by Michelle Obama, who created her own quiet yet confident brand of leadership, while supporting her husband and family, and encouraging millions of young women, particularly those of colour, the world over.
Heather Gupta, Group HR Director, MullenLowe Lintas Group
This article was originally published on AdForum