Models that worked years ago are not the success stories of today

The advertising industry in this region has plenty to shout about when it comes to gender diversity. We recently interviewed a number of female executives for our annual Women in Advertising issue and there were lots of positive comments about the progress being made.

But no-one will deny there is a lot more work to do in leveling the playing field. We will be publishing these interviews online at Campaign Middle East and in our September issue.

Rebecca Amey, Managing Director, Jack Morton MENAT

Do you think the industry has become more inclusive?

In certain areas, the industry has become more inclusive, and in other areas, there’s more work to be done. For example, the relationship between agency and client has become more inclusive with gender-equal engagement opportunities and open discussions around inclusivity on teams.

Senior female involvement and interaction at the C-Suite level are accepted and encouraged, and no longer require a senior-level agency male to also be present.

Meanwhile, on the agency-to-agency side, it feels like there’s a noticeable difference in inclusivity where female creative, business strategy and general input aren’t always so openly welcomed. From an agency holding company perspective, the landscape is definitely changing, but more real action is required to improve diverse and inclusive representation at the senior level.

To increase representation for all DEI groups (not just women), there has to be more effort to build collective accountability, drive employee advocacy and more mutual respect. Our industry has the power to engage people across the region and around the world.

We have a responsibility to create a safe environment where inclusivity is genuinely offered, and everyone can bring their authentic selves to work, express their opinions and have an equal opportunity to achieve their career ambitions.

What has been your high and low point as a woman in advertising?

High: Leading the Middle East region for Jack Morton, a global brand experience agency. Through an entrepreneurial approach, my team and I managed to grow the business and create unique, bold and innovative experiences across the region.

Top highlights so far include launching the Louvre Abu Dhabi, being adidas’ lead brand activation agency for the FIFA World Cup sponsorship activations; being the strategic and brand experience partner for ENOC, Siemens and Talabat at Expo 2020 Dubai; and leading strategic programming for the KSA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. I’m extremely proud of my team and myself for these extraordinary achievements.

Low: Having to often fight for career and growth opportunities in the industry. Which in turn has made me even more resilient, determined to succeed and ensure that others, both female and male, have my full support and are championed.

What advice would you give to women starting out in the industry?

Go after what you want, and don’t question yourself or your ability. Be curious and raise your hand to take on projects and activities that will challenge you; feeling a bit uncomfortable is a good thing. Seek out mentors for advice, guidance or to just open doors.

If an experience or interaction doesn’t feel right, speak up and raise it, don’t brush it under the carpet. A male colleague once said to me that I always have a superhero cape, and call out or fix disrespectful behaviour, an unjust situation or unfair representation when I see it.

As a classic female reaction, at the time, I took it as a criticism. But then upon self-reflection of why I felt that way, I realised I’m okay with that description as I understand the root trigger originates from my own career experience.

I will always stand up for someone, male or female, or a situation if I believe it is wrong or misrepresented, as I wasn’t always fortunate to have someone do the same for me during my career.

“Be curious and raise your hand to take on projects and activities that will challenge you. Feeling a bit uncomfortable is a good thing”

What message would you like to give men in advertising?

I don’t want to group all men under one blanket message. 95 per cent of men in our industry are great partners and collaborators. For the 5 per cent who still undermine women’s input, take the glory for our achievements or withhold information to retain control, I would try to understand their behaviour through their character make-up and psychology.

I would say to them; to be a better role model, play nicer, collaborate even when there’s minimal in it for you and be generous with sharing information. This will lead to a far more rewarding experience for all.

What more can be done to support the growth of women in the industry?

Audit and review existing senior leadership structures to see if they are still relevant and fit for the purpose and structure of today’s business. The models that worked 5 or 10 years ago are not the success stories of today.

More mentoring programmes and opportunities for women with women and men. Keep talking with women in the industry to see what’s working, what’s had a relapse and needs a reboot, and where there are still challenges.

Create action plans, don’t just talk about it, do it, prioritise it. Otherwise, those women will find another agency or brand, that will value them and support them to achieve their ambitions.