Women in advertising: Support your female partners

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.

Lama Al Khawaja, Business Unit Director, Havas Middle East

Do you think the industry has become more inclusive?

We’ve come a long way since I first joined the industry; 15 years ago, most CEOs in our industry were male. Today, 3 of the big 5 agencies are run by female CEOs, which is incredibly reassuring and inspiring for young women.

For young females entering the industry, that in itself, sets them on a different path; knowing that just as any male in the industry, there is every opportunity for them to one day fill the same shoes of these female leaders.

There’s certainly greater appreciation around the need for diversity and the value that different ideas bring to the table. There’s been an increased emphasis on growing the representation of women in leadership roles, nevertheless it’s an ongoing journey.

While there has been tremendous progress, there is still underrepresentation in some disciplines and areas, but the industry’s commitment to change is evident.

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

As a female leader in advertising, one of my highs has been being part of that change. Being one of few women in leadership 10 years ago and seeing, as well as working with, an increasing number of talented female leaders hasbeen empowering, not to mention having an inspirational female leader at Havas.

Having collaborated with many talented women across media, creative and PR, I’ve witnessed the positive impact of the diverse perspectives that women have contributed to some award-winning and outstanding campaigns we’ve delivered to brands.

My lowest point was returning from maternity and readjusting to thedemands of work, along with the additional responsibilities I had at home. Finding a balance between parenthood and work is an ongoing challenge; managing my home, my children and their schedules, supporting with school and schoolwork. It not only takes two, it indeed takes a village.

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

Believe in yourself, your abilities and your skills. Don’t doubt yourselves and don’t hesitate. One trait I consistently see in many men is confidence. If more women showed the same undoubted confidence, we would have more female leaders today.

The best investment you can make is in yourself. One of my favourite quotes is by Benjamin Franklin and forever holds true: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” So, continuously invest in yourself, your skills and your knowledge. It’s priceless.

“Having collaborated with many talented women, I’ve witnessed the positive impact of the diverse perspectives”

What message would you like to give men in advertising?

To the male partners of females in every industry, I’d say: support your female partners. The change starts with you. By taking on more responsibility in your homes, you create room for your partners’ growth and contribute to equal opportunity.

And to male colleagues in the industry: actively support and elevate your female colleagues. Be an ally to them. Encourage them to share their ideas, give credit to their contributions and continuously encourage a fair workplace.

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

It’s important that companies invest in leadership development programmes tailored to women, to help them continually develop the skills needed to excel in leadership roles.

In order to be able to retain more women and support their career growth, companies need to implement flexible work arrangements that enable work-life balance. In addition to that, introducing flexible paternity policies that accommodate longer paternity periods will give couples the option to choose and balance between maternity and paternity, which ultimately would help more women focus on their careers in turn supporting their growth.

What excites you about the industry?

What excites me about the advertising and media industry is its dynamic nature. It’s an industry where growth is constant as we are always exposed to the latest developments in technology and digital; both sit at the very core of our industry.

It also means we are able to continuously introduce new ways of engaging audiences, ultimately crafting unforgettable experiences. It’s exciting to be part of an industry that shapes culture and influences perceptions on a global scale. It gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me inspired.