Women in advertising: There is nothing standing in your way to succeed

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.

Maria Poulton, Managing Director, UM UAE

Do you think the industry has become more inclusive?

Our industry is definitely moving in a positive direction for creating a more inclusive environment for women with a supportive community. However, in this region, we still lag far behind global averages in female leadership and maternity leave/entitlements.

There is a long road to walk before stigma and unconscious bias are removed around working mothers.

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

A high point is being able to represent women in a leadership role. It’s important to me for young women starting their careers to see where their job can take them, to have high aspirations and not feel they may eventually hit a glass ceiling.

A low point was coming back from maternity leave and trying to navigate a completely new set of challenges and pressures. It was a shock to the system which no new mother is prepared for but ultimately builds resilience and makes you the most productive person around.

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

Dive in. We work in an exciting, evolving industry, constantly at the precipice of change; so, question everything, continue learning, take charge of your career and make yourself irreplaceable. There is nothing standing in your way to succeed.

What message would you like to give men in advertising?

Organisations with at least 30 per cent women in leadership roles are 12x more likely to be in the top 20 per cent in financial performance, according to new research from Forbes.

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

I’m a big advocate for supporting working mothers and creating a more equitable and flexible environment to ensure we are retaining great talent in the industry and helping them succeed. Implementing extended and more flexible maternity leave entitlements along with flexible working hours and in-office feeding rooms are the first steps to positive change.

What excites you about the industry?

The fact that we are at the forefront of technology, change and people. We are on the front line of the future that is coming or is already here. We need to understand how different generations and cultures respond to the world around them, and how world events and economies may impact different industries.

We are in an industry which is connected, and I love being exposed to such a variety and wealth of information and insight.