A message to the men of the Media Federation

ian perrinIt’s a disgrace that media agency bosses are all men and their assistants are all women, argues ZO boss Ian Perrin.

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, the issue of women in leadership has recently received a great deal of global coverage.

Closer to home, the debate is just as pertinent, with only seven female executives filling the role of CEO in ASX 200 companies. When it comes to our industry, unfortunately, things are even worse.

I remember moving back to media agency side 18 months ago and receiving my first email from the Media Federation. It was addressed to all of the agency CEOs and copied their executive assistants.

The fact that all the of the former group were men and all the latter group were women put a smile on my face. But it shouldn’t have, because as the leaders of the industry we should be downright ashamed of ourselves that not one single media agency CEO is a woman (although to be fair to the MFA, they have recently appointed a female CEO).

Come to think of it, the only female creative agency CEO that I am aware of is the brilliant Jo Pollard at Publicis Mojo. So why are there not more female CEOs in our industry?

And before I move on, most male CEOs will dodge the question with the argument that they have a very diversified executive group. ZO Australia do ourselves, with two of the managing directors reporting into me being female, and our executive team split half way down the middle. If you looked at cultural diversity, we would probably be considered market leading. But it doesn’t escape the fact that I am a man and when new agencies choose a CEO, they go with middle- (in some cases old) aged fellas.

So is Australia guilty of not moving with the times? We have a female PM, so it doesn’t feel like that this is the case. Are women not suited to the perceived cut throat negotiating world of modern media? Given the success of Annie Parsons (formerly at Mediacom) and Belinda Rowe (formerly at ZO), that definitely isn’t the case.

Are there not enough capable female executives in the media world? Not on your nelly. If I were to hire a new managing director in Sydney tomorrow, at least seven of the 10 candidates I have on my list are female. So why is it then?

Given that I don’t have the answers probably makes me part of the problem. If male CEOs such as myself can’t understand the cause of this issue, then there is little chance of us being part of the solution. So I would love to know why.

Feel free to email me on ian.perrin@zenithoptimedia.com.au or simply state your opinions below, and I will collate the opinions and present them to the men of the MFA. It’s a very small start to fixing the problem, but hopefully one that will grow.

  • Ian Perrin is CEO of ZO

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