‘Male industry champions’ recruited to tackle creative gender diversity issue

communications council logoThe Communications Council has created a version of the “male champions of change” group as it seeks to address the gender imbalance in the creative industry.

Questions had arisen in the industry around the Gender Diversity Working Group, which had gone quiet after last year announcing three industry work streams which were designed to develop “a set of practical tools to assist organisations’ management in securing a gender balanced workforce”.

The group was established after the Comms Council’s Gender Salary Survey in 2012 showed women accounted for 27.9 per cent of creatives employed, with 9.9 per cent of those women sitting in senior positions (creative director or ECD roles). The latest survey showed women creatives have dropped to 27.3 per cent, but now make up 13.5 per cent of those employed as creative directors or executive creative directors.

The workstreams followed on from “months of research”, the crux of which found 74 per cent of women claimed they have been treated differently in the workplace because of their gender.

A range of agency representatives were to use these findings as a starting point to explore three key problem areas which had been identified as presenting the main obstacles facing females when it comes to retention and promotion at senior levels;

  • culture, client demands and flexible work practices;
  • CEO awareness and building people-centricity in the agency model; and,
  • career, ambitions and leadership.

The group reported their findings to The Communications Council board last August but has been noticeably quiet since.



Margaret Zabel, CEO of the Communications Council explained the “awareness” point has been looking to Elizabeth Broderick’s  “Male Champions of Change” program – which aims to ensure the issue of women’s representation in leadership is elevated on the national business agenda – for ideas on how to tackle the lack of women in leadership within the communication industries.

The working stream has created their own “Industry Champions”, recruiting key male CEOs from within the communications industries to work out how they can drive gender equality within their own organisations.

“We’re trying to learn from that group as much as possible and coach some of our leaders around that,” Zabel said.

“It’s like a lightbulb moment has to go off for leaders. It’s really tough when you have a successful organisation. Take an agency which is very service orientated. If your agency is going very well and runs like a machine, when you start talking about introducing aspects and learnings from gender diversity issues it means rethinking your business model.”

DDB CEO Chris Brown, one of the council’s “male champions of change”, said within DDB the initiative is helping him to look at several factors limiting women within the agency to reach leadership positions; including:

  • parental leave;
  • flexible working arrangements;
  • the environment and culture of the organisation;  and,
  • recruitment.

Other “Industry Champions” include Droga5 CEO Sudeep Gohil and Whybin\TBWA Melbourne CEO Andrew Scott. The Communications Council would not release the full list of men involved.

“From our perspective it’s the right thing to do ethically, from a commercial perspective and from a creative perspective,” said DDB’s Brown.

“One of the things I’ve learnt in the last 12 – 18 months, working closely with the Communications Council and being part of the champions of change program, is this will not just happen, it requires active change from the top down to reduce that gap and to ensure the talent pool is as wide as possible.”



Lorraine Jokovic, CEO of Loud Communications and the Gender Diversity Work Group spokesperson, said having people like Brown and the other male champions is about proving results “so we can then launch that to the rest of the marketplace”.

“You need evidence that it’s working,” she said.

The evidence and information they are sourcing from the experiences of the male champions of change are being used for an online resource hub which is the initiative coming out of the second work stream.

“The second workstream is what we call culture and flexibility and within that, the biggest initiative in there is developing a resource hub,” she said.

“We’re building an online resource hub so people can get the information they need on what the issue is, how they can address it and how they can implement change.”

Jokovic explained the male champions of change are contributing information they are learning from implementing change within their organisation to the hub.

The third workstream which has been addressing ideas around ‘career, ambitions and leadership’ looks to the grassroots level.

“It’s important for women to see that women can do it and are doing it,” explained Jokovic.

She named some of the initiatives already in place the working group is supporting – SWIMM and SheSays being the main two. SWIMM is an organisation created to connect and inspire senior women in media and marketing while SheSays runs free mentorship and events to women in the creative and marketing industry.

“That’s about the engagement of women at a grassroots level, we will support the groups that are out there and promote them to ensure we’ve got women networking with other women, learning from other women, talking to others and getting encouragement, inspiration and support,” she added.

These three initiatives being pulled out from the workstreams are in the process of being finalised into case studies the council can present to market. However the timing Jokovic said, depends on reaching a point “when we’re confident the success we need to promote this has happened”.

“We imagine that’s going to be in the next six months.”

Miranda Ward


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