Mumbrellacast Interview: A female led future at Havas Group Australia

In this week's Mumbrellacast interview, Calum Jaspan speaks to Havas Group Australia's leadership trio, Laura Aldington of Host/Havas, Simone Gupta of Havas PR (One Green Bean and Red Havas) and Virginia Hyland of Havas Media about the indie mindset in the group, better pathways into the industry and the unique position Havas holds.

In what is a relatively new leadership lineup, Havas Group Australia’s Virginia Hyland, Simone Gupta and Laura Aldington appear to have already found a balance across the Havas Village.

Each of the three feature on the Mumbrellacast this week, speaking about the work that still needs to be done to further diversity and inclusion across the industry, and while this area might be more nuanced than some suggest, it goes further than just getting people into the industry, it needs to be the right industry when they arrive.

“It’s not just about representation, it’s about creating the necessary cultural changes in our businesses to make sure that those people, once they enter the industry feel included and welcomed,” says Aldington, CEO of Host/Havas.

Laura Aldington, CEO of Host/Havas

“I think that it would be a misstep for us to focus on, ‘let’s just get the numbers up’, but let’s not think about, how does the business need to adapt and change to allow different groups of people to thrive in it.”

Gupta, who had her remit expanded this year to take on the role of Havas PR CEO, has worked across markets in the UK and USA, and says that she gets the impression Australia remains behind in this area.

“I do get the feeling that we are, on an anecdotal basis, behind. We are relative to the Australian population with people of colour in the business, but in senior roles, I think that agencies and ourselves included could do a bit better. Whereas I look at what’s happening in the UK and US agencies and they are much more actively ensuring that they are fixing that problem.”

Simone Gupta, CEO of Havas PR Australia

There is agreement that pathways into the industry still remains one of the biggest challenges at hand, as not only race, but also geographical and educational disparities still pose barriers for many trying to find their way into agencies.

“I think it’s funny that we request tertiary education from people to enter the industry. Although I must say I’ve barely met anyone whose tertiary education has any relationship to what they’re doing day to day,” says Aldington.

Five years ago, Hyland, CEO of Havas Media Group Australia started Country Kids Connect, in order to try and combat this challenge.

“Let me bring the industry to you instead of you having to do what I did 30 years ago, which was moved to Sydney at 17 years old to be able to work in the media industry. We’ve got to think differently.”

It is unique to have an all female leadership team, and each spoke about the difficulties than still remain for women to reach senior roles, and what is being done to counteract this. One of the most important being providing the right support to new and young parents.

CEO of Havas Media Group, Virginia Hyland

“Agencies have not historically been at the cutting edge of supporting young parents with kids, and we’ve always been a little bit behind some of the other corporate industries. What attracted me to this business is that it is somewhere that you don’t have to pretend you’re not a parent,” says Gupta.

“We’re not just three women CEOs. We’re also mums of young kids. So I think that gives us a sort of insight and understanding into where that pressure point exists for a lot of women in the industry and allows us to create policy and initiatives to try and counter that,” says Aldington.

While all three of the CEOs are now working together within a global group setting, their industry backgrounds are all grounded with an indie mindset, something they each think is unique to the Havas Group.

Hyland, whose agency, Hyland Agency was acquired by Havas last year, says that it was this that attracted her to the opportunity rather than shopping her agency and this being the best offer.

“I wasn’t out there looking to be acquired by other globals. It was the independent spirit that ran through the seams of the Havas Group, where I was excited to join and bring our agency in. And it gives us the freedom to re-imagine what is the right way to work with clients, the ability to drive growth, and to try different things.”

Aldington agrees and says that Havas provides the ideal balance between “the great spirit and entrepreneurial energy that comes with coming from an independent background with the backing of a big network”.

“We are the smallest of the networks, the smallest of the holding companies. But I think that really gives us an agility when you combine that with the fact that we all worked in that independently minded business environment, it’s is quite interesting when you bring those two things together.”

Hear the full conversation in the second half of this week’s Mumbrellacast, below:


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