Archive for May, 2018

Being brave at The Marketing Society one morning in May

Monday, May 14th, 2018

marketingsocglasswallBrave and Uncomfortable.

Thursday 10th May was the time for uncomfortable conversations.  The Marketing Society held a forum to push boundaries and make braver decisions, to help each other to address the toughest issues, this time on gender at work.

Gemma introduced the session by talking about the time that I called her out about the gender diversity of the Marketing Society Conference in 2016.   I’d praised the sessions at the conference in a blog for Campaign, but I had also counted the gender balance on stage.    Shortly afterwards she took over as CEO of the society.  And then she called me on my comment, by inviting me to be part of the organising committee for last year’s conference, where women were in the majority as speakers.

Since I published my book on gender equality at work, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, with co-author Kathryn Jacob in late 2016 I’ve been on the campaign trail to get change to happen.

I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to speak at Gemma’s amazing series of Uncomfortable breakfasts.

We wrote the book because statistics show that the number of women in senior positions across the UK is significantly less than 50% (women are 51% of the population).  The current IPA census on gender in agencies shows 31% c-suite roles are held by women (a figure that is better than some sectors, but hasn’t moved on in recent years).  Less than 15% creative departments are run by women, and the number of women behind the camera for commercials is even lower.  This is in a sector where 80% of purchase decisions are made by women consumers.  78% of businesses across the UK have declared a gender pay gap in favour of men.

The weight of evidence in favour of gender balance in senior management is huge.  There are now many studies that prove that it leads to better decisions and better profit.  One simple way to boost your bottom line as a business is to have a greater proportion of women in the top team.

The session was full of lively debate, and indeed diverse opinions.  Some shared their good experiences in this respect, including Gemma, saying that they hadn’t personally experienced any gender barrier to their careers.  The quantitative evidence in The Glass Wall from a survey by Lightspeed GMI is contrary to this with nearly 80% of women agreeing that women face barriers to success in the workplace that men do not.  And nearly 70% of men agree with them.

There were so many great points made by the audience that it feels a shame not to capture at least some of them in brief.

The audience was shocked by one woman’s story that she was refused flexi working of 4.5 days when she returned from maternity leave.  Mitch Oliver from Mars spoke about the importance of turning up for sports day at your child’s school whether you’re the mum or the dad, and indeed of speaking up to share experiences of your career as a working woman to set an example for girls at school.  One member asked about extroversion and introversion as a diversity issue.  We discussed the extra help new mums need and the importance of negotiating for what you want at work whether that is flexibility or indeed a pay rise.  Lynne Parker talked about the gender divide in what is and isn’t funny at work.   Nancy Lengthorn from MediaCom raised the important issue of privilege, pointing out that many women who succeed have had the enormous benefit of a great education.  Diversity is about all kinds of inclusiveness and different backgrounds are an important factor.  She also talked about the issue of change on the production side of the creative business where there just doesn’t seem to be any desire to make a change.

Here’s perhaps where the members of the marketing society have power to make change happen today, this week.  By asking about the gender balance of the teams involved in every stage of the production of marketing materials.

Other immediate changes can come from speaking up when you see people feeling excluded.  Taking a leadership position for change and mandating real targets for gender equality at senior positions.

Gemma ended the breakfast by saying that she felt now that the issue was so crucial that there would be a part two to talk about the actions we can all take to achieve real fairness and change.  I can’t wait – I hope to see you there.

The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, is published by Profile and available at all good booksellers and on Amazon

One crucial reason the plan might not go to plan

Friday, May 4th, 2018

tysonA great plan is crucial to progress. Whether it is a plan for your marketing ambitions, a plan to transform the sector, a media plan or a career plan, great understanding and a logical solution are essential for success.

A great plan isn’t enough. As Mike Tyson said: “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”

None of us expect to get punched in the office. But a great plan might still go astray. Not due to random violence, not even due to an unexpected turn of events. It might be because of the bottleneck.

Bottlenecks turn up in all kinds of situations. They might be hidden, or it may be impossible to predict how much impact they’ll have. If you don’t find the bottleneck the plan might fall.

The term bottleneck is easy to visualise in theory of course, but often difficult to identify. The term is an engineering one and refers to the component that limits the performance of a larger system eg the slowest step in the assembly line in car manufacturing.

Strategy experts Sull and Eisenhardt think that exposing the bottleneck takes proper analysis and real data.  Take their case study of Grupo Multimedia, a Mexican videoconferencing provider, who analysed their processes to see what was leading to disappointing sales. The managers of the business were shocked to learn that more than 70 percent of projects were stuck in the design stage, waiting for engineers to create customised proposals for each customer. Not only were the design engineers stretched too thinly, the carefully customised proposals weren’t converting that well. Only one in six resulted in a sale. With this evidence the management were able to try a more agile approach, with more off the shelf solutions delivered faster.

Often activities that require coordination across different departments, as in a media agency or media owner, can be subject to hidden bottlenecks. The finance team, sales or buying teams and client service teams will have different objectives and distinct ways of working. The departments can end up spending time redesigning processes that subsequently have the same old bottlenecks unless these are identified and solved.

Data is important in the search for the bottleneck, as in the case of the stats in the Grupo Multimedia example, and this can apply to your personal life as well.

If you’re trying to make a personal change, maybe eating more healthily, drinking less or exercising more, Sull and Eisenhardt suggest a diary of what you are up to and when can make your personal bottleneck obvious, which then means you’re closer to solving it.

Personal projects or professional plans need data, evidence and honesty to uncover the bottleneck. If your plan isn’t going to plan, start investing time in looking for the place or time where it’s getting stuck before you rip it up and start again.