WHAT IS WALK THE TALK?
Walk the Talk is an award-winning equality movement positively impacting the lives of hundreds of women across GroupM and WPP. Exploring barriers women often face in their careers, participants focus on their ambitions and arm themselves with tools and confidence to take on their ‘bigger game.’ More than a leadership program, Walk the Talk deals with the ‘whole self’ and recognizes that, in order to achieve our full potential, we must attend to every aspect of our lives bringing us energy and fulfillment. Walk the Talk is deliberately named to cut through the industry noise about equality – and to demonstrate our movement is all about positive action.
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WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The simple fact is, while there is a good gender balance across GroupM and WPP, with women being 54% of employees and 47% of senior managers, women remain under represented at the very highest levels of our business.
Why should this matter? Gender diversity is important at all levels and it is the right thing to do to take down barriers that prevent more women from rising higher. It also makes business sense; countless studies prove that a more diverse set of leaders make for more successful organizations. Deloitte research, for example, shows that companies where women make up a third or more of board members, significantly outperformed their rivals with 53% more return on equity. And, McKinsey found that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity within their executive teams, were 21% more likely to achieve above-average profits. Furthermore, our business is communications and advertising; it’s important we reflect our clients’ customer bases with a culture that encourages rich diversity.
WHAT BARRIERS EXIST?
Through extensive global research, we discovered two main barriers women often face in career progression:
- External barriers such out of date policies, limiting cultural norms and lack of practical support; and
- Internal barriers including self-limiting beliefs, lack of confidence, staying safe in comfort zones, and not tapping into allies.
Participants in Walk the Talk are encouraged to address internal barriers through exercises such as the ‘Gremlin,’ which helps confront energy-draining ‘self-talk.’ It also encourages them to ask for the support needed to achieve their ambitions. Women are often quite poor at building solid networks, so another exercise, ‘Allies,’ is a great help identifying and creating a network of champions. The participants have told us that one of the most powerful aspects of Walk the Talk are the new supportive connections they make across the network.
WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF WALK THE TALK?
Walk the Talk inspires senior female role models to create the change they want to see. Participants are given four clear goals:
- Firstly, to benefit from their own deep personal coaching experience, they're encouraged focus on every aspect of their lives – their relationships, health, finances, environment, growth - not just who they are as a leader.
- Second, they each create a ‘bigger game’ ambition for themselves and identify the bold moves they need to take to achieve it.
- Third, as senior female leaders in our company, they are asked to accept their responsibility to lead change. Organized into regional teams, they then create a ‘bigger game’ for their agency or team and take these ideas back to work, alongside their male counterparts, to make them happen
- Finally, they're asked to share their learnings with their teams and their clients and to stay connected to their new network of WTT allies – sharing stories of success for inspiration
MOVING ON UP
Walk the Talk has a powerful effect because it gives participants the opportunity to identify their ‘bigger game,’ and the tools to achieve it. For many alumnae, promotions have been earned and won, in some cases by accelerating a natural progression, and in others because the woman had the confidence to create a business case for a new role they were imminently qualified to fulfill.
We are delighted that there is an overall 30% promotion rate among Walk the Talk participants within nine months of the program. Here, we celebrate those moving up since the 2018 Walk the Talk events…
Kerry Field, Mindshare
Agnieszka Parfienowicz, MediaCom
Allison Coley, Wavemaker
Jessica Joseph, Essence
Stacey Perry, m/SIX
Asha Nair, Xaxis
PLAYING A BIGGER GAME
Promotions are by no means the only measure of success following Walk the Talk. We are just as excited to see the alumnae playing a bigger game in other challenging directions. Here we celebrate just a few examples…
Following her Walk the Talk experience, Sharon teamed up with Genna Trenthan from Wavemaker as they both felt driven to make a significant difference to how people feel when they come back from maternity leave or long absences from work. Together they have created a program called ‘Back in the Game’. The ambition is to connect returners back into the business quickly to allow both career ambitions and home life to prosper. The program is built, not only in support of parents, but also others who may have had a period of time out of the business through long term sick, or other care responsibilities. The program offers support and care before, during and after the returner is back in the game. In partnership with the local HR and Talent teams, Sharon and Genna are about to roll this out across every GroupM UK agency.
Following Walk the Talk, Mebrulin teamed up with Tiphane Tarhan to make a bold move. As they both have roles within Analytics, they decided to take action to challenge stereotypes and make the discipline more attractive to potential female talent. Together they created a group called ‘Women in Analytics’. The sessions have been a huge hit - they invite men along too – and hold open and honest conversations with a view to finding new and effective ways to support each other.
We find that one of the most common fears for senior people is public speaking. There’s an assumption that once you reach a certain level, this should come naturally, but for many, it simply doesn’t. Kirsty had always avoided public speaking – it terrified her. A week after Walk the Talk, her boss had a personal emergency so couldn’t attend a major conference where he was due to join a panel of experts. Kirsty stepped up – and nailed it. She said, prior to her Walk the Talk experience, she would have gone to great lengths to avoid a challenge like this!
Heather’s bigger game was about making herself ‘global’ - to create a stage and spotlight for her work and focus on crafting stories to help people learn. As a first step, she realized she needed to raise her profile across the industry. So, she decided to challenge herself by signing up to speaking at conferences around the world – to share her expertise and knowledge and build new connections and allies. Making this bold move has been a boost – not only to her self-confidence, but to her personal brand.
After experiencing Walk the Talk, Camilla felt passionate about finding a solution that could address the many challenges female employees may face in their careers and would pioneer the future of the working environment; in order to help women achieve senior leadership positions. Together with Emily Fairhead-Keen, she founded Women@Wavemaker, a UK-based group which supports and empowers women in the Wavemaker workplace, throughout their careers. The group have sought to raise awareness and challenge norms via inspirational talks and the development of female-focused programs. They have created a momentum that has led to a 6% increase in females’ likelihood to recommend Wavemaker as an employer and the team are currently developing a playbook to support other Women at Wavemaker groups across our international network.
Since attending Walk the Talk, Rose has worked tirelessly to raise the standing and involvement of Wavemaker with pivotal organisations such as the Singapore committee for UN Women and IAB SEA &I, of which she is a regional board member. Through partnership and active involvement, Rose has sought to ensure increased awareness in key issues through conferences, discussion and thought leadership. 2019 will mark the third year of the Women Leading Change Awards and Conference, which Rose originally launched in partnership with Campaign Asia. This provides a much needed industry-wide recognition of the change makers, leaders, achievers and rising stars in the media, advertising and marketing industry. Last year she was a judge at the Women Leading Change Awards and is also very proactive in CSR initiatives, ensuring that it is a continued drive in the region. She continues to be a catalyst and inspiration in driving change in our sector and the region.
Before Walk the Talk, Ruchi was the Head of Client Leadership for North India – now she’s taken the bold move to accept the challenge of broadening her geographical remit to North Asia. Through the program, she felt able to tap into a new professional and personal support system which has allowed her more productive time at work, enabling this big new challenge.
During Walk the Talk, one of the exercises is focused on building strong networks of allies. Research has found that men are often much better at building networks – women often don’t prioritise it. Amna found this a powerful learning and went back to Pakistan inspired. She has since created a ‘Women Leader’s Group’, for thought leadership and mentoring opportunities. The wonderful thing is – this is not just for the women of GroupM Pakistan – Amna has extended the invite to those in other industries too – for example, architecture and construction.
Ruchadaporn Rittigun (Moo)
Ruchadaporn Rittigun (Moo)
Since Walk the Talk, Moo has strengthened her ‘allies’ network across WPP which she’s found has led to better collaboration and client work. Recently, she led a project to move her team into a more agile working environment – which was a huge success. At the same time, Moo had a realization at Walk the Talk that she wasn’t prioritizing her family time enough. Since she’s used the tools she learnt to create more quality time with her family: together they’ve been giving something back to her community by helping to build a dam and planting trees in the national park.
Since her Walk the Talk experience, Karen has been inspired to play a bigger game. She is a strong role model in Wavemaker China, continuously harnessing her entrepreneurial spirit in creating new products and offerings that drive the phenomenal growth in the market. Karen has supported the development of the global Wavemaker content strategy and more recently she has been pivotal in new business wins. By focusing on businesses in China seeking growth in international markets and leveraging local business allies, her efforts have fuelled both growth in China and also across the Wavemaker network, as clients seek to secure a stronger international footprint and sales.
Shannon was new to Mindshare when she was invited to Walk the Talk. She found it incredibly useful to share open dialogue and feedback with her team and truly understand their early impressions of her – whilst communicating her initial experience of the team. This gave Shannon the opportunity to build strong connections early on which supported her to feel more confident in her new role.
Following her Walk the Talk experience, Genna teamed up with Sharon Dhillon from Mindshare as they both felt driven to make a significant difference to how people feel when they come back from maternity leave or long absences from work. Together they have created a program called ‘Back in the Game’. The ambition is to connect returners back into the business quickly to allow both career ambitions and home life to prosper. The program is built, not only in support of parents, but also others who may have had a period of time out of the business through long term sickness, or other care responsibilities. ‘Back in the Game’ offers support and care before, during and after the return process. In partnership with the local HR and Talent teams, Genna and Sharon are about to roll this out across every GroupM UK agency.
Following Walk the Talk, Tiphane teamed up with Mebrulin as to make a bold move. As they both have roles within Analytics, they decided to take action to challenge stereotypes and make the discipline more attractive to potential female talent. Together they created a group called ‘Women in Analytics’. The sessions have been a huge hit - they invite men along too – and hold open and honest conversations with a view to finding new and effective ways to support each other.
Christine has certainly been playing a bigger game since her Walk the Talk experience. After three years’ as the CFO of GroupM China, she moved to London to take the role of Global CFO for MediaCom. This was a huge bold move: a global role, a new team and the challenge of living abroad for the first time. Christine found that the exercises and tools she learnt at Walk the Talk supported her through this transition – she’s also now shared them with her team to encourage them to identify their bigger game and go for it!
Since attending Walk the Talk, under Neslihan’s leadership as CEO, Wavemaker Turkey has made a conscious decision to ensure an even gender balance across all external PR opportunities. They’ve also introduced policies to support a more diverse, progressive and entrepreneurial workforce. As part of her presidency of IAB Turkey, they will launch their first ever Gender Equality Mixx award this year. She is also a founding member of the newly established Women in Technology Association in Turkey, and as chair of the Education & Training Committee of IAB Europe, she is leading efforts to raise digital skills in both men and women thus creating a more thriving market across the region.
We’ve seen clear evidence of the impact Walk the Talk has on our leaders’ confidence, vision and connection. However, we know that without action from the business, to address the external barriers to career progression for women, our efforts to achieve true equality will fail. So, we are delighted to see the many different ways our business leaders are taking action; launching programs and initiatives which tackle gender inequality head on – here are a few examples:
Last year, GroupM launched three initiatives to encourage richer diversity across the global network. Some of our agencies and markets are already embracing these – others are working towards them - we are already witnessing the great impact they are having:
1. All Means All:
All Means All is a GroupM framework created to encourage activity, growth and progress across five key areas of diversity: generation, race/culture, LGBTQ, ability and gender. It is our commitment to continuous improvement: we know we are not there yet, but we are on a journey to become a better reflection of the diversity that enriches our communities and clients’ customer bases.
2. Parental Policies:
A new set of guidelines which encourage the modernization of parental leave policies.
3. Agile Working:
A non-contractual agile working approach at GroupM which encourages a culture of trust and ownership – focusing on outputs, not presenteeism - allowing our people to realise their potential – personally and professionally.
Mindshare is already leading the way with gender balance at leadership level – 38% of their CEOs, whether country, regional or global are women. Amongst their many diversity initiatives, there is one that is being piloted right now that could have a significant impact on gender pay disparity, which we know is an issue across our industry and beyond. Mindshare are trialling ‘blind salary hiring’ – where they are removing the question ‘what’s your current salary’ from their interview process. Proven in research conducted in the US to have a significant impact on salary gaps – this exciting initiative, if successful, will be shared beyond the UK.
MediaCom commissioned a piece of research, and from its findings, created a program titled ‘In My Shoes’. The program aims to highlight, understand, educate - and where needed - remove unhelpful stereotypes, limiting beliefs and bias both in and outside the workplace. Specifically relating to assigned roles as a parent or carer, and how these impact patterns of work; and the resulting effect on the career decisions and promotion opportunities of men and women in the workplace.
Diversity & Inclusion is part of our heritage and we are industry leaders in this area, creating several award-winning programs that have now been adopted across WPP.
Diversity & Inclusion is one of our core values. Without inclusion, brilliant creativity and rapid business growth simply can’t happen.
We have good representation of gender equality at all levels, but there is more work to be done. Overall our global workforce is 59.6% women and 40.4% men. Of our market-level leaders (CEOs & Managing Directors), 42% are women and 58% are men – reflecting the wider trend of a lower percentage of women reaching the most senior levels (June 2018 data). We recognize that our stats are not fully equal, and that we continually need to ensure that our female leaders feel empowered and have the support in place they need in order to reach the top.
Reaching a level of complete equality requires a deep, cultural change. This is why we embrace and encourage every single one of our 8,600 #FutureMakers and their individual passions. We are most proud of our grassroots initiatives such as Women@Wavemaker, Wavemaker Cares, Back in the Game and US Black History Month – where people are making the future because they truly believe in it. In the coming months we will be publishing Wavemaker’s first Inclusion & Diversity strategy, building a D&I leadership task force, establishing benchmarks and nurturing global communities.
In the last year at Essence, gender balance at leadership level (above VP) shifted up from 70% male and 30% female to 53% male and 47% female. There are a number of initiatives in place which are driving this success. Firstly, Essence have signed a pledge to follow Paradigm 4 Parity’s action plan and committed to achieve gender parity at all leadership levels - particularly the C-Suite - by 2025. Taking a page from the UK’s requirement that companies report their Gender Pay Gap, they agreed to go public globally - they are the first agency to tap consulting firm Mercer to conduct a pay equality study to ensure they are paying people equally for equal work. The outcomes will be shared agency-wide.
m/SIX is using corporate social responsibility to build an appreciation for diversity among its employees. The agency’s conscientious culture has produced a number of internal initiatives and external client campaigns which have sparked great debate, generated new ideas and most importantly, driven societal change. In 2018, m/SIX launched an internship programme designed to actively champion neurodiversity and unlock the potential of young autistic adults, volunteered in women’s charities and donated to organisations promoting gender equality. Recognizing the diverse lifestyles of its employees worldwide, m/SIX will roll out maternity coaching for its back-to-work parents in 2019.