Back in September, I hosted a panel for Advertising Week New York, where four inspiring female leaders from around the world shared what actions they took to broaden gender diversity in their companies. Following our session was a chat with Inga Stenta of Reebok and Heidi Anderson of LinkedIn, who have very clearly paved a path for ambitious women to achieve what they have - and hopefully, with fewer bro hugs. These stories have inspired me to take on a series of interviews with influential figures that are actively championing fair female representation in their respective industries. It’s these experiences that I hope will not just inspire but be a reference point for future-thinking and progressive businesses.
Our research uncovered a staggering amount of ambitious women. 90% of females in the media, creative and advertising industries in the US said that they felt the need to lead. What can we do to accelerate the able and driven women to the top? It’s a big and complex question but one of the answers to this is role models. However, from Heidi Anderson’s experience, “there aren't that many that exist”. When you listen to our podcast, you will see that the impact of the lack of support professionally and in her personal life, meant that she constructed her own glass ceiling. This is not just a personal problem lost in the past. Our research found that a third of women in the industry aged 18-29, struggled to find someone to look up to, suggesting that more change needs to happen to address this long standing issue.
However, it was precisely this challenge that encouraged Heidi to take a stand for the cause when she advanced to a position of leadership. When questioned about LinkedIn’s efforts in supporting gender diversity, she describes it as a “progressive company [that looks to] invest in helping women get access to sponsors, to unlock opportunities” where “a lot of women put up their hand to pave the way for the rest of the organisation”.
For Inga, a female leader in an industry known for its bro culture, mentorship programmes have been the crux for change. Citing the senior leadership team which put the spotlight on the polemic problem, the entrenched male-driven attitudes are slowly being chipped away. We found from our survey this year that 76% of women strongly feel the need to continue to learn throughout life, which is 10% more than men. By introducing mentorship programmes and exploring ways to facilitate the growth of women within Reebok, the organisation has managed to make positive progress.
The dedication to gender diversity is evident throughout the company, from their top level management to representation in advertising. Behind the Be More Human campaign is “the notion of always pushing yourself, whatever it is [because] we know women are not comfortable with being the same, they are constantly striving to be better”. It’s this ability to click with their under-served consumer has contributed to the 40% of sales that come from this market, compared to the 25% average across the sports retail industry.
And if it’s the bottom line that finally convinces industries to grow and become more consumer-centric, then that’s the stat I’ll leave with you.
Meabh Quoirin is co-owner & CEO at Foresight Factory, Bi-lingual, experienced public speaker. Over 2 decades experience helping businesses globally profit from consumer analytics and trends. This article was originally published on Linkedin.
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