Robert Sawatzky
Jun 6, 2019

Mandate for Change: the mandate has changed

Two years after APAC media agency chiefs signed a pledge to improve gender equality, most networks are focusing efforts on broader inclusion initiatives.

Mandate for Change: the mandate has changed

Just over two years ago, six media agency representatives signed a Mandate for Change to improve gender equality in their organisations at Campaign360 in Hong Kong, through four distinct goals  (detailed below) including gender awareness training like unconscious bias, flexible work arrangements, pay audits and development opportuniteis for women. Since then, Campaign has provided regular updates on their progress after six months and one-year.

This week, all six media agencies presented updates on their efforts at Women Leading Change in Singapore.  What has become abundantly clear is that their mandates have changed.  

"If we look more broadly on the Mandate for Change agenda we’ve embarked on, we’ve democratised - if you will - the conversation," said Tony Harradine, APAC CEO of Omnicom Media Group. "We have participation at all levels of business."

Most agency leaders spoke of expanding their gender equality equality efforts into wider efforts to promote all kinds of diversity, respect and inclusiveness. "We're looking long-term, at more complex change besides unconscious bias to drive more systemic change," noted Simon Prior, APAC head of leadership & learning at Dentsu Aegis Network.

Below are some of the highlights from their collective efforts. 

Presented by Rose Huskey, CEO, Southeast Asia, Wavemaker

“When we signed the Mandate for Change back in 2017 one of the key fundamental challenges we had was just not enough women in leadership roles," Huskey notes with just 6% of market CEOs being female and zero for regional female CEOs. Since then, there has been a 13% increase in female market leaders and a 40% increase in female regional leaders. 

Huskey also highlighted three key global & regional initiatives:

  • Neuroscience Study: Partnering with a management consulting company, GroupM put together a new diversity training program on unconscious bias. They also looked at neuroscience research showing "that when you surround yourself with the same type of people your brain triggers and uses the same part of the brain, so we think about that when hiring or promoting.”
  • Walk the Talk: This is WPP’s women diversity program which rolled out three years ago to help fight external & internal barriers for women in the workplace. At this point, 1600 people globally have been through it including 235 women in the region who have validated it with high recommendation scores.  Thirty percent of the women who went through the program have been promoted.  
  • Rockstar Leader:  This is a program about how to develop mid-manager leaders, across all markets, including how to identify unconscious bias and give strong feedback to women.

The biggest challenges, Huskey says, is that different markets have differing levels of diversity and inclusion and the pace of change in India, where senior female leadership levels are lower compared to markets like Hong Kong and Singapore.  

“We're constantly looking at and revising our policies,” Huskey added. “What worked 5 years ago doesn’t work today.”

Havas Group
Presented by Kevin Zhang, APAC chief human resources officer, Havas Group

“Diversity and Inclusion is one of our core values in our company. It goes from the top of our organisation, chairman & CEO to our country level and group level across the organisation," Zhang said.  He noted the organisation is 56% women and 44% male, but this is skewed toward entry level positions where 60% are women, but only 43% of most senior leaders are female. 

Zhang noted that awareness to promote women throughout Havas is high which permeates existing leadership programs like Havas NextGen, rotation experience program Havas Lofts and online training program Havas University  which includes courses on sexual harrassment and treating coworkers with respect.

But the major program specifically aimed at advancing women leaders, was the Femmes Forward program launched in APAC earlier this year with 24 women participants across the region. 

On the local level, Havas runs an initiative call ALL Inclusive, allowing local markets to pick two or three initiatives to focus on.  Some of the initiatives shared include:

  • Japan: Mothers@Havas, a program to hire more mothers to augment creative talent.
  • India: More flexible work arrangements for expecting mothers
  • Hong Kong: Pride Day - pride day
  • Singapore: A new mothers' room for nursing and new mindfulness training
  • Indonesia: A diversity & inclusion workshop

Dentsu Aegis Network
Presented by Simon Prior, APAC head of leadership & learning APAC, Dentsu Aegis Network

Prior says DAN saw some impact from efforts following the original Mandate for Change around unconscious bias training and the pay gap where they continue to take action where needed. But he added "we wanted to start to challenge ourselves a little bit more, take a bit more of a longer term approach and put some heat under some of the key initiatives rather than tick the box on some of these activities."

They engaged a group of people to workshop what is the purpose and business case behind new opportunities for diversity.  Key challenges they faced were keeping diversity a priority when clients and hitting targets remain a key focus and how to scale diversity initiatives across diverse markets without being spray and pray.

“There are dual speeds here," Prior said. "There’s some slow building of momentum which is great to see. There are some fast and slow things happening around more easily implementable things, but a longer game around some more complex or challenging things.”

Prior noted programs like Women@DAN have multiple mandates to inspire, drive change, provide fun and much needed development through coaching and mentoring. 

In employment surveys a key piece of research talent teams at DAN have focused on moving forward is that  61% of people are faking it at work pretending to be someone else to fit in, with higher rates among women and minorities. Prior says that is just a lot of wasted energy that the inclusiveness agenda can help fix. "We want to lean into that and ensure more diversity more broadly," he said. 

IPG Mediabrands
Presented by Leigh Terry, APAC CEO, IPG Mediabrands

While Mandate for Change helped to galvanize the senior leadership team around the efforts, Terry admitted “it’s bloody hard to actually do it.  As business leaders delivering for our clients we have an awful lot of work to do in the day jobs so keeping it on our priority list, ensuring it’s a burning platform and ensuring it stays top of mind [is key]”

Terry reported that IPG Mediabrands senior leadership in the region is near a 50% gender split across markets with some markets like Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan female very successful at promoting and retaining female leaders. 

On pay parity there were fewer challenges, Terry notes.  Where it existed in one market at a mid-management level Terry said leaders shared that data with local management and course corrected.

IPG gender diversity efforts and programs have been beneficial, Terry says, noting the work of the IPG Women’s Leadership Network and their Be the Ally event in Singapore last week which saw nearly 100 people across 18 different companies in the IPG network converge to include a look at things like unconscious bias and acceptable behaviour in the workplace.

Generally though, efforts have been less around gender diversity and how to encourage broader inclusion, especially in this diverse region where one size does not fit all. Staff surveyes of 3000 people in 13 markets identified varying challenges. 

In Philippines, for example the key challenges aren’t about pay parity or gender diversity, Terry says, since much of the leadership is female. But issues about safety and how far people live away from work loom larger. “This feeds into inclusivity for a workforce that works for each other”

“It’s great to have a framework, but to impose that framework just to have consistency in Asia rarely works in my opinion," Terry said. 

Publicis Media
Presented by Navaneeta Das, APAC head of product & client development, Publicis Media

After explaining a bit about her own journey, Das highlighted some key Publicis initiatives to draw and retain female leaders at the network, including: 

  • Viva Women: a forum where women at all leves get training, find mentors and help on issues like work life balance.
  • LAB: a new program split between up-and-coming women leaders and more senior leaders to move towards next level practices in the industry. 
  • Next Generation Board: a forum where 8-12 next gen leaders form an equal board to the managment board and can challenge it, provide new ideas and find inspiration for changes.
Around sexual harrassment issues Das noted the problem exists in different countries. “We’ve taken this very seriously on board.  But different countries need different policies.” In India, where the #MeToo movement has highlighted the problem most publicly, Das notes  "there’s a lot emphasis on getting this right" with new policies put in place. In Singapore, staff must go through seven modules of training that includes lessons on appropriate behaviour.
Going forward, Das notes there is a strong focus around hiring, screening CVs, training and promoting with equality in mind. Bringing AI to talent resources through Publicis' Marcel program will help provide  “true commitment to people” and a new Happiness Index audit is underway to ensure workplaces are happy and inclusive. 

Presented by Tony Harradine, APAC CEO, Omnicom Media Group

New research from Women Leading Change was "depressing" showing the industry has "a long long way to go," Harradine notes.  Many actionable steps have come out of OMG's global employee feedback survey, he added, particularly for Singapore "where we standardised maternity policy to go above and beyond what the legislation asks you to do." Meanwhile, 200 to 300 people have gone through unconscious bias training over last 6 months

Harradine noted that original mandate of gender diversity has been broadened and extended to all levels of OMG business, celebrating uniqueness and people with different abilities and cultural differences. But different agencies have differnt approaches

At OMD, their concept of ‘dynamic diversity’ runs through many elements in global workstreams, mainly areas like talent mobility, mentorship programs and flexible working, with the latter launched in Australia, Singapore and will be in more markets to come.

At PHD their challenger brand mentality has fostered a strong diversity angle. So in the onboarding process, for instance, one gets a challenger questionnaire to push new talent towards open ideas and diverse thinking. 

Harradine then highlighted a number of staff-led initiatives including:

  • Empower: a program with a series of modules to help women upscale to next level
  • Women at Work: a closed forum to allow women to collaborate, provide support and inspiration
  • Open Pride: initiatives to support the LGBT community

“It’s top of our agenda to foster an environment that celebrates inclusion and diversity," Harradine closed. "But ultimately things like fatigue, mental stress, long working hours continue to prevail large across the industry as a whole.Therefore it’s on us as well as our partners to ensure that we forge a path forward that allows us to fuel the potential of the business we love.  So a lot more to do but I think we’re making some progress.”


The mandate detailed four distinct goals, with signees committing to at least one:

  • Plan for action: Develop an on-the-ground plan for promoting and raising awareness of gender equality among both men and women.
  • Flexible work arrangements: To provide training to help managers and directors understand how flexible work arrangements can be incorporated into agency life. Seek to develop new ways of working that enable them to perform duties from a variety of locations and situations.
  • Development opportunities: Senior executives in local offices to personally mentor and coach someone/a successor of the opposite sex.
  • Pay Parity: Conduct pay audit within your organisation to determine and understand the scale and differentiation in pay.


Campaign Asia

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