Jessica Goodfellow
Mar 9, 2022

Which agencies have the most comprehensive gender initiatives in APAC, and which have none at all?

As part of our International Women’s Day content, we have analysed the gender initiatives, targets and staff ratios across the 41 agencies we judged in our Agency Report Card project to establish average ratios, who is leading and who is lagging.


Most of the agencies we judge each year in our Agency Report Cards project have initiatives and goals to improve their gender balance and make their organisation more inclusive for women—but progress, ratios and the comprehensiveness of initiatives differ greatly among them.

Most have achieved or are close to achieving gender balance in their organisation as a whole. A growing proportion have recognised that working towards an equal gender split without reviewing how it shifts with seniority doesn’t fix anything, and have put targets in place for a gender balanced senior leadership. Very few review their gender split by discipline, or extend their goals to other diversities beyond gender.

As agencies celebrate International Women’s Day, Campaign Asia-Pacific has consolidated the gender metrics shared with us for Agency Report Cards to show you how the industry is tracking overall, as well as which agencies are progressing and which are lagging.

Proportion of women in overall organisation

In total, 21 agencies shared their overall gender split. Dentsu Japan had the lowest proportion of women employees at 35.6%, while OMD over-indexed at 73%. The average proportion of women employees across the 21 agencies balanced out at 50.7%.

Proportion of women in leadership

In total, 22 agencies shared their gender split at an executive/leadership level. Hakuhodo had the lowest proportion of women officers at 10.5%, while OMD reported the highest at 67% of its executive leadership team. While the statistics shared with us differ between executive/senior/CEO/officers, the average proportion of women leaders across the 21 agencies is 47.4%.

A further three agencies (Havas, MediaCom and Ogilvy) outlined initiatives to improve women in leadership but didn’t provide statistics.

Granular gender initiatives

DDB and RGA have initiatives to increase the representation of women in creative leadership in APAC. Publicis Groupe in India has introduced a programme to help women who have been on a break from work find full-time technology roles. Wunderman Thompson has identified gender discrepancies in certain markets and business verticals, and is setting up a dashboard to track job applicants and new hires and identify opportunities for increasing diversity at a more granular level.

Highest-scoring DEI agencies

In Agency Report Cards, we judge agencies’ gender initiatives as part of a joint DEI and sustainability grade. Since sustainability is still a young development, we put greater weighting on DEI in the combined score for 2021.

The highest grades in this section went to Essence and TBWA, which both achieved an A- in 2021. They scored full marks in DEI by proving it is a clear business priority. Both boast comprehensive policies and programmes that cover a wide spectrum of DEI, and demonstrate continued investment in ensuring DEI initiatives remain effective and respond to employee needs. 

Specific to gender, Essence has a nearly equal gender split regionally, and promotes women as often as men at high levels. Half of promotions to AVP level and above were secured by women in 2021. At TBWA, more than half of CEOs and MDs across the region are women, as are 45% of CFOs. Female leadership is rising even in markets that have a high male skew at senior levels, such as Japan (up 140%), Korea (61%) and India (20%).

McCann Worldgroup received the second-highest score of B+ (or eight out of 10) in the joint DEI and sustainability grade, including six out of seven in DEI specifically. McCann committed to transparently tracking its progress against its DEI goals in 2021, and has achieved 44% women in leadership positions in APAC, and 57% women overall. The agency appointed an APAC chief talent officer, Gayatheri Silvakumer, to oversee this balance. 

Eight agencies scored a B in the DEI and sustainability grade: ADA, FCB, Initiative, MediaCom, Ogilvy, PHD, Wieden Kennedy and UM.

Overall, one-third (13) agencies were downgraded in DEI and sustainability grade. Most (21) maintained their grade, while only seven were moved up.

Most disappointing agencies

Of the 41 agencies we judge, six had little to zero policies to support women or improve their gender representation. These include ADK, Cheil, Grey, Hakuhodo, MediaMonks and MullenLowe. 

ADK had zero DEI initiatives to share. It pointed out that all of its pregnant employees take maternity leave and it is transitioning to a hybrid working system, but this is the bare minimum we would expect from any business. The fact that not all women at ADK were taking maternity leave in the past worries us greatly.

Cheil’s overall gender ratio is close to equal, but the agency doesn’t formalise diversity or indicate goals to instate more women leaders. 

It’s possible that Grey may have initiatives but it didn’t tell us about them, and agency-driven diversity and inclusion programs in APAC were sorely lacking in 2020.

MediaMonks has conducted internal surveys to figure out its diversity makeup, but it didn’t share these statistics with us and it hasn’t yet set any goals.

MullenLowe told us that it made a conscious effort to put forward more women talent for industry-facing events and media requests, and it held a few events to “give a voice” to women leaders. But this isn’t enough given the lack of women in leadership positions (40%) across its APAC offices. All seven of MullenLowe’s market leads are men. 

Similarly, Hakuhodo provided no plans to improve on the terribly low proportion of women officers in its organisation, at just 10.5%. Instead, it touts that nearly half of the new graduates it hires each year are female. And across the region, most offices have an even gender split or more women than men—with India and Japan as notable exceptions.

Campaign Asia

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