THURSDAY 15 OCT 2015 1:03 PM


A room full of inspirational women in business gathered at the Havas People offices yesterday (14 October, 2015) for Talent Bites, a series that takes on the talent and recruitment issues facing organisations.

Up for discussion at the half-day event was an ambitious topic; the attraction and retention of women. The common thread throughout all of the talks was a desire for equality in the workplace, not just for ethical reasons, but because diversity is undeniably good for business.

Rachel McCourty, insight manager at Havas People, warmed-up by raising the issue that the number of women in any workplace tends to deplete as job roles becomes more senior. McCourty used a typical timeline of a woman’s life to discern where companies could intersect and make a difference to this trend. She suggested that businesses attract female candidates by focusing on social purpose, which, studies show, is more important for woman than it is for men (as well as being a huge motivation for the younger generations) and that they keep an open-mind towards agile and flexible working, with a focus on output rather than time spent in the office.

Many of the same issues and potential solutions came up multiple times over the course of the morning. As Kathryn Nawrockyi, director of gender equality at Business in the Community, said, there is still a problem, but the battles being fought are different from what they were when her organisation started out. Nawrockyi quoted research that found that female employees are more likely to feel anxious and nervous about their jobs when approaching motherhood, for example, because they – rightly – feel that their careers will suffer as a consequence. However, she also made a more encouraging observation, that social media gives people a chance to call-out sexist actions – whether it be a marketing campaign or something inappropriate said by a public figure. This assertion was reiterated by other speakers.

The third speaker was Sinead Bunting, marketing director at Monster UK and Ireland. Her talk focused on women in tech; arguably a bleaker picture than most. Bunting spoke about the importance of women in meeting the demand for tech skills. In a digital world, she questioned how well-represented women could be if 90% of coders are men and she shared the statistic that 57% of women who do choose a career in tech end up quitting. Many cite a ‘macho’ company culture as a contributing factor. Bunting stressed that diverse boards drastically out-perform male-only boards.   

Suzy Levy, director at The Red Plate, agreed that diversity has to be commercially relevant for businesses to truly make it a priority. She emphasised the importance of putting diversity at the heart of the brand – not with CSR, for example, where it is not properly integrated into the business.  Levy also said that people assimilate to a majority culture, for women that can mean taking on more traditionally masculine roles to excel in the workplace, yet women who embody these traits are also more likely to get called out on them than men, because they are not perceived to be feminine.

Finally, Yelena Gaufman, head of planning at Havas Worldwide, spoke about the portrayal of women in advertising. She said, “Feminism sells”, and gave examples of all the brands that are now making female empowerment part of their marketing strategy. She said that, while the average person does not really care much about brands, they nevertheless expect them to do more with regards to behaving ethically and responsibly.


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