15 SEP 2021
We hear from Sonia Fernandes, MediaCom APAC’s Chief People Officer, about the region’s recent Marketing Interactive D&I Index recognition and how their work is changing the face of the business.
What does featuring on this index mean to you and the people in APAC?
We are delighted to be recognised as trailblazers of diversity and inclusion in adland. For MediaCom, People First, Better Results has always been much more than just a tagline. It is our fundamental business philosophy and guides everything we do. Our view is straightforward: we want to provide opportunities for everyone to thrive. It means we believe that if we treat our people well and give them the opportunity to succeed, they will produce better work for our clients.
How has the pandemic affected your diversity efforts?
COVID-19 has been a challenge for all agencies and advertisers right around the world. MediaCom took a different approach to many. Instead of tightening our belts and making changes to senior staff in the quest for short-term savings, we decided to go against the flow and invest even more in our most valuable asset - our people.
We believe that we need to maintain the diversity of thought, ideas and experiences to ensure our client work delivers growth. To ensure we could constantly solve our clients’ problems in new ways, we put a focus on retaining diverse talent. Our central ambition has been to improve our male:female ratio at all levels.
What work was needed to enact change?
Our pathway to deliver greater gender diversity has focused on three key areas: re-thinking recruitment, removing bias, and developing a more equitable approach to progression.
We’ve flipped our recruitment requirements and opened up career opportunities to a broader pool of talent from diverse backgrounds and industries. Instead of looking for skills and minimum years of experience in our businesses, we now assess comparable accomplishments to measure fit and predict candidates’ success on the job, regardless of their professional background.
We’ve also worked hard to build greater cultural awareness, vital in a region like APAC where the evolution of attitudes towards gender equality across countries is not even. We now provide interactive and personalised training for our people to enhance their cultural competence - understanding the cultural contexts of colleagues helps all our teams work more effectively, whether they integrate and interact with gender diverse teammates, travel internationally or work on global assignments for multi-national clients.
Tell us a little about the progression programmes that ran across the region?
The lack of gender diversity manifests itself in senior and especially C-level positions. Only 29% of leaders across all industries across APAC are female. Therefore, we have developed a systematic approach to provide women with equal opportunities and give them the tools, support and networking opportunities they need to succeed.
A big part of this work is focused on our People Partners programme, which sees us partner with WPP and other leaders, like Facebook. It’s a three-stage programme designed to provide clear career progression.
The first stage is mid-career progression, where we partner with Facebook on “Fast Forward”, which has become a key motivation point for attracting and retaining new talent. This programme is designed to help female leaders within the network to accomplish more of what is important to them, improve relationships and create more peace and resilience.
Stage two sees high potential talent join the “Women in Leadership” learning programme across WPP. This is a highly experiential experience with interactive exercises, self-reflection, sharing and practice. The programme addresses the issues, blockers and challenges female leaders face as they build their careers. Participants work to assess their value and strengths, shape their brands, strengthen their resilience, and enhance their communication, impact and influence with help from coaches across MediaCom.
The final step is “Walk the Talk ”, which helps those in senior roles maximise individual potential. Delegates are challenged and coached to build a bigger vision and plan that gives renewed energy and focus to their professional and personal lives.
How did you mobilise the region to embrace and participate in all these programmes?
Our entire leadership team, led by APAC CEO Mark Heap, have championed our D&I strategies and kept pushing us on. That’s been essential as boosting diversity is an encompassing process and includes change in technology, policies, processes as well as leaders that are held accountable. It cuts through every aspect of the employee life including hiring, training, pay and promotions and career sustainability. We have also invested in artificial intelligence and use predictive analytics and sentiment analysis. This enables all our leaders to address issues in real-time. Our success to date is a credit to all our CEOs, MDs and regional account directors who lead from the front.
What are the results of all your gender diversity programmes? Has it changed the face of the business?
Across APAC, our workforce is now 65% female, with 55% of leadership positions taken by women and we also were able to retain 66% of the women who were thinking of resigning.
We’ve developed a more gender diverse workforce that is better equipped to deliver diverse thinking for our clients. Our independently-measured client satisfaction scores are the highest we’ve seen for six years. Clients truly value us as their trusted business partner.
We know there is still a lot more that needs to be done regarding gender disparity. But what Sonia and the team have shown is that when we are clear in our vision and very intentional with our action, change happens. By using context, market understanding and cultural insight, which Sonia and the teams in APAC have done to a tee, real and positive outcomes can be achieved.