“If you have a very clear vi­sion, even if things hold you back they don’t get in your emotional and men­tal way.”

TAMARA IN­GRAM, global CEO of J. Wal­ter Thomp­son, on mak­ing it to the top as a woman.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

This is the ad­vice Tamara In­gram of­fers young women in ad­ver­tis­ing to­day:

1. Have a vi­sion for your­self.

2. Tell some­one, be­cause by telling some­one you make it real.

3. Take peo­ple with you. You can’t be a leader if you haven’t got peo­ple fol­low­ing you.

4. Leave peo­ple feel­ing a lit­tle bit bet­ter af­ter you’ve met them than be­fore.

5. Put the work and the job be­fore your­self. It sounds old fash­ioned, but play the ball and not the man. That means you are fo­cus­ing on the work and the client and the con­sumer and the brand, and not your­self. Ev­ery­thing else is easy, she says.

The global CEO of J. Wal­ter Thomp­son, who was in Dubai re­cently for a global meet­ing, fol­lowed these rules herself when she first started out in the in­dus­try at Saatchi & Saatchi in Lon­don in the 1980s. She was later to be­come that agency’s CEO in 1995, at a time when there was much less drive than to­day to­wards gen­der equal­ity in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try.

“Was I held back [by be­ing a woman]? Yes. Did I find it tough? No,” she says. “I’ve al­ways been very clear at dif­fer­ent stages about what I wanted to do. I al­ways say to peo­ple that if you have a very clear vi­sion about what you want to do, even if things hold you back they don’t get in your emotional and men­tal way. I was clear I wanted to be a CEO of a lo­cal of­fice, which I was. Noth­ing got in my way.”

How­ever, she adds: “I didn’t get it first time around, and it is fair to say that the per­son who told me that – I’m not go­ing to go into it – said it wasn’t helped that I was a woman.”

How­ever, the in­dus­try is chang­ing, and it is a recog­nised chal­lenge, and a mis­sion of many, to get as many women as men into po­si­tions of equal power within agen­cies.

In­gram has a ba­sic rule. “I’m very sim­ple,” she says. “Wher­ever we live, we need to rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity at all lev­els.”

She moved into the top job at JWT in March 2016, tak­ing over from Gustavo Martinez a week af­ter the agency’s chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Erin John­son ac­cused him of racism and sex­ism. Prior to that, In­gram had been head­ing WPP’s client teams, the cross-agency ‘hor­i­zon­tal’ groups that ser­vice the world’s big­gest ad­ver­tis­ing hold­ing com­pany’s big­gest multi­na­tional clients.

In­gram ad­mits there still aren’t enough women in se­nior roles within agen­cies.

“I go back to my sim­ple premise in life: un­til it’s 50:50 it’s never enough,” she says. “We are working very hard to make change, but it isn’t easy.”

The process is tak­ing longer than she would like, with time the most frus­trat­ing fac­tor.

“We are very good at re­cruit­ing and bring­ing women in, and we have been par­tic­u­larly good in this area of en­abling women to do well in terms of lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially here [in the MENA re­gion],” she says. “It’s just a case of get­ting the num­bers, and that takes time. I thought it would be faster to get to the an­swer, and I’ve re­alised it’s a bit harder.”

It is tough to change ex­ist­ing jobs and the pro­file of an agency, In­gram ad­mits. But J. Wal­ter Thomp­son has a di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion coun­cil, and uses anony­mous re­cruit­ing tech­niques so those as­sess­ing candidates don’t know de­tails such as the ap­pli­cants’ race or gen­der. And the di­ver­sity drive runs even­deeper than this.

“Peo­ple mis­take di­ver­sity for men and women, but we need di­ver­gent think­ing,” she says. “Peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, peo­ple from dif­fer­ent spir­its, peo­ple from dif­fer­ent jobs, not al­ways ev­ery­one from uni­ver­si­ties.”

JWT has a Jump Start pro­gramme, which opens up in­tern­ships to stu­dents from any back­ground. It is al­ready run­ning in Beirut, Dubai, Hong Kong, Lon­don, Mel­bourne, New York, Sao Paulo and Syd­ney, and will be ex­pand­ing fur­ther.

“It is about en­abling not just women, but peo­ple who come from dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries to in­tern with us,” says In­gram. “They could be mu­si­cians, ar­chi­tects, prod­uct de­sign­ers or what­ever, and they can see whether they like be­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing.”

It’s been an ef­fec­tive tool for re­cruit­ing, she says.

The agency also has the He­len Lands­downe Re­sor schol­ar­ship. Named af­ter the in­dus­try’s first fe­male cre­ative, who joined JWT in 1908, the schol­ar­ship sup­ports young fe­male cre­atives in the fi­nal year of their de­gree course. It pro­vides tu­ition fees, a paid in­tern­ship, men­tor­ship and con­sid­er­a­tion for full-time work.

Since the schol­ar­ship was in­tro­duced to mark JWT’s 150th an­niver­sary in 2014, two women from the re­gion have won, both stu­dents of the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Shar­jah. In 2015, Rawan Obeid, a stu­dent of mul­ti­me­dia de­sign, won it, and in 2016 it was awarded to Tas­neem Kara­mal­lah, ma­jor­ing in art direc­tion.

JWT also has an in­ter­nal lead­er­ship pro­gramme for women, which aims both to teach skills and to in­stil con­fi­dence in potential fe­male man­agers.

A del­e­ga­tion from the Mid­dle East went to In­gram’s ses­sions in Europe last year, and she says: “The qual­ity and com­mit­ment of the women in the re­gion is ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. … They came and they made a huge im­pact on the cul­ture. We had Western Euro­pean and Mid­dle East women, and the strength of char­ac­ter of our team from Beirut, Saudi and the UAE shone through.”

In com­par­i­son to the women from Europe, she de­scribes the del­e­ga­tion from MENA as “more con­fi­dent, more en­gaged in the in­dus­try, and more com­mit­ted”. She adds: “There was a pos­i­tive en­ergy. I haven’t quite un­der­stood why,

“The qual­ity and com­mit­ment of the women in the re­gion is ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. … They came and they made a huge im­pact on the cul­ture. We had Western Euro­pean and Mid­dle East women, and the strength of char­ac­ter of our team from Beirut, Saudi and the UAE shone through.”

but I think it comes out of be­ing much more youth­ful. De­spite the geopo­lit­i­cal is­sues there is a sense of growth, a sense of can-do that af­fected all of us deeply.”

She sug­gests two fur­ther rea­sons: the re­gional lead­er­ship of Roy Haddad, di­rec­tor of WPP MENA and chair­man of JWT MEA; and “the na­ture of the re­silience” within the re­gion. “This has meant there is com­mit­ment and feisti­ness and a depth of learn­ing, as well as a com­mit­ment to go for it,” she says.

The long­est-serv­ing em­ployee of J. Wal­ter Thomp­son is a woman. Ginny Bahr, who has worked in sev­eral de­part­ments and now sits in the ex­penses sec­tion of the New York of­fice, has worked with the agency since 1951 – even be­fore the Mad Men era.

“That’s the mar­vel­lous thing about com­pa­nies, that I can never get over,” says In­gram. “One should never for­get that these won­der­ful com­pa­nies that we work for pro­duce em­ploy­ment, give life, and cre­ate great jobs. When you see some­one who has been in a com­pany for more than 60 years, you think it’s a great priv­i­lege to be the global CEO of that com­pany.”

The ques­tion, then is: what makes peo­ple stick with a com­pany?

“The only rea­son peo­ple stay is if you have a great cul­ture, you pro­duce ex­tra­or­di­nary work and you en­able ev­ery­one to flour­ish,” says In­gram. “Any­one and ev­ery­one needs to be heard.”

Peo­ple are at work be­cause they have a point of view, she adds. “If they do not have a point of view – what­ever the job, wher­ever they come from, what­ever they do – they shouldn’t be part of the job. We ex­pect peo­ple to par­take, to have a point of view and to cre­ate the fu­ture.”

This is a shift from when In­gram started working at Saatchi & Saatchi in the 1980s. “My first job was to put pads on the table, and a nice pen­cil point­ing the right way and to serve cof­fee and tea,” she says.

“Now ev­ery­one has a chance of a point of view, and I think that’s great. Ac­tu­ally, digi­ti­sa­tion has re­ally en­abled peo­ple of ev­ery level to come in and have a point of view and change the work they do for the bet­ter, which I think is great.”

J. Wal­ter Thomp­son’s CEO has ad­vice on how to en­able and en­cour­age that con­tri­bu­tion:

1. Iden­tify work that peo­ple feel re­spon­si­ble and em­pow­ered to de­liver, and that can make a dif­fer­ence. That isn’t al­ways easy, but that is the task of some­one who is lead­ing a team: to make sure peo­ple on their team have a role.

2. New tech­nol­ogy means it is sur­pris­ing how fast peo­ple con­trib­ute in an­a­lyt­ics, in so­cial lis­ten­ing, in ideas, in pre­sen­ta­tion skills.

3. Most peo­ple feel they have some­thing to say if you en­able that voice to be heard. Try to start a meet­ing by ask­ing the most ju­nior per­son what they feel. It’s not easy, around ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple, to speak up, so you have to cre­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple can, and learn to listen well.

“We are in the in­spi­ra­tion job, we are try­ing to get peo­ple to change be­hav­iours,” says In­gram. “If you are in that in­spi­ra­tion job you’d bet­ter in turn also be in­spi­ra­tional.”

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