Forget people–based marketing and personalised ad campaigns, what about enriched employee–based working options and greater workforce diversity? AdNews looks at where the industry is when it comes to parental leave advancements and questions where we are in improving employee diversity.
As corporate giants like Facebook, Google and Salesforce continue to rapidly grow their footprints, propositions, and in turn revenue, such swelling prosperity can bolster workplace culture and the lives of their employees.
From share options and ski trips to free dry cleaning, gym passes and now even IVF, the stakes have been raised and pressure has been put onto not just rivals, but any corporation looking to appeal to a new era of savvier employees.
While affording such major perks may be out of the realm for everyday firms, beyond the gloss of free dental care and yoga sessions there lies a more important part of company culture that is within reach of any leader — to increase and improve upon diversity.
Diversity has numerous dimensions: gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, to age, socio–economic status or physical abilities, religious beliefs and beyond. Yet, one thing that most people working across adland agree on is that, by and large, it’s nowhere near as diverse as it should be.
However, many firms, particularly agencies and tech players, have been upping efforts when it comes to diversity by changing policies, creating working groups, joining third party organisations for help and guidance, as well as making diversity–focused hires that can spearhead and lead change.
In addition to being Carat’s national head of operational performance, Catherine Krantz was appointed 12 months ago by Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) as head of diversity and inclusion for the whole network.
Speaking to AdNews about her dual role, Melbourne–based Krantz said in leading the DAN D&I Council, which is a group of senior leaders from across the network who are “united by a passion for shaping and driving diverse thought and inclusive behaviours”, they are very much committed to creating positive change.
These changes focus on governance, flexibility, gender equality and communication that aim to generate better outcomes for its people, partners and communities. A group called ‘&Proud’, DAN Australia’s employee-led advocacy group for LGBTIQ+ has also just launched. Comprised impassioned people from across the business, and an extension of DAN’s D&I Council, the group’s aim is to champion LGBTIQ+ inclusion and positive change; fostering an environment which values and embraces individual differences.
In terms of why it is important to have people in such roles and create internal councils, Krantz said it’s “something which is only going to benefit an organisation’s people, partners and communities”.
“It is critical to industry advancement, so I would expect to see more businesses appointing people into similar roles as mine to ensure D&I continues to get the focus,” Krantz said.
Aubrey Blanche is the global head of diversity and belonging at Atlassian. The Australian enterprise software company is frequently seen on Best Place to Work lists, but she said that not all companies need a role such as a head of diversity.
"I think what you can do is, within the context of everyone's role, there is a responsibility to create belonging, to create equity and integrate balance on their teams,” Aubrey said.
“Because what the research tells us, is when you raise the bar, when you have the highest standards, that's when you get equity in representation, in its opportunity."
Blanche said unconscious bias training should not be mandatory for all companies. If it is done poorly, she revealed, or if it's not accompanied by a fully comprehensive unconscious bias mitigation strategy, it can make people more biased.
“You have to have a broader implementation strategy to look at things like auditing your hiring rates, your promotion velocity, your attrition, looking at who are getting those high profiles or leadership assignments,” she said.
When looking at building a diversity and belonging strategy, research shows it has to be custom fit to the company and the culture it is in.
Atlassian prefers a “social science–based approach” when it comes to building this type of strategy, according to Blanche. This means it tries something, tests it, iterates it, tries to improve it, and then sees if it has had an impact.
“We do this as we know that there's really no silver bullet. This is a big systemic problem and so it's going to take a variety of different things that are going to help us get to that equal opportunity and equity for everyone," she said.
TBWA global CEO Troy Ruhanen, who is tipped to one day succeed Omnicom boss John Wren, admitted to AdNews that he was “embarrassed” at the network's gender imbalance when he took over.
“I won't say the number, but it was incredibly low in terms of the number of women on that page. It was atrocious,” the Aussie expat said, who is now based in the US.
Ruhanen introduced the 20/20 initiative, which promised to increase leadership by 20% by 2020. So far, the number is up 15% and tracking ahead of target, however, there are still pockets of the network where more work needs to be done.
Globally, the number of women in creative leadership positions is now up nearly 50% within three years; an encouraging sign in a discipline that’s been notoriously slow to change, Ruhanen explained.
In strategy and planning, the number of women in leadership positions has risen 10% over the same period and there has been a 13% increase at executive level. While TBWA has made progress, it is still struggling in areas, including creative and digital.
“Still, the biggest issue is getting female creative talent," Ruhanen said. "So, all this progress around presidents and heads of planning and all that, we're making great progress on that one. But, with creative female leaders, it's still really hard."
Part of this initiative is a mentoring program called Circle of Women, which aims to train, retain and guide young female talent.
A business imperative
Every company faces different challenges, which need to be tackled in a way that is tailored to their own data and company culture.
In 2016, The Agency Circle was launched in creative agencies in response to increasing frustrations around diversity, or the lack of it. Touted as a “powerful opportunity” for agency leaders to shape the future of communications agencies in Australia, 15 agencies across the nation asked every employee on the books to complete a survey about their experience in the workplace when it came to diversity.
The last results from the 1200 responses painted a clear, but not unsurprising picture of the state of diversity across Australia in agencies.
The industry skewed young and Caucasian, with 6% Asian and just one Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander completing the survey. Of the CEO/MD roles, 84% were male and 16% female.
Chair of The Agency Circle and MD of Clemenger Sydney, Emily Perrett, said it’s important that we don’t ‘get bored’ before we implement the big things that will drive long term change as it has to be more than short term tactics.
“These are big and sensitive subjects and it’s important that we have an intelligent industry wide conversation about them,” she said.
“We should be comfortable with debate, and questions, and saying we don’t know. We’re all learning and dealing with the same issues at the same time. We should be supportive of anyone trying to make positive change.”
The next Agency Circle survey will open in October of this year, with Perrett saying she hopes to see a positive shift on all metrics across all agencies. She said there are no common benchmarks, it’s about positive progress.
Perrett also said while gender gets a lot of air time, the issues around age and socio-economic background are just as pronounced.
“We’re so much more powerful when we move as an industry, rather than as individual agencies,” she said.
Director of operations and talent at creative shop 72andSunny, Ngaio McCreadie, said for her agency, building a company that reflects larger society when looking at gender, racial and cultural participation, is the only way to make work that connects with the Australia of today.
“So, having a company that reflects the many backgrounds of Australia is not just a talent initiative, but rather a business imperative,” McCreadie said.
Like many agencies, improving workforce diversity is a topic close to 72andSunny's heart. It has many initiatives, including paid parental leave, flexible working, unlimited paid annual leave and 72Voices, a research project that aims to take the temperature of modern Australia.
Parental leave vs parents who leave
As well as diversity, improved parental leave options is one of many things that adland needs to work on. This nestles alongside countless concerns from the quest for equal pay, to overall greater workplace flexibility regardless of parental leave, abolishment of sexuaul harasment, and more senior women in leadership. The list of issues to work through goes on.
However, these demands are no longer entirely falling on deaf ears as ripples of change and increasing action takes place. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, for instance, which created global and local groundswell, the creation of The Agency Circle, Free The Bid, and more.
The maximum period a mother is paid parental leave by the Australian Government is 18 weeks at a statutory amount. The father/partner is also given payment that relates to a period of up to two weeks. But, it’s what employees do on top of this basic award that helps the process of easing into life with a new child.
Sarah Wyse, founder of Wyse Women, a community of professional women seeking flexible work opportunities that offer an alternative to the nine to five, said parents are not financially supported enough in Australia.
“From paid parental leave (government and company) through to childcare fees, anyone who has a child will know how incredibly difficult it is to have a child and go to work," Wyse said. "And for some, it is almost impossible, which causes (mostly) mothers to opt out of the workforce.
“The government parental leave award doesn’t fully cover the costs of not working and paying for the needs of a young baby. And while the means tested approach is looking out for the interests of those who need it most, it doesn’t offer support or any incentive for parents (mostly mothers) to return to work after having a baby.”
Wyse said often salaries just cover childcare fees while the lack of flexible working opportunities means that often it becomes too hard to try and balance a family and a demanding full–time job.
“Companies can really help by offering a paid parental leave policy and, importantly, a flexible working culture that supports parents who are facing the day–to–day juggle," she explained.
"In fact, working flexibly shouldn’t be limited to parents — everyone should be entitled to the same opportunity."
Who gives what?
AdNews asked a handful of agencies, TV networks, tech giants, and publishers to share what parental leave policies they have devised. From News Corp and Network Ten, Seven and Nine to OMD, Facebook, Fairfax, Google and Spotify, a table of 15 firm’s policies can soon be found on AdNews.com.au - as well as a snippet of agency holding groupsin print.
We didn’t get around to all groups and tech players, but at a glimpse, Spotify gives six months 100% paid parental leave regardless of gender, which certainly stood out. Adobe even lists its entitlement publicly online, with employees who are considered primary caregivers given 26 calendar weeks of full paid leave.
Media owners are also making changes. APN Outdoor also revealed its new parental leave policy introduced in April this year with parents having the choice of being a primary or secondary carer, regardless of gender. Primary carers are given 14 weeks paid leave (or 28 weeks at half pay) and secondary carers have four weeks paid leave (or eight weeks at half pay), which can be taken in tranches throughout the baby’s first year.
Edweena Stratton, VP of employee success APAC at Salesforce, was proud to tell AdNews how the company updated its parental leave policy in May 2017 to better meet the needs of employees and the business.
Primary caregivers are able to take 26 weeks paid time off while secondary caregivers can take 12 weeks paid time off to bond with their new baby or adopted child.
“We enacted this policy to recognise the importance of all caregivers and provide our employees with the time to bond and enjoy this wonderful time of life,” Stratton said.
In addition, Salesforce reimburses up to $10,000 per child for eligible expenses related to adopting a child.
“We embody our culture with the Hawaiian concept of Ohana, which is the idea that families — whatever form that takes — are bound together, and that family members are responsible for one another,” she said.
Unsurprisingly, the likes of Facebook, offering four months paid leave, and Google, which gives 18 weeks' full pay, also ranked highly. But, is this feasible for everyone? A combination of reformed government policy and progressive business leaders, Wyse said, would mean a greater opportunity for all companies to offer a better level of paid parental leave. Stratton went further, refocusing the concept.
“We can’t think of paid parental leave as a cost — we need to think of it as an investment,” she said.
“Companies who are thinking about their staff are the ones who are going to win. Flexible working isn’t just for parents.
"With younger generations owning the portfolio career, and an ageing working population, we are going to need to think differently about the future of work and how we are going to ensure we are harnessing and coaching the right skills the industry needs to ensure a bright future.”
Closer to home, News Corp Australia provides 10 weeks' paid parental leave, including superannuation and Fairfax has impressively increased primary carer leave from eight to 16 weeks. In a company memo seen by AdNews, superannuation contributions are now to be paid to primary carers while on paid government and unpaid parental leave up to a maximum of 12 months, including the company–paid period.
Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said the “important changes” were made to modernise its policy and bring it further ahead of minimum statutory obligations.
At the time of going to print, Pacific Magazines, *Bauer and Foxtel were the only three companies who refused to clarify to AdNews what parental leave policies they have in place.
*Bauer has since confirmed it has improved its parental leave policy by increasing the paid leave from six to eight weeks, in addition to offering 12 months of unpaid leave, with the possibility of extending.
Bauer Media's people and culture director, Kelly Young, said: "The paid parental leave is designed to support parents at the time of birth or adoption but also in their return to work when costs of returning can mount. Therefore the policy pays six weeks at the time of birth or adoption and then two weeks on return to work.
"While on parental leave, team members can choose to remain in contact with the business via their manager and returning parents can request flexible working arrangements for those with children under school age heading back to work."
See it first in print
However, Wyse said the perks of flexible working aren’t all on the employee side either as companies can reap huge rewards such as higher employee engagement, increased retention, greater productivity and a healthy bottom line.
“Supporting an employee whilst they take important time to raise their child increases positive sentiment and encourages greater loyalty, which in a time where we claim the skills shortage is one of the industry’s biggest issues, seems like a no–brainer," she said.
“Finally, if we are ever going to achieve parity and equality, paid parental leave should be the same for both mum and dad. Just two weeks for a new father? Most of us have longer honeymoons.”
Australia also seems to have lagged behind the rest of the Western world given this country’s first national paid parental leave scheme was not introduced until 2011.
When compared to some European countries, such as Sweden, which has had successful paid maternity leave and childcare assistance platforms for decades, clear gaps are notable. As an example, Sweden currently offers 480 days of subsidised leave per child, which parents can share as they wish, with 390 paid for by the taxpayer at a rate of about 80% of their salary.
With so many options in Australia sitting alongside varying return to work plans and flexible working, it is clear there is the good, the bad and the ugly. But, what should employers be offering, and is a one–size –fits–all model a better solution?
The Royals designed AdNews magazine - August 2018
“A one–size–fits–all rarely works in any scenario. This isn’t any different,” Wyse said.
“Companies need to embrace diversity and be comfortable with each employee operating in a different way. Our needs are different and with a good cultural framework in place will allow for movement and fluidity across the board that ensures a happy and healthy workforce.”
Parental leave policies vary wildly. From the basic award standard to six months' paid leave, hardly any two are the same.
72andSunny’s McCreadie said the agency also encountered a similar issue when trying to research parental leave norms in Australia, with most advertising agencies simply not appearing to publish their policies.
“However, we compete for talent with a much broader spectrum of creative companies and found that some of the best in class parental support is found within the tech industry, so we set our standards there,” she said.
The Sydney agency offers six months' paid leave for primary caregivers (12 weeks at 100% pay and 12 weeks at 50% pay), and one month for the secondary caregiver.
“Around that we have a detailed program that covers job security/progression, flexible working and reintegration to ensure a highly positive and inclusive experience for both parent and company,” McCreadie said.
“Our global mission is to expand and diversify the creative class and attracting/retaining top female talent is a key part of addressing the under–representation of women in creative and leadership roles within our industry. It’s of the utmost importance.”
McCreadie said she doesn’t feel the industry has generally done a good enough job of enabling women to take parental leave without it impacting their progression (at any age). Nor does she feel like a enough has been done to attract talent from outside of the demographic spread mentioned in the survey.
“There is no overnight fix–all that I know of, but it feels right to talk about it more, share learnings, experiment, and be less competitive with each other in this sense,” McCreadie said.
When it comes to improving both diversity and parental leaveoptions, one thing that everyone agrees upon is that it requires firm leadership.
Here’s a snippet from the larger Adland Secrets feature, in which we asked an anonymous industry recruiter for his views:
How progressive are some of these companies when it comes to women in leadership and diversity? Do these things come up in conversation?
A good portion of agencies say they are progressive, the same agencies who smash pots and pans when they hire females in the press. Unfortunately, they’re more focused on creating the story and not actually changing anything. We get a lot of requests from mothers returning back to the workforce looking for part–time work. For all our efforts, we do get pushed back quickly by the same companies advocating change. We still have a long way to go I’m afraid to say. It’s definitely heading in the right direction, but we need true implementation now when the cameras are off.
Gender pay gaps; a sad state of affairs or all equal?
There is still a problem at C–level for sure, and research backs that. However, in the social and digital space, particularly at the junior/middle and managerial levels, we don't face many issues with gender pay. If you take the more traditional industries like creative and media, we’re facing a splintering effect right now too with the explosion of social media, data, tech, etc. There are many more avenues/opportunities for people to explore, therefore creating new talent pools. I don’t think the industry has the ability to dictate gender pay issues with the sheer lack of talent right now in these spaces. Again, this might be very different at the higher levels.
Does the boys club still exist when it comes to recruiting for senior roles, and if so, why?
Yes, unfortunately. Until the older generation retires, it’ll still be the case too. It’s quite sad really. I know first–hand that females still get hired to prop up the quota at certain agencies. Adland hours are hugely demanding too — they don’t really support or encourage females to leave and start a family. They certainly don’t make it easy to come back. Other industries, particularly in technology, are embracing it and it’s working. It just needs some visionary leaders to make the stance and stamp out a dated culture.
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