Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) Singapore saw the need to celebrate women leaders and grow its female leadership. As such, it made it a point to walk the talk and revamp its policies for gender equality. Its efforts struck a chord with our judges. While the agency's D&I efforts began in 2017, it realised that it lacked senior female representation in the creative department and across the business more broadly. By mid-2019, its gender reporting showed that it had not made the progress it wanted. Hence, it decided to act on the gender gap.
BBH did not want to only focus on having female leadership but local female leadership in particular. It wanted to address the gender and local versus foreign imbalance for two reasons. Firstly, studies have shown that gender diversity at the workplace brings a multitude of benefits including greater profitability and productivity. This focus was also to better represent the audiences it spoke to since BBH serves local brands such as NTUC Income, UOB and Singtel, where women form 50.4% of the Singapore population, BBH said citing the Global World Index.
It knew that change would not happen overnight and it needed to make a systemic change. While it was over-indexing on female representation in junior to mid-level positions, BBH said this was not naturally converting to representation in the upper third of the business. Hence, it decided to address the pipeline issue into the upper third by focusing its efforts on supporting and levelling up local women in the middle third.
It carried out two main initiatives to grow female leadership within the agency. The first was Next Gen Leadership Training which was first held in 2019 to formally develop its emerging local women talent in the hope that they become BBH's next-generation leaders in Singapore. According to the agency, nine local women employees, mostly in mid-level positions and identified as high potential employees based on work performance and appraisals, were selected to be the first cohort of its Next Gen Leadership Training.
The aim of the programme was to support its emerging talent with tailored leadership training that helped them hone the fundamental soft and hard skills of being a leader while giving participants the space to explore the kind of leader they want to be. Senior management was fully involved in the training with each of them having personal time with the participants to provide mentorship, advice and share their personal stories of growth and leadership at BBH.
BBH followed up with a second round of training in January this year for the same group, making it even more relevant for the growth they have made over the past year. Participants were also given access to a coach bi-weekly following the training sessions to continue their growth.
Across the two training sessions that collectively took place over a week, key highlights included becoming confident leaders, social styles, presentation skills, defining your purpose, making persuasive arguments to sell work, creating and owning commercial impact, as well as negotiation skills.
Through this initiative, BBH saw that its cohort of women leaders bonded together during the training, and have since been able to support each other through their career personal development. The training also resulted in some training assets that could be shared more broadly across the agency.
With the time investment required from BBH’s cohort for the duration of the training, a key challenge was having all nine people away from client projects at the same time, however, the teams around them were understanding and flexible in finding ways around this.
Overall, BBH succeeded in growing local women leadership at BBH Singapore, with five out of the nine participants already being promoted. The initiative was also identified in the BBH network as best in class and the format shared was also shared with the other agencies to replicate.
For the 2020 programme, 100% of participants rated the training as being 'extremely' or 'very' valuable in their growth and development at the agency.
Meanwhile, in 2019, 89% of the participants rated the training as "very relevant" to them.
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