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International Women's Day: Media agency heads on how they inspire inclusion at work

International Women's Day: Media agency heads on how they inspire inclusion at work

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International Women's Day (IWD) is around the corner on 8 March and this year, the campaign theme is 'inspire inclusion'. 

"When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world," it said. "And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment."

In McKinsey's 2023 'Women in the Workplace' report, it found that since 2015, the number of women in the C-suite has increased from 17 to 28 per cent, and the representation of women at the vice president and senior vice president levels has also improved significantly.

It also found that women are becoming more ambitious with nine in ten women under the age of 30 want to be promoted to the next level, and three in four aspiring to become senior leaders.

Don't miss: How women can get ahead in an AI-driven workplace

In honor of IWD, MARKETING-INTERACTIVE decided to sit down with some of our female CEOs that head up the biggest media agencies in Singapore to find out more about how they lead and how they inspire inclusion in their workplace.

Leela Nair, managing director, Ebiquity

1. What is your biggest insecurity about yourself in the industry?

My primary insecurity is around communication in certain business settings. This is a common struggle for women seeking to make their mark in certain male-dominated arenas.

Part of this hesitation stems from my upbringing and education in Malaysia, where we were discouraged from asking difficult questions, to maintain harmony. It is important to overcome this for women in business. A variety of viewpoints are critical for a business' success and innovation.

2. What is your one guiding principle as a female leader

Honesty, reliability and trustworthiness in all aspects of life, including business.

3. How do you inspire inclusion in your workplace?

To inspire inclusion in the workplace, I believe in leading by example and ensuring that fairness and equal treatment are foundational principles.

It's vital to recognise and reward ability and merit. This encourages a culture where people feel valued and motivated to contribute their best. This is good for the business as well as the team.

Jacqui Lim, CEO Havas Media Network Singapore and chief growth officer, SEA & North Asia

1. What is your biggest insecurity in the industry? 

Believe it or not, it’s public speaking. While my current role requires me to give presentations, speeches, keynotes and town halls (and I have done this for years), it isn’t truly second nature to me. It isn’t in my blood to be the first person in the room to put my hand up and step forward to address a large group.

Since I was young, I’ve always managed to muster the courage to participate in talent shows and oratorical contests in school, but I always had the nagging feeling of self-doubt before every performance. I will wonder if I’ve done enough preparation or if my performance or content was solid enough to create a meaningful impact, provide new insights and provoke conversations. Hence, I will describe myself as a trained presenter, who is always looking to learn from other female leaders rather than already being 'up there’.

2. What is your one guiding principle as a female leader?

Doing things right is as important as doing the right things.

3. How do you inspire inclusion in your workplace? 

Inclusivity needs to be at the heart of all company policies, processes and practices to impact employee experience.

The leadership team needs to be the biggest advocate to champion inclusivity and fair representation in any setting while also ensuring that this is embraced by staff on a day-to-day basis.

Special efforts must be made to integrate staff from diverse backgrounds and differing abilities to help them assimilate well into the organisation rather than expecting it to just happen organically. This commitment spans from thoughtful hiring policies and comprehensive onboarding programs to sensitivity training, awareness initiatives, and ongoing education. At Havas, we take pride in embedding inclusivity in every aspect of our organisational culture.

While there’s still a lot of work and education to be done in this area, no one can truly say that they have attained perfection. Significant strides can be made if we make it a point to build an empathetic workplace environment that allows every unique individual to shine and thrive.

Chloe Neo, CEO, Omnicom Media Group Singapore

1. What is your biggest insecurity in the industry?

My most profound insecurity revolves around asserting my voice; the struggle to balance respect with self-assuredness is a thin line to walk. I grew up in my late grandmother’s household where there was clear family hierarchy.

Being the youngest female, I was expected to speak only when spoken to. Despite this insecurity, I remind myself that respect manifests in diverse ways – through empathy, inclusion, and attentiveness. Breaking free from the shackles of self-constraint, I embrace my voice, knowing that I deserve to resonate alongside the more expressive voices, regardless of dominance, seniority or hierarchy.

2. In one sentence, describe your one guiding principle as a female leader.

 Be true and kind to yourself so you can grow, and as you grow, grow others.

3. How do you inspire inclusion in your workplace?

At Omnicom Media Group (OMG), inclusion is intentional and action oriented. We inspire and cultivate inclusion at OMG with a clear vision as our collective North Star, and foster togetherness through shared values.

We respect that everyone brings their unique perspectives and experiences to our culture, and also recognise that each talent has its own beliefs and unconscious bias. As such, we celebrate the diverse talent community we have through the OMG Thrive programme, which anchors on enabling each talent to be their personal best through their overall development across professional growth, physical and mental well-being, and community involvement.

Through the OMG Thrive journey, they gain greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of their role and are more involved in fostering an inclusive and collective community at OMG.

Join us this coming 24 - 25 April for #Content360, a two-day extravaganza centered around four core thematic pillars: Explore with AI; Insight-powered strategies; Content as an experience; and Embrace the future. Immerse yourself in learning to curate content with creativity, critical thinking, and confidence with us at Content360!

Related articles:  
How the ad industry can nurture more women in leadership 
A majority of Asian women feel unrepresented in ads, how can adland lend its support? 
#ExplainIt: Malaysian agency leaders on the changes they want in motion this IWD 

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