Wavemaker Malaysia’s managing director,Â Michelle Achuthan (pictured), is confident and candid as a leader. Previously the managing director of BBDO Worldwide Malaysia for about four and a half years,Â Achuthan was appointed to run Wavemaker in 2017 following the merger of Maxus and MEC.
Despite being a female leader in the ad industry that is often considered by many to be a boys’ club,Â Achuthan remains undaunted and believes in the need for women to empower one another to rise. She shares with A+MÂ about the challenges women on top in the ad and marketing world face.
A+M: What has been the toughest thing about being a female boss?
Achuthan: I never thought of myself as a âfemaleâ boss but rather, look to benchmark myself against peers, regardless of gender. That said, I do believe that the hardest thing about being a working woman and boss, is to show our vulnerable side â the one that admits and that weâre so much more â we play multiple roles and are responsible for multiple people.
Female leaders do tend to shy away from publicly acknowledging that weâre constantly juggling. Worse is when we apologise for it.
A+M: Staff members arenât always the kindest to opinionated female leaders, how do you deal with this?
Achuthan: Opinions are welcome even if debate ensues.
I donât make excuses for having a strong point of view and I encourage the same in everyone I work with.
A+M: What are some of the biggest challenges women on top in the ad/marketing world face?
- The proverbial glass ceiling is real. Age-old perception toward the fairer sex being less committed to doing what it takes to make it all the way to the top does exist.
- Men do still expect women to acquiesce to them, made worse when that man is someone senior and/or influential.
- Women are womenâs worse enemy. Most times women are harder and more judgmental of other women.
Shifts have happened and itâs less about being suppressed in a male-dominated world and more about women owning their path because they chose to do so.
A+M: A tip for ambitious women:
Achuthan: Be YOU. Be your own beacon of success, have an end in mind and carve your journey accordingly.
A+M: Last year, the #MeToo movement took the world by storm. Do you think the #MeToo movement had an impact in the local adland?
Achuthan: Not in the degree that it had in Hollywood though it was a big enough platform that many are now aware of their own personal behaviour and the inappropriateness of passing remarks usually masked as jokes.
A+M: Is sexism and harassment in the ad/marketing industry an issue in Malaysia?
Achuthan: In short, yes and both genders are equally guilty because of stereotyping.
A+M: Do you see tides changing locally since the emergence of the #MeToo movement?
Achuthan: At an intrinsic level, no. Global companies have policies in place and all employees are held to a higher standard of conduct. To be truly egalitarian is to start at the core of the industry â people. How we structure, hire, reward, grow, nurture and recognise individuals is the anchor upon which a winning culture is built.
At Wavemaker, we have a balanced mix of leaders across Asia Pacific and weâre proud of that but weâre also keen to empower all our female employees.
To that end, we support a range of initiatives like the global internal group, Women@Wavemaker, that organise mentoring, inspiration and education, and weâre involved in external activities such the UN Women campaigns. The goal? To make Wavemaker an inclusive and diverse work environment â and the world a better place for all.
This is part of an International Womenâs Day series by A+M, featuringÂ female leaders in the industry and their views on being a female boss.
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Grey Group Malaysiaâs Irene Wong: âFor me, taking charge feels naturalâ
âFind your voice, not just to speak but to be heard,â says M&C Saatchiâs Lara Hussein
Facebookâs Nicole Tan on mentoring women and creating opportunities around it
Ex-AirAsia marketer Kathleen Tan shares her personal challenges as a female boss