The landscape of leadership in the advertising and communications industry is undergoing a critical shift.  

WACL (Women in Advertising Communications Leadership) is leading the charge with their initiative, “Levers for Change” a five-part series dedicated to accelerating gender equality and propelling more women into the coveted CEO role.

Our 50% CEO playbook provides practical tools to achieve a future where women hold half of all CEO positions. 

Through collaboration with the Female Leaders Club, “Levers for Change” seeks to create systemic change not just at the top, but at all levels, fostering a more inclusive and empowering landscape for the future generation of female leaders.

Nishma Patel Robb, WACL President and former Senior Director Marketing, Google, shares why the five levers for change are needed to ensure we see change at the top of businesses by advancing women to CEO roles. 


The Significance of the the CEO role

Achieving 50% female representation in CEO positions is a hotly debated topic, with arguments on both sides. 

Proponents emphasise fairness, increased diversity of perspectives leading to better business outcomes, and the role model effect for future generations. 

Opponents raise concerns about prioritising merit over quotas, potential for backlash against artificiality, and the need to address broader systemic inequalities first. 

While achieving this specific goal is not a silver bullet for gender equality, it can be a significant step towards dismantling barriers, demonstrating capabilities, and fostering a more inclusive and diverse leadership landscape in the long run.


Unlocking Potential: Five Levers of Change

WACL has identified five key areas, or ‘levers’, that are crucial in unlocking the leadership potential of women in the industry:

1. Reframing the Language of Leadership: Moving beyond traditional expectations and celebrating diverse leadership styles is vital. Embracing different approaches fosters inclusivity and allows more women to see themselves reflected in leadership roles.

 2. Promoting for Potential, Not Just Experience: Talent recognition and development should not solely focus on immediate experience, Identifying and nurturing promising talent based on potential and leadership qualities allows women to bridge the experience gap and advance in their careers.

3. Embracing Flexibility First: Recognising the diverse needs of women throughout their careers is essential. Implementing flexible work arrangements allows women to balance their professional aspirations, with personal commitments, maximising their contributions and enabling them to thrive in leadership roles.

4. Supporting Women’s Health Needs: Acknowledging and providing tailored support for women’s unique health needs across their careers is crucial. This includes advocating for inclusive health policies and practices that empower women to navigate personal challenges without hindering their professional path.

5. Work like the world is watching - workplace culture and on-screen representation: Shifting the work mindset to the idea of working as if the world was watching fosters a culture of transparency, accountability and ethical conduct. This approach benefits everyone within an organisation, but is especially crucial for women navigating potential bias and discrimination and ultimately creates a fairer and more equitable working environment for all.  

We should also be mindful of our responsibility and power to accurately portray women in our advertising and communications - knowing the impact that can have on women in society and business - again also critical to our industry’s success.


Beyond the Moral Imperative: The Business Case for Gender Parity

While achieving gender parity in leadership positions is undeniably the right thing to do, it also makes sound business sense. 

Research by Black Rock (2023) indicates that companies with greater gender balance outperform their counterparts in crucial areas, demonstrating that fostering an inclusive leadership environment also strengthens the overall success of the industry.

Building an Industry Where Everyone Thrives (men included!)

“Levers for Change” does not aim to disadvantage men in the process of achieving gender equality, but instead encourages collaboration. Where everyone works together to create an industry where all individuals regardless of gender, have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.

Next Steps: Join The Movement

In the coming weeks, WACL delves into each lever for change through interviews with prominent leaders and rising talent. Stay tuned and join WACL in their effort to move the needle on gender diversity and unlock the vast potential of women in the advertising and communications industry.