Cultural Barriers, Poor Policies Fingered For Dearth of Female CEOs in Advertising

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L-R: Tope Jemerigbe, Chairman, Women in Advertising & Communication; Ikechi Odigbo, President, AAAN; Nnenna Onyewuchi, Director of Strategy, Yellow Brick Road and Kelechi Nwosu, Managing Director, TBWA Concept at the Women In Adsvertising anmd Communications annual cocktail in Lagos recently.
L-R: Tope Jemerigbe, Chairman, Women in Advertising & Communication; Ikechi Odigbo, President, AAAN; Nnenna Onyewuchi, Director of Strategy, Yellow Brick Road and Kelechi Nwosu, Managing Director, TBWA Concept at the Women In Adsvertising anmd Communications annual cocktail in Lagos recently.

Cultural barriers, poor policies and other factors have been identified as some of the reasons for the poor representation of female advertising and communication professionals at the top in the industry.

This summation made at the maiden edition of the annual Women in Advertising and Communication Annual Cocktail held recently in Lagos, is not unconnected to what Joshua Ajayi, convener of the Women in Marketing & Communications Conference /Awards (WIMCA), had been quoted to have said. Citing the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, he had noted that we are still 200 years away from gender parity in Economic and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health, survival and political empowerment. For instance, he noted that only three out of the top advertising agencies in Nigeria have women at the helms of affairs.

Themed ‘Growing Female Chief Executives,’ the cocktail which was organised under the auspices of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) was aimed at transforming female practitioners across Marketing Communications industry into outstanding leaders, who can contribute broadly to their firm’s success.

Tope Jemerigbe, Chairman of Women in Advertising and Communications who said as much in her opening address added that event was put together to encourage networking and growth of participants. Speaking with pressmen she said that the dearth of female professional CEOs is a global problem reflecting on the industry, hence an event like this. “A day like this will determine whether the issues addressed here today will yield results. It is an ongoing issue, not just one an evening like this will be able to take care of.”

Tope Jemerigbe, Chairman of Women in Advertising and Communications.
Tope Jemerigbe, Chairman of Women in Advertising and Communications.

She noted that the challenge is not peculiar to the advertising industry. “This is not exclusive to the Advertising industry. That is why we have our partners from the media, Women in PR, Event management, it’s more about women in advertising and communication. This is so so that we can take more pragmatic steps asides from seminars in the past.”

The event which was anchored by Nnenna Onyewuchi, Director of Strategy for Yellow Brick Road had an interactive fireside chat with Tope Jemerigbe who is also the CEO of DKK, John Ugbe, Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria and Angela Emuwa, Chairman, Punch Nigeria as discussants while Tola Obi, the Chief Operating Officer of CentreSpreadGrey moderated.

In his reaction, The President of Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN, Ikechi Odigbo said that the Women in Advertising Cocktail is a giant leap forward in terms of providing a platform for progressive women to get together, exchange ideas and share experiences, and also begin to have a common path in engaging the challenges that they face in the workplace, noting that the Association values the distinct nature of women and their unique ability to influence, strengthen and elevate the advertising practice.

Ikechi who is also the Managing Director of DDB Lagos said DDB Worldwide is gender compliant and has friendly policies in place to make the best of talents rise to their deserved position within the DDB ranks regardless of gender. “The CEO of DDB Worldwide is a very dynamic lady Wendy Clark who has been providing very inspiring leadership since she came on board. We have a greater workforce of women within the ranks of DDB Lagos. These are women known for their dynamism and they are very engaging. They are also loyal, faithful and committed to the work. We see them as assets.

Steve Babaeko, Vice President of AAAN (left) and Ikechi Odigbo, President, AAAN at the annual  Women in Advertising and Communicationscocktail held recently.
Steve Babaeko, Vice President of AAAN (left) and Ikechi Odigbo, President, AAAN at the annual Women in Advertising and Communicationscocktail held recently.

“We realise that we need to be conscious of the nuances which may be embedded culturally where we are not fully sensitive to their unique demands in the workplace. We do not determine elevations, appointment, performance based on gender. We look at the value every member of the team brings to the table and we celebrate them for their performance both male and female.”

John Ugbe, in his contribution, noted that women are beginning to support women even more than expected as against what seems to be the perceived norm. He, however, advised that women should eschew laziness and embrace hard work as positions are not earned by gender. “The workplace is about hard work and focus and these do not recognise gender. Women should work hard, believe in themselves and lean on their support system.

John Ugbe, Managing Director, Multiichoice Nigeria engaging in the fireside chat of the event.
John Ugbe, Managing Director, Multiichoice Nigeria engaging in the fireside chat of the event.

“Having said that, there is also a need for organisations to review the workplace policies on women. Importantly, we need our best talents and often times, these best talents are women. So, we don’t want to put the wrong policies in place to drive these talents away from us. We need to put the best policies in place to allow the women with the best of talents shine,” he said.

In her contribution, Angela Emuwa noted that networking is key to growth and development of women in the workplace. She added that women need to be intentional about rising to leadership positions within their organisations. “Women need to be confident and assert their presence in meetings, etc. They need to know their strengths and use it to their advantage. Rising to the leadership position is about merit and what is brought to the table. The need to do a lot of personal development. Training is vital. I have sponsored myself for trainings before, even abroad, and that is the way to rise to the zenith,” she said.

Angela Emuwa, Chairman, Punch Nigeria at the fire side chat.
Angela Emuwa, Chairman, Punch Nigeria at the fire side chat.

Steve Babaeko, Vice President of AAAN and also Chief Executive Officer of X3M Ideas also spoke about the event. “If you empower a woman and give her a conducive space, she will do great things. For instance, our Central and Southern Africa operations is run by a woman, Nike Ogunkola. I assure you, she is performing excellently. We are proud of her and how the other women at X3M Ideas are doing awesome things at the agency.

“I encourage women to always give it their all. I have always advocated that women who are qualified and capable should not have barriers either cultural or policy related hamper their climb to the zenith of their career.
Commending the Jemerigbe-led committee for a job well done in putting together the event, he added: “I have to also commend the President of AAAN, Ikechi Odigbo, under his Chairmanship we have been able to see a breath of fresh air with new things coming on.”

Participants during the fireside chat.
Participants during the fireside chat.

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