The Token Man: Richard Warren, CEO of Mullen Lowe Group UK talks to Emma Perkins, ECD of Lowe Open about why diversity enriches the industry
In a new initiative from the founder of Creative Social, Daniele Fiandaca, a series of prominent women from across the marketing industry interview male figures about their views on gender imbalance and diversity in the industry.
In the first of this gender diversity series, Emma Perkins, executive creative director of Lowe Open, catches up with Richard Warren, chief executive, Mullen Lowe Group UK.
Emma Perkins: Richard, thanks for agreeing to do one of our first interviews. Firstly, given how fraught the topic can be, why were you keen to do an interview for Token Man?
Richard Warren: I believe in it passionately! It is detrimental to our business and the industry to not to take the issue more seriously.
EP: Why do you think gender diversity at a senior management level and across the organisation as a whole is important?
RW: It makes us a better company, and enables us to provide a better service for our clients. The more diverse we are, the more effective and higher quality our advice and output becomes. I don’t make the point about advertising reflecting society and culture, and therefore a diverse industry enables us to better target consumers. I think that’s a cop out.
Diversity makes our company a more fulfilling rewarding place to work, and gives us a more rounded and thorough offering. I just think it’s more thrilling! More stimulating and enriching conversation comes from being surrounded by different points of view.
EP: What do you think is the biggest challenge for women currently sitting at a senior management level?
RW: I’m not sure what the single biggest challenge is. I think there are a few. One of the issues may be that historically the industry has felt that to add value and to be successful can only come from being ‘always on', meaning the other competing demands on a woman’s time would inhibit that. And of course the intimidating, wall of men which can seem foreboding. A woman may well ask herself 'how can I be a part of that?'
EP: I'd like to pick up on one of your points to discuss further. When you say the other competing demands on a woman’s time, are you referring to having a family, being a mum? And if so, is this a woman’s issue or a modern parenting issue?
RW: It’s a modern parenting issue. Parenting and the flexibility that’s needed is as incumbent on the man as the woman. When I set up DLKW, the industry had aggressively set up a division of responsibility, and flexibility for men to take part in parenting was not an option. Things have changed so much, it has never been more possible for men to share parental responsibilities. Sheryl Sandberg said: "The partner you chose is the most important decision in your life". A supportive partner enables us to work whether you’re a man or a woman, and this is even more critical when you both work.
EP: What is the current split in your senior management team between men and women?
RW: Women are very well represented across our heads of department. We have a much better representation of senior women and mothers than we’ve ever had. But of course we can do better.
EP: What have you done personally as a leader to help solve the issue of gender equality?
RW: I’m thinking about this every week, thinking about how we can look after our parents and make our company more diverse. That’s one of the reasons we, the agency, supported the She’s Back initiative focusing on bringing women back to work after extended leave. It’s one, important, part of the story.
One other important focus is fathers and ensuring we are committing the same energy to flexible working for either parent. A recent step here has been to offer the same paternity leave benefits as maternity leave – a simple but overlooked step.
It also makes me wonder how many jobs we advertise as a company where we say our roles offer flexible working conditions for both men and women – banks are doing it, so that’s something I want to look into.
EP: If you could do one thing differently during your career to support diversity further, what would it be?
RW: We should have got here sooner. In the past I should have been braver and taken up flexible working myself, playing a more active parental role. I bowed to peer pressure at a time when it simply wasn’t done in the industry. In fact back when I was a father of young children I was told I was too aggressively trying to create a healthy work/life balance and that was seen as not being committed to work. It is a societal responsibility to have children; no one should have to have that conversation today.
EP: Ultimately whose responsibility do you think it should be to help drive more balanced gender equality in an organisation? The chief executive? HR? Senior management team?
RW: The chief executive. Because it’s too important not to be taken seriously by the person who can effect the most change.
EP: What is your company’s current maternity leave policy?
RW: For the first six weeks an employee will be paid 100 per cent of their current salary, (this includes the SMP entitlement for that period). For the next 12 weeks they will receive enhanced payments based upon the length of service with the agency, either 50 per cent for one–three years' service or 75 per cent based on over three years' service.
EP: What is your company’s current paternity leave policy?
RW: We understand the need to support both mum and dad when it comes to having a family and a career, and so offer the same level of pay when it comes to taking leave.
EP: Does your company have a policy on the gender pay gap?
RW: No we don’t, but that’s because, as far as I’m aware, (and I know everyone’s salary in the organisation) we don’t have a gender pay gap. There is not a single situation where someone is not being paid their worth because they’re female.
EP: As I am sure you know, women only represent three per cent of the creative directors in the advertising industry globally. What would be your advice for any aspiring female creative, aspiring to become a creative director?
RW: As a female creative director you have the highest value of anyone in the industry. A female creative director is priceless. So I would say – you have enormous value, recognise that. A third of our creative directors are female, by the way.
EP: Name the one key behaviour change you think men can make in the workplace that will have the biggest impact on fostering gender diversity?
RW: Being as active a parent as their spouse. Equal parenting means equal working opportunities.
EP: How do you think we can best get more men involved in the discussion?
RW: Lead from the top. The most senior men need to engage, talk about it and behave as exemplars.
EP: Finally, who would you like to nominate for the next Token Man interview?
RW: Anthony Hopper, our Lowe Open chief executive. I’d like to know his point of view.
More details about further interviews in the Token Man series can be found on the dedicated website.