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The Token Man: Paul Frampton, CEO UK & Ireland at Havas Media Group on his fascination with change and the need for more role models


By Daniele Fiandaca | co-founder

February 7, 2017 | 17 min read

Our latest interview in The Token Man gender diversity series finds Sally Henderson interviewing Paul Frampton, chief executive of UK and Ireland at Havas Media Group.

Sally Henderson Paul Frampton

Sally Henderson Paul Frampton

Sally Henderson (SH): Thanks Paul, for agreeing to do one of our interviews. First question, given how fraught the topic can be, why were you keen to do an interview for Token Man?

Paul Frampton (PF): I think my upbringing plays a large part. I grew up with equal-leadership role models. Both my parents were head teachers and from a very early age, I was taught the term “head teacher” not “head master”. My parents believed in equality in all aspects of life, and were equally supportive of each other in the pursuit of their professional ambitions, so this showed me what’s possible.

I have always been adventurous and a change agent. If something is sub optimal, I will always try to challenge myself and the team to re-imagine it. You don’t give in. You try to change things to make them better. Diversity in the workplace is most certainly an area that needs re-imagining. Change fascinates me and I like challenging the status quo. It’s in my DNA.

SH: Your title is chief executive of UK and Ireland at Havas Media Group. What is ultimately your role in the business or the industry?

PF: I sit over the eight agencies in Havas Media Group, with 900 people across five offices. In essence, my role is setting the purpose and destination for the business for the long term, creating the right environment for the team and to re-imagine the agency model to drive faster growth.

SH: Why do you think gender diversity at a senior management level, and across the organisation as a whole, is important?

PF: Our leadership team is responsible for making decisions on our strategy and unless we have the right diversity of thought and talent around the table, we will not be brave enough and re-imagine.

In addition, I have found that EQ (Emotional Intelligence) such as care and welfare are traditionally more feminine traits over masculine ones and a more diverse, balanced team is essential to supporting people through ongoing change and uncertainty.

SH: What do you think the biggest challenge is for women currently sitting in a minority at a senior management level?

PF: In any environment where you are a minority, you have to have a lot of confidence to speak out as you will stand out and be seen as different. And it’s confidence, not aggressiveness. Women need to be encouraged and given the confidence to speak out on what they feel is important and where they feel their welfare is compromised.

There is a real challenge around maternity and returning to work.

Women can be on a great trajectory of growth and then they embrace kids and maternity, which changes their world and disconnects a woman/parent from a business for six to 12 months. To be disconnected from the pulse of work for anybody in this fast-paced environment would be a challenge but that’s before taking in to account the mental and psychological challenges being a mum brings.

There are not enough role models and natural mentors for women in the industry in general. Media agencies do however have some great role models at chief executive level such as Lindsay Pattison at Maxus, Helen McRea at Mindshare, Pippa Glucklich at Starcom MediaVest, Claudine Collins and Karen Blackett at MediaCom UK and Phillipa Brown at Omnicom Media Group. However, it is not just about C-level role models. Young women need role models that are closer to their level.

Men can offer interesting mentoring to females to give both sides of the perspective. Women (and men) have to work out how to succeed in the current environment to change it. We need to be careful not to recreate “boys’ clubs” as “girls’ clubs”. Enlightened men (which I call manbassadors) should be encouraged to be involved, and any forum must aim to be inclusive and accessible or else it becomes a clique in its own right. Without meaning to, we could recreate the negativity of the old boys’ club.

SH: What is the current split (as a %) in your current senior management team between men and women? And what is the split at the executive level?

PF: Across the board, 55% of 900 people are female. At middle management, it is 56%. head of department, it is 42%, and then at executive level, it falls to 35%.

SH: Is this something you are actively addressing, and if so how?

PF: Yes. For example, we are currently hiring a new MD for one of our agencies. We have specifically put a brief out that we only want female candidates. It has been challenging because the pool of perfect candidates, ready to do the role today, is lighter than all of us want it to be (due to the challenges we are discussing). If we can find a female who is 80% there, we are willing to build a support programme that accelerates her ability to succeed, so we can consider that as an option.

Another example is a member of my exec team is about to retire (interestingly, she is vocal that she hasn’t really experienced prejudice in her own career). Her perspective is very interesting and I have invited her to keep engaged with business as a great leader and to continue as a female role model. She will also work with our chief talent officer to accelerate our diversity programme. I am a big believer in action and candour.

SH: What have you done personally as a leader to help solve the issue of gender equality?

PF: I am an advisor for Women in Marketing (WIM) run by Ade Onilude. WIM is a global body that celebrates women in Marketing whilst prioritising women as drivers for change with a focus on female entrepreneurs and changes in technology.

I am pushing for changing policies here, such as improving our maternity policy and am pleased that last year, we introduced parental coaching.

We also have a next generation leadership programme. I have prioritised senior females going on to leadership programmes.

SH: Have you done the Harvard Unconscious Bias test? What was your result? And how do you think knowing this has/will influence your behaviour?

PF: Yes I have. My result is 'moderate' with automatic association to “female as family” and “male as career”. The result is what I expected so now I know it, I will keep diversity and non-conscious bias more in my mind, and I will challenge myself more.

I think my behaviour has already been influenced because I have grown up in an industry that is predominately male, and I am a person who always wanted to drive change.

SH: Have you personally seen examples of unconscious bias in the workplace over your career, and what would be your advice to women to overcome unconscious bias to develop their careers?

PF: I have unfortunately, particularly around maternity and incentivising women to come back earlier where the business, not the individual, was put first.

I am also hyper-aware of the “banter” on the trading floors in a media agency. By default, the trading floors are quite banter-led, however banter is quite often the source of peoples’ anxiety when in a minority, whatever that minority may be i.e. LGBT+, gender, mental health, etc. I find this unacceptable and encourage everyone to call it out.

Advice I would offer to women looking to develop their careers is to have someone as your mentor or coach, where you feel you can open up about these things. Start to build a plan as to how you will approach or attack your challenges, create your game plan and work out, perhaps through role-play, how to have confidence around potentially daunting or challenging situations. Set goals and keep building them up.

If you think there are areas where you have been unfairly treated, capture them rationally and have the tough conversation rationally not emotionally. Ask for the things you have raised to be considered and supported, leave some time and then revisit. If nothing happens, either escalate your concern or consider if it is the right organisation for you.

SH: What is your company’s current maternity leave policy?

PF: We offer three-to-six months dependent on service.

SH: What is your company’s current paternity leave policy?

PF: We currently offer two weeks paid leave but we are increasing this with immediate effect to four weeks – you heard it here first! This isn’t currently linked to length of service.

SH: Do you think these policies need to change?

PF: We need to continue reviewing them to see if they are fair, and iterate accordingly. Getting them in place and testing them out is better than waiting for them to be perfect before trying! I am a big fan of gender-neutral support and providing parental coaching, encouraging shared leave. We are focusing on educating around this.

I have just experienced the joy of the birth of my fourth child. Now I am in a position of leadership, I am able to make bigger change and can observe how maternity affects my wife and me. It is a gift for me as a CEO to have this first-hand insight to judge what is good practice to support new parents and what it’s like to be away from work. The opportunity is there for me to make sure I use this as an active learning experience.

SH: Congrats! How long are you taking as paternity leave?

PF: I am taking three-and-a-half weeks, which I have broken up over three months around when my mother-in law is in the country from Bogota, so I can be at home at the times I am needed most.

SH: Given the stigma attached to men taking extended parental leave, did you consider taking longer in order to set an example for the wider business?

I very deliberately made the decision to make an example to other expecting fathers at Havas and in wider adland. Rather than two weeks, I opted to take almost double this and have been very vocal on Twitter about the reasons why and in encouraging other prospective parents to do the same to support their partners. I still believe that four weeks makes the right statement; that it is important that men take meaningful paternity leave and “partner” with their spouse in these early weeks.

SH: What role do you think the industry should take in closing the gap between paternity and maternity?

PF: There are some examples of business doing good things, such as Facebook and Yahoo extending their paternity policy.

There aren’t enough forums for changing this in the industry. The IPA has put diversity high on the agenda, but more could be done on improving leave policies. We need to talk about this specific topic more as an industry and not in silos.

Given we are in the communication business, we should communicate it better, and why it’s a good thing for parents to consider sharing parental responsibility.

Action is critical. Just do it, see what happens and then iterate.

SH: What do you think brands need to do more of to give a positive representation of women?

PF: Brands need to reflect the diversity and the “fruit salad’ of Britain in its advertising. Let’s face it; brands stereotype roles to their consumers. Any cleaning advert is always a woman, and messaging linked to success and sport is almost always about a guy.

Brands have to do the same things as agencies and prioritise elevating females into more senior leadership roles. Brands such as HP are leading the charge. Antonio Lucio (a fellow advisor for Women in Marketing) has clearly set out that he has a clear expectation of benchmarks in terms of diversity and work. He has set KPIs to see change.

Brands need to ask themselves if the advert is meaningful to people. Does the brand improve the quality of life for consumers? Brands being measured on this and their contribution to community and society are important. They should focus on being meaningful to the consumer. It’s not just about the economics.

Brands have got to accept that polished, airbrushed communication is not the right way to go. It’s about what actually connects and is relevant to people. Brands need to wake up and ask themselves, “What do I need to do to change?” It’s not about just reaching the audience. Brands need to connect better.

SH: Does your company have a policy on the gender pay gap?

PF: This is an area I don’t think we have done enough on to date, but it is a live project.

Instead, we have done spot checks around salaries twice a year and based on the findings, I pick up on anything that needs further understanding or addressing with the talent team. One example of action taken from the spot checks is that we have proactively increased certain female salaries.

The plan for 2017 is to do a full salary and gender pay gap review for the whole of Havas once we have joined up and moved into the same location, rather than being a split Media and Creative group. We will then be able to look across the entire business.

SH: What’s your budget to put towards diversity initiatives in your organisation?

PF: This is a good question. Across our events, parental coaching, LGBT events, and our Havas Futures apprenticeship programme, it is a six-figure sum. It’s one of the top priorities for the business and is the responsibility of the chief talent officer. We also run a programme called Havas Fusion, which has four pillars: Gender, LGBT, Mental Health, and Ethnic diversity. We currently don’t put enough focus on BAME but this is something we are prioritising in 2017.

SH: Do you have a dedicated diversity and inclusion manager?

Yes but rather than it be manager-led, diversity and inclusion is represented at the top table as we believe it is too important to delegate today. I am very fortunate to have a great partner in crime in Darren Minshall, my chief talent officer, who shares my passion for diversity and inclusion. Darren has experience of deploying diversity and inclusion programmes across Creative agencies, TV and now Media. Darren and I spend at least an hour discussing diversity every single week and are both focused on “tangible signs of action” (Darren’s turn-of-phrase). In fact, the decision to move our paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks was the result of a debate we had on my return from paternity.

SH: Which female business leader has inspired you the most? And why?

PF: Carolyn McCall, CEO of Easy Jet. I don’t know her personally. Previously she was running the Guardian and her leadership was a big statement in a very male-dominated environment. I think she strikes a good balance between business and being driven and growth-orientated with empathy and humility. Male leaders can learn how to be more authentic and not always feel the need to have the answers.

I also admire Sheryl Sandberg. I love how vocal she is and how she has turned “lean in” into something active through a smart, intelligent approach to encourage storytelling and greater diversity.

SH: What is the best culture hack that you have done as a business to help make it easier for women to thrive in the workplace?

PF: Every quarter, we put on a nice lunch for anyone coming back from maternity so they can talk to each other and enjoy lunch on us. We think it is important for people returning from parental leave to know they are not alone and connect with others and if needed, have a conversation about their fears, etc.

We also promote that any maternity returner selects a buddy from the business to support them with the transition.

SH: Name me the one key behaviour change you think men can make in the workplace that will have the biggest impact on fostering gender diversity?

PF: Ensuring that all agency events, conferences or new business pitches are a true reflection of diversity with a balanced male/female split in the people who represent the business, and to take every possible opportunity to show balance in terms of gender and putting up the right role models.

SH: What’s the one thing (if any) you commit to doing as a result of this interview?

PF: To actively ensure that we look at the gender pay gap and if we have any significant anomalies, I will resolve this in the first quarter of 2017.

SH: Finally, who would you like to nominate for the next Token Man interview?

Bruce Daisley from Twitter and Chris Hirst from Havas.

The Token Man is an initiative from the founder of Creative Social, Daniele Fiandaca. Previous interviews have included IPA's Tom Knox in conversation with chief executive at Thinkbox, Lindsay Clay.

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