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Advertising Diversity & Inclusion Workplace

How BBDO plans to address diversity in and outside the workplace with Heels of Steel


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

April 18, 2018 | 5 min read

BBDO’s Heel of Steels began in Malaysia, led by its general manager, Farrah Harith-McPherson. During a regional agency meeting, she shared that she wanted to celebrate 'hero' influential women of any age, gender and race.


The event is a positive take on a topic that is traditionally very divided and a very 'He vs She' topic.

Rebecca Nadilo, head of Planning at BBDO Singapore, who is also the lead for Heels of Steel in the country, tells The Drum that she was really inspired by the Malaysia event and felt that the creative agency needed bring it to the rest of Asia.

The agency then brought the event to Singapore on International Women’s Day on 8 March and invited Joanna Ong-Ash, head of Brand and Corporate Communications (Marketing) for AIA Singapore to speak at its office.

Nadilo adds that she loved the initiative because it was a positive take on a topic that is traditionally very divided and a very 'He vs She' topic.

How will the event address diversity and gender equality in and outside the workplace?

Heels of Steel will hopefully bring to life a lot of the barriers that hold women back from leadership, so that we can become more aware of them and equip ourselves with the tools to overcome them. I think awareness and conversation is key to making changes in our industry.

What kind of speakers do you have in mind for this event?

We want to hero women who have a point of view and a story to tell. That might come from being in a male dominated industry – like an engineer or a chef – or it might come from branching off and starting something yourself – like an entrepreneur. Regardless of who they are, they have something important to say and sharing their experiences with our ‘BBDOers’ will help to cultivate strong female leaders.

What is BBDO’s global commitment to diversity and how does the agency approach this subject?

I’ve worked for BBDO for six years now – in the New York office and now in Singapore – and I find the network to be incredibly inclusive. I have not once felt that I was excluded from an opportunity because I was female. I’ve been given the same opportunities as anyone else based on merit, and I think this stems from a global commitment to diversity and gender equality. There are such brilliant women around our network who rally for this, like Kirsten Flanik (BBDO New York), and it really shows in our culture. Most of our offices in Southeast Asia are run by women; and I’m proud to be part of a network who recognises and rewards strong females in our industry.

There are still more men than women in leadership positions in the industry. What can be done to change that?

I think we must dig deeper to understand why but I believe a large part is due to the nature of the industry; we work around the clock and for a lot of women who want to have families and don’t want to miss out on dinner time with their children, it’s not particularly conducive or supportive. So, they opt out of management to stay in their current role.

As an industry, we must be more accommodating to unique styles and methods of working so that women don’t feel like they must choose; they can do both because they can work to their schedule. This requires diverse ways of working and a different approach to the traditional work week.

Advertising Diversity & Inclusion Workplace

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