Insights from the women of Publicis Groupe ANZ

In recent years, the corporate world has seen a significant shift towards creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. Publicis Groupe, the second-largest communications company in the world, has been at the forefront of this transformation. Here, the women of Publicis Groupe ANZ from MBM, Saatchi & Saatchi, Herd MSL and Spark Foundry, reflect on how this has impacted their career paths.

In the past, corporate environments often required employees to remove their family or life hats at the door and become a corporate version of themselves when they arrived at their desk every morning.

Over the years, particularly spurred on by Covid, this division between work and home life has become blurred, as people continue to work from home and juggle their other life responsibilities at the same time as holding down a career.

“When you’re suddenly all working at home and you’ve got a child on your knee in a very important meeting… it just put the humanity into all the situations,” says Pauly Grant, Publicis Groupe’s ANZ Chief Talent Officer and Head of People Strategy in APAC.

In an industry where gender inequality continues to be an issue within management ranks, Publicis Groupe New Zealand is somewhat of an outlier, with women making up 57 percent of Publicis CEO/MD/GM roles, and 56 percent of senior management positions.

This focus on gender equality can perhaps be attributed to Publicis Groupe’s principal shareholder and chairwoman of the supervisory board, Élisabeth Badinter.

As the daughter of the advertising group’s founder, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, and a philosophy scholar with an “agrégation” degree, Élisabeth has brought a unique perspective to the company.

Renowned for her philosophical writings on feminism, advocating for liberal feminism, women’s rights, and the rights of migrant workers in France, Élisabeth is known for her commitment to ‘enlightenment rationalism’ and ‘universalism’ which underscores her advocacy for “moderate feminism.” With this influence, it’s perhaps no surprise that these values have become a central part of how the company operates.

In recognition of this work/life balancing act, Publicis Groupe in the ANZ region has a series of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives in place, aimed at creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace so people can feel comfortable being themselves at work.

These include Égalité ANZ, which is dedicated to empowering LGBTQ+ professionals and their allies by fostering an inclusive culture, VivaWomen! ANZ which focuses on supporting and developing female employees, ensuring gender equality, EmbRACE NZ which recognises and educates employees about the experiences of Māori and Pasifika people, and Enable ANZ, which is committed to championing colleagues with disabilities, both visible and non-visible, to thrive within the organisation.

One of the key aspects of Publicis Groupe ANZ’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is the focus on supporting parents in their parenthood journey.

Sarah Ansley-Jones, Head of Growth & Operations at Saatchi & Saatchi, says offering parental leave for fathers or the other parent, is “a game changer”.

“That first nine months of the baby’s life is really important. If you’ve got a dad at home for four months of that, that changes their relationship for life.

“But it also means that as partners and potentially both with careers from the get go, you’re splitting your responsibility. It sets the tone for moving forward as a family.”

Pauly believes for women to get higher up the career ladder, partners need to be supportive, and fathers need to have the option of also being primary carer.

“Sometimes I think we lose focus and put parenting all down to women, but we’re a society, a community, and we need to work together to make that change,” she says.

“I think we’ve moved the dial a lot when it comes to women and motherhood and how we support mothers, business and women in general. But I also think we need to make it okay, and remove the stigma around men taking that role as well.”

Nicky Greville, Spark Foundry NZ Managing Director, says advocacy needs to start from a place of understanding the context within which a group operates.

“As a leader today, I am constantly challenging myself to develop my understanding of the different genders/communities/groups that we have represented (or want to represent) so that I can make our workplace somewhere that’s inviting and supportive for all.

“Of course, one of the simplest and most engaging ways that we do this is by ensuring that our values and culture are created and shared by all our team members, rather than set at a senior level to be governed. This ensures all team members feel represented and valued in what we do every day.  I think a shared culture of inclusion is fundamental to celebrating diversity of people and diversity of thought.”

And it’s this, particularly in a creative space such as the ad industry, that makes the company’s creative output stronger, says Jessica Allison, General Manager of Herd MSL NZ.

“Dave Bowman, our Chief Creative Officer for Publicis Groupe ANZ, made a really interesting point about how a lot of the work we do is primarily in the creative space, and it’s the diversity of thought, and the diversity, of experience and the diversity of background that actually makes creative output so much stronger. That’s definitely something from a business point of view that’s only going to be good for everyone involved,” she says.

Reflecting on her journey to leadership, Nicky emphasises the positive evolution of her career, crediting the support and inspiration from colleagues and acknowledging the changes the media industry, in particular, has undertaken.

“I think the industry has grown up significantly throughout my career to a far more sophisticated state; from one that disregarded media as ‘the team that filled out boxes on spreadsheets’, to essential partners in proving the value of total marketing communication ecosystems back into businesses,” she says.

She also highlights strides made in workplace inclusivity, such as the reduction in gender, ethnic, and diversity gaps.

“I recall celebrating so loudly when I helped to get a maternity policy instated across an agency, I was working at several years ago – it felt like such a basic step and so very behind for the times, but it was a win all the same. Now, I work for Publicis Groupe ANZ, who I’m so proud to say continuously focus on DE&I programmes and policy.”

As well as this, she celebrates the fading of gender-based labels, particularly the stereotyping of females with strong opinions.

“One challenge I’ve been so happy to farewell is the labelling that came with being a female with a ‘strength of opinion’. I feel like most of the industry has left terms like ‘bossy’ in the past and have embraced the context of everyone’s point-of-view and conviction.”

Publicis Groupe ANZ also recognises that flexibility is crucial in today’s fast-paced world, allowing employees to shape their life experience.

MBM’s CEO Lee-Ann Morris explains: “You can actually go about your day to suit your work life and your home life.

“We recognise that people are not all the same, and we all have different needs to balance work and home life. Publicis has created a flexibility ethos that acknowledges different life priorities and works with individuals, teams and agencies to bring this to life.”

Publicis Groupe ANZ  recognises the importance of diversity in all its forms, including ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, based off the understanding that an inclusive and diverse workplace not only benefits employees but also enhances their creative output and resonates with a broader audience.

“I’ve always been a big believer that if you provide an environment where people feel valued included and they belong, they will thrive and they’ll be happy,” concludes Pauly.

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About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

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