WACL launches campaign to see women filling 50% of CEO roles


WACL, (Women in Advertising & Communications Leadership) a catalyst for change, has launched ‘The 50%’ – a new campaign to support its mission to achieve 50% of CEO roles in advertising and communications filled by women, and for those women to proportionally represent the full diversity of British society.

50% campaign

Based on the current rate of change, women won’t hold 50% of CEO positions until 2060, a statistic that feels all the more unacceptable as WACL celebrates its centenary year in 2023.

So today, WACL is asking leaders across the advertising, marketing and communications industry to step up and ‘#MeasureWithMeaning’: encouraging and empowering those in positions of leadership and influence to take a meaningful and transparent view on where they are on the journey to 50%, and commit to continuing to do so as they work to get there.

Equal representation among CEOs isn’t an absolute or standalone objective: only when 50% of CEOs within advertising and communications are women, will the industry have achieved the basic level of change it deserves.

In turn, this will build momentum through better representation of women in adland and the communications it creates, to improve the representation of women in all walks of life.

If we don’t all work together to improve representation at CEO level and in turn in all key decision-making roles, today’s inequities, misrepresentation and gender pay gap will continue – and get worse.

We won’t get where we need to be if we don’t know where we’re starting, and can’t be honest with ourselves about what we need to do to get there.

At the heart of the call to “Measure With Meaning” is a mandate for leaders across the industry to provide clarity about their organisation’s progress on the journey to equal representation.

In support of this collective mission, WACL are today launching “The 50% CEO Playbook” – a practical roadmap for organisations to use, that details five levers of change to help achieve the 50% representation target.

The playbook details five key levers of change, why each lever is important, recommended actions for each and what they can achieve if implemented:

• Change the language of leadership

• Promote for potential

• Be a women’s health hero

• Be flexible first

• Work like the world is watching

Actions for each lever start with building data by measuring meaningfully. Understanding the data in a specific organisation is essential to ground changes in REALITY, have CLARITY about the actions to take, and hold TRANSPARENCY at the core to adequately measure progress.

Further, to benchmark progress towards 50%, it is essential to truly understand the gender leadership gap and how to close it, and to determine how intersectionality impacts women’s progress in the workplace and how to address that as WACL’s 50% mission is only meaningful if it works for all women.

Also detailed in the Playbook are case studies detailing how leading organisations – Channel4, Grey, Conker, PepsiCo, Dark Horses, Diageo, Pablo, Publicis Media, Sky, Quiet Storm, Tesco and Vodafone – achieved positive steps towards gender parity.

Rania Robinson, WACL President and Quiet Storm CEO, said: “Although 70% of the advertising industry’s junior manager cohort are women, IPA and AA surveys show that women take only 37.5% to 39% of C-suite level roles.

“Compared with the situation before, this is progress. But it’s not enough.

“The five levers we set out in the 50% Playbook are by no means the only factors affecting equality. However, evidence suggests that addressing them will have a significant impact.

“WACL hopes that this playbook will prompt reflection, provide useful new actions to try and encourage agencies, where possible, to share anonymised data and strategies for change to build our collective learning.”

Each generation wants the next to have more opportunities, not less, and do better, not worse. Failure to act now will deliver a worse future, not an improved one.

Agencies are being urged to join the #50%mission and commit to #MeasureWithMeaning by downloading the playbook from WACL.info, turning the advice into positive action to drive change and contributing to what WACL hopes will become an industry knowledge bank of best practice.