This year, Ogilvy’s global theme of International Women’s Day is #IWannaDiscuss, repurposing the #IWD acronym to start discussions within our global network about the themes of the day: inclusion, partnership and diversity.

To mark International Women’s Day in London, Women of Ogilvy is hosting an internal speed mentoring evening at Sea Containers, where 40 Ogilvy women and men will gain access to senior mentors from across the business to allow for open discussion on the issues important to them.

We spoke to some of our mentors, as well as inspirational women and men from across the agency, to discuss challenges facing women in our industry today, how their sponsors have helped them and what can be done to create a more equal tomorrow in our industry.

Tell us what you think are some of the challenges facing women in our industry today.

Complacency from the top - when management think they've done enough to solve gender inequality, they probably haven't. We need to keep pushing says Gen Kobayashi, Head of Strategy, Communications. He adds “as anyone in marketing will tell you, driving real behaviour change isn't easy. We need to nudge the industry out of archaic conventions that are holding women back”.

Co-lead of Women of Ogilvy and Creative Copywriter Sarah Duggan, believes “you can’t be what you can’t see. The more we create opportunities to learn from those who’ve ‘been there, done it’ and the more we discuss our goals, the more those goals feel within reach. I’d urge every female leader to reach out and support the next generation, whether that’s telling your story, mentoring, or simply ensuring credit is given where it’s due.”

Is there anyone who has been your champion or sponsor and how did they help you?

“Ogilvy is truly the first workplace where I have countless champions and sponsors around me”, says Account Director Sarah Pinch, “but I think my biggest champion is myself. Self-belief is everything. You have got to back yourself, particularly as a woman”.

Louise Whitcombe, Head of Customer Engagement, cites two sponsors at various agencies where she has worked: Victoria Fox and Matthew Heath (CEO and Chairman at LIDA). “In a nutshell, they reminded me of my skills and my unique qualities that help me perform well in my role. They have supported me, been helpful and interested. They have championed my progression and remind me of the positives of a situation when I may have seen the negatives”.

Meanwhile, for Account Manager Hayley Burchall, her mum has always been her greatest cheerleader. “She is fearless and selfless and tells me off when I start worrying about what other people think. She reminds me to be brave and passionate every day”.

Finally, what is the number one thing that you think needs to be done to create a more equal tomorrow in our industry?

Tristan Baker, Assistant Producer, hopes to one day see “gender completely removed from the equation, and for everyone to be judged on their ability”. Tristan believes “if there has got to be any quota in the industry – it should be a quota based on personal merit, not gender”.

For Ogilvy UK’s CEO, Michael Frohlich, it’s about inclusion as much as diversity. He says “recruiting diverse workforces is only half of the story. There is also the need to ensure that at the same time as we are welcoming all people into our industry, we have a culture that makes every person feel valued and included.

Jane Douglas, Head of New Business & Marketing at Ogilvy UK believes the answer lies in “the right (not one-size-fits-all) agile working structure, flexibility and, crucially, senior support to enable women to develop into leadership positions”. She adds “we need to change the conversation and language around ‘balance’ – often impossible to achieve with the reality of working in such a fast-paced environment”.


You can follow Ogilvy’s International Women’s Day activity on social media using #OgilvyIWD, #IWannaDiscuss and follow wider activity using #BalanceforBetter and #IWD2019