Motherhood is a significant “off-ramp” for women in business careers due to a lack of properly designed “on-ramps” to help them balance professional and family commitments when, after a career break, they attempt to return. Similar challenges face male parents in a primary care role – and those caring for an elderly parent, too.
But with the war for talent accelerating, organisations must stop fighting each other for the talent already inside their industries and instead tap into the pool of talent currently waiting to get back in.
At one level, this is about being a responsible and equal opportunities focused employer. Women are already under-represented in senior management positions across the industry, filling less than a third of board level positions and just a quarter of creative departments. One of the biggest barrier to improving this is the varied challenges women face when trying to re-establish their careers after a break.
Looked at another way, however, it is a diversity issue, which in turn has a direct impact on the bottom line.
Ensuring an agency’s workforce is more reflective in its makeup of the audiences it needs to engage, through the work it creates, can only make that creative output richer and stronger.
And the latter is the driver behind a radical new employment policy now being introduced at AMV BBDO which, though aimed at boosting female talent, will have knock-on benefits for all.
The policy is built around the idea of offering part-time roles that are permanent, and will be implemented by identifying the best creative talents who have taken a career break – maybe to raise a family, maybe to care for a family member – but feel unable to return to an agency creative department because of the time commitment required. These new creative roles will be built around half the working hours required in standard working contracts – 3.5 hours a day rather than seven, for example, paid pro-rata, based on contractual hours – allowing employees to more easily balance their work versus care needs.
The roles will be permanent positions rather than freelance or short-term, and each new hire will be connected to a mentor from outside the agency to ease their return to work. All will be part of the main AMV BBDO creative department and those taken on will receive the same kind of creative briefs, training opportunities and appraisals as full-time employees.
Each will have a range of ways they might work: from working as sole creatives to partnering another part-time creative or working across a variety of projects with creative colleagues on full-time contracts.
Female and male parents in a primary care role will be able to apply to be a half-time creative with an initial eight to ten positions available, though moving forward the programme will be expanded – and rolled out across other departments.
What makes our programme different is that we are offering a long-term solution to the challenges faced by carers rather than the temporary, short-term salve provided by many existing “returnships” which offer refresher experience, rather than our promise of flexibility built in at a contractual level.
At a time when many in advertising are still struggling with the diversity issue, the time has come to scale back on the talking – and start doing.
Ian Pearman is the outgoing chief executive officer at AMV BBDO and the incoming regional president of TBWA/Group Asia.