How will you #EmbraceEquity? Emma Saddleton answers

Tell us a little history about your journey in media/advertising. 

I joined Carat UK as an assistant in September 2014 after a career move from psychological research & finishing an MSc – I am perpetually curious about people and why they do what they do, so found this to be a more suited and varied career than academia. I progressed to Account Director by the end of 2019, running the UK Kellogg’s account and their portfolio of brands – during which time I won WACL’s 2018 Future Talent Award which recognises Future Leaders in the industry. I then moved into the strategy team at Vizeum - now iProspect - at the beginning of 2020 (before the world imploded for a bit…) before moving into Carat global strategy team at the end of 2021 where I currently still am. I am a member of Bloom, am a tutor on the Advertising Association’s Media Business Course and currently co-chair of dentsu UK&I’s gender equality network ONE – an area I’m incredibly passionate about. Onwards and Upwards!

What does it mean to you to be a woman in your role, and how has being a woman in this industry impacted your career?

Being a woman in advertising/media has both helped and hindered so I will answer the second part first. Hindrances include been ignored, talked over, experiencing unwanted sexual advances, being told I don’t have gravitas, and belittled both subtly and explicitly particularly in the earlier part of my career – all of which impacts your confidence in your role and experience. Thankfully, these have been few and far between for me comparative to some of my peers, but we are remiss to ignore this in the industry. 

Despite these instances, I’ve found that being a woman both in my role and the industry empowering. There is a camaraderie and kinship of women across the network and industry, and I have developed some amazing friendships both in and outside of dentsu. Strategy is a historically male dominated area, so I enjoy being able to bring a different perspective – though believe this is more through diversity of thought than purely my gender. 

I also love being able to set out a path and be an example for junior women in the business, who may be struggling, feeling lost or just need to know where it’s possible to go – we’ve probably been there before so it’s important to be the role models our junior teams need. The classic you can’t be what you can’t see. 

How has dentsu supported you as a woman in the workplace/industry?

Dentsu have supported me with programmes run across the years such as Women in Leadership, Route 500 and Game Changing Talent. These have provided me with skills and opportunities for reflection on where and how I want to develop, as well as invaluable feedback from colleagues, peers and clients about both strengths and weaknesses. As part of ONE, we are creating programmes and events to support people in the business with different challenges – our lead theme this year is around having Courgeaous Conversations – and work with the business and our sister ERGs on key policy changes and business outcomes e.g. pay gap. 

More importantly, I’ve been fortunate in I’ve always had supportive bosses, teams and allies in the business who have backed me when I’ve both been in and out of the proverbial room. They have supported me when I’ve said I’m putting myself forward for something e.g., Futures or a job change. They have fought for me to be recognised and paid equally, and they have fought for me to be put in rooms where others have paused on my inclusion due to perceived lack of experience or gravitas. I’m very fortunate to have an incredible ally in my boss, Bram Meuleman, who has always worked to elevate those in both his teams and adjoining teams, particularly women around him. 

We don’t need more people on soapboxes saying gender equality is important, we need allies and this seemingly smaller action. All who identify as female across the business, at all levels, need this type of support in the rooms we’re not in – without it, things will not change.  

Why is it important for us to #embraceequity as a society/network and how will you ensure we are always starting from a place of equity? 

It’s important to remember the different between equality and equity – equality assumes everyone starts from the same line, vs equity assumes different starting points and giving people what they need to achieve the same outcome. If you start on an unequal footing, achieving an equitable balance becomes ten times harder. 

I personally always aim to start from a place of equity by including everyone’s opinion and POV, regardless of gender, and considering where everyone is in the teams I work with – parents or carers, full time or part time. As ONE co-chair, part of our aim is to create a candid, collaborative workplace and create a culture where everyone believes, they can flourish and sees evidence that they can. Whether this is working with our Parents & Carers pillar to ensure working mothers are supported and paid well when returning from maternity leave or providing resources for our talent to overcome personal challenges, we’re working to make this more visible and impactful in the business. 

This isn’t just a ‘girl’s problem’ - without the support of male allies across the business, we will not achieve a balance. I hope 2023 is the year we can make better steps towards equity across our business and network.

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