Gender Parity Is Good for the Business:

How to Accelerate Gender Parity Within Organizations

By Carla Eboli, CMO

A study developed by the World Economic Forum shows that at the present-day rate of advancement, the overall gender gap in North America will take 168 years to close. This is well behind Western Europe (61 years), Latin America (79 years) and the Middle East (157 years). The study, called Global Gender Gap Report 2017, covers an average of 144 countries and measures the gender gap in areas such as Economic Participation Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health & Survival and Political Empowerment.


The good news, according to the report, is that the United States has closed almost 72% of its overall gender gap, achieving gender equality in areas such as Educational Attainment. It means that we are on our way to prepare boys and girls equally to address future workforce challenges (although the report doesn’t take into consideration ethnic disparities).


The bad news is that we still have a lot to improve in other areas such as Political Empowerment (ranking 96th) and Economic Participation (ranking 19th). The United States ranks 49th in the overall gender parity grade, falling four positions down compared to last year’s report. The study also highlights that economic gender parity could add an additional US $1,750 billion to the United States GDP.


Accelerating gender parity:

Dieste talked with eight of our own successful Omnicom women discussing what can be done in order to accelerate the process of closing the gender disparity in the USA.


Kate Cusick, EVP, Global Director of Business Development and Marketing at Porter Novelli

1.) Systemic issues require systems thinking: Recognizing that gender inequality is a systemic issue and that any and every solution needs to be strategically planned step-by-step, is the first phase according to EVP, Global Director of Business Development and Marketing at Porter Novelli, Kate Cusick. “We must advocate for each other at the organizational level by identifying barriers, making bold commitments, and appropriating necessary resources,” says the executive, pointing that even in the Public Relations industry, which is more than 70% women, “we still struggle to see parity in the C-suite and senior leadership*.”

* Porter Novelli is proud to say its Executive Committee is 50% women; Its senior leadership is made up of more than 50% women and the company maintains gender pay parity. 


Sharon Love, CEO of TPN

2.) Culture change begins at the top: A diverse group of leaders will have more creative and differentways to consider solving problems or creating ideas, states the CEO of TPN, Sharon Love. “The case is simple, businesses with a balance of diversity (gender, racial, cultural) are more successful. Same-think produces same solutions. This is an especially dangerous imbalance in the creative, communications business where we are meant to understand and reflect the market we serve,” says Sharon. The executive reinforces that diversity must start at the very top of the company. “If your company is failing in the gender balance game, use business success as the reason to inspire change to set it right. It’s something everyone can agree on.”


Tonise Paul, President and CEO of Energy BBDO

3.) Quantify gender gaps and set concrete goals to improve it: According to the President and CEO of Energy BBDO, Tonise Paul, one of the first steps towards change in any organization is doing the math on the ratio of women to men and their relative salaries — for the organization at large, within each group/department, and at each level within the organization. “There are many things we can do, but getting the facts to illuminate the inequality, fixing it, and being vigilant about keeping it fixed is foundational to building a culture of equality,” says the executive.


Janet Riccio, Executive Vice President of Omnicom Group

4.) Speak out about your company’s culture: “It is vital to make it known across entire organizations that diversity and gender parity in leadership is a company’s goal,” says Executive Vice President of Omnicom Group, Janet Riccio. “This is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do to keep your business future fit,” she states, reinforcing that setting goals and timelines are crucial in order to achieve success. “If enough women are not ascending in your organization, you have an organizational issue. Dig deep, find the cause and correct the ‘blind spots’ that may be the barriers to achieving this goal.”


Barri Rafferty, President and CEO of Ketchum

5.) Challenge unconscious bias: The President and CEO of Ketchum, Barri Rafferty, says that the PR company found a way to take bias out of its fellowship recruiting process, by using a blind gamified recruitment tool. According to her, it tests talents on PR aptitude without revealing gender, ethnicity, schooling or even prior internships. “We all need to challenge unconscious bias within our organizations where people choose those who look and act like them. We need to invest in training, find ways to take bias out of processes and hold ourselves accountable to leading true change,” Rafferty says.


Tara DeVeaux, BBDO CMO

6.) Create a safe environment: Having conditions where your teams can engage in open and honest dialog about uncomfortable and often unspoken things like equality, harassment, pay parity and even male stereotyping is an essential step to create gender equality, according to BBDO CMO, Tara DeVeaux. “Banish silence. We’ve seen the evil that can grow under the cover of silence so we must find our voice and use it,” says Tara, stressing that this has to be true to both women and men. “In our quest to have our voices heard, we must not silence theirs.”


Joanne Trout, Omnicom Chief Communications Officer

7.) Foster women’s leadership: Sponsoring and mentoring more junior executives as well as joining or starting a women’s resource group (like Omniwomen) are great ways to foster leadership, says Omnicom Chief Communications Officer, Joanne Trout.It’s so important for women in any organization to feel supported and learning from other senior women. I am a strong believer in the ‘see it, be it’ school of thought,” says the executive. Joanne also emphasizes that sexual harassment and gender pay gaps disappear when women are well represented in senior leadership roles. “Advocating for promoting smart, talented, hard working women is not only the right thing to do, but good for business.”


Marina Maher, Founder & CEO of MMC

8.) Set plans that fit your company and your schedule: “There’s no one-size-fits-all,” reinforces the Founder & CEO of MMC, Marina Maher. According to the executive, in order to achieve success, leaders need to develop and commit with programs that fit their company’s culture and schedule. “Once you determine what you can do to inspire change, take a long-term view and map out a weekly or monthly goal on your calendar for the coming year. And one year from now, when it’s International Women’s Day once again, you will have a tangible catalogue of what you have done and the impact you have made.”


Inspiring Quotes:  

1.) “Change is complex, to be sure, but each and every one of us needs to be personally accountable and take actions to accelerate the cause.  Ensuring change is not just because it is “fair” or even that it’s “the right thing to do.”  We should want to foster change because it benefits us all as a global community.” – Marina Maher, Founder & CEO of MMC

2.) “Growth and comfort never co-exist so get out there and speak up for women” – Joanne Trout, Omnicom Chief Communications Officer

3.) “Banish silence. We’ve seen the evil that can grow under the cover of silence, so we must find our voice and use it.” – Tara DeVeaux, CMO of BBDO

4.) “There is no denying that a diverse and inclusive leadership team will, in the end, make better decisions and have a healthier business than those that are not.” – Janet Riccio, Executive Vice President, Omnicom Group

5.) “As companies, we must actively groom more women to leadership positions and build diverse succession plans.” – Barri Rafferty, partner, president and CEO, Ketchum

6.) “There are many things we can do, but getting the facts to illuminate the inequality, fixing it, and being vigilant about keeping it fixed is foundational to building a culture of equality.” – Tonise Paul, CEO of Energy BBDO

7.) “Systemic issues require systems thinking. We must advocate for each other at the organizational level by identifying barriers, making bold commitments, and appropriating necessary resources.” – Kate Cusick Executive VP and Global Director of Business Development and Marketing

8.) “‘Gender parity’ is euphemistic for ‘too many men, not enough women’ but part of how we solve for this situation is to take emotion out of it. It should not be an us vs them complaint if we want it to be heard and fixed.” – Sharon Love CEO of TPN


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Dieste, Inc. ( is a Dallas- and New York-based company with a mission to pioneer the future of how brands and cultures connect. Through our partnerships and the deployment of proprietary consumer data, algorithms and human cultural intel, combined with insightful creativity, we are able to sync brands with consumer subcultures and create successful outcomes for our clients. Dieste has won multiple Cannes Lions for their work and has been named Ad Age’s “A-list,” “Agency to Watch” and “Multicultural Agency of the Year” numerous times.  Dieste is part of Omnicom’s (NYSE: OMC) DAS Global network.

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