Challenge the Status Quo: Allison Ciummei, Chief Talent Officer, Havas Chicago

We’re helping our clients be more relevant to cultural conversations, and we’re changing behavior in a positive and constructive way.

To mark International Women’s Day, AdForum is gathering opinions from women working in advertising and marketing communications. We asked women from a range of job roles both agency- and client-side, for their view of the state of the industry. 


Havas Chicago
Full Service
Chicago, United States
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Allison Ciummei
Chief Talent Officer Havas

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency / company?

Five core values define the Havas Chicago culture: all-in, heart, clever, relentless and respectful. We’re passionate, generous and tenacious. We always pursue the best and most creative solutions for our clients’ business challenges.  

Havas has always been excited and proud to challenge the status quo. We live to try new things – to test and learn. The agency encourages our people to celebrate the Havas difference by stretching beyond their roles and charting their own course here. We have a strong sense of community and purpose to make a meaningful difference.


In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?

As more women are represented at top levels of leadership, their perspective and influence are shaping the way agencies staff and operate, and the type of work we’re putting out into the world. 

We’re seeing more agencies commit to building increasingly diverse teams. As a result, the industry is delivering work that is both more inclusive and more effective – work that reflects and represents a wider population, and breaks away from the same old stereotypes.

We’re helping our clients be more relevant to cultural conversations, and we’re changing behavior in a positive and constructive way.


Do you think women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they?

Women still face challenges in almost every industry. The corporate world was built to support a “traditional” family unit where the man goes to work and the woman takes care of the home and the children. Obviously, society as a whole is moving on from that construct. But the traditional behaviors and ways of working are still deeply engrained in the business world and need to be untangled.

Women, and any minority group for that matter, face the unique challenge and opportunity of navigating their way to the top, while staying true to themselves and paving a better path for women to follow.

We have more opportunity than ever to help guide how organizations can better support the individual, no matter their gender, race, family status, etc. As a result, we’re starting to see a need for more flexibility around when, where and how the work gets done – and companies are responding to that.


How should we tackle an issue such as equal opportunity?

Creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce requires focus and prioritization.

Equal opportunity in the workplace goes far beyond recruiting and hiring. Yes, businesses must continue to hire from a diverse pool of candidates. But companies also need to nurture an inclusive environment where people from all backgrounds have opportunities to grow, build community and make great work. 

Havas agencies are leading a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives centered around recruiting, racial and cultural representation, gender equality, pay equity, wellness and more.

In Chicago specifically, we have a diversity, equity and inclusion platform called Havas Faces. Havas Faces ensures that we stay at the forefront of culture by curating programs, events, speakers and installations that promote an open, inclusive environment and enhance cultural fluency in the agency. 

Havas was one of the first agencies to commit to the 3% Pay Equity Pledge. We regularly partner with industry organizations, people in our local communities, and universities to help advance our thinking and action around equal opportunity.


How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry and what professional achievement are you most proud of?

I got into advertising completely by chance. I was looking for a company culture that was full of people who were inspiring and energizing to be around and where I could make an impact. I just happened to find that in the advertising industry.

One of my favorite programs I designed also happens to be one of my proudest achievements: Havas’ Femmes Forward program. Femmes Forward is an accelerator program that prepares high-potential female employees at the Sr Manager/Director level to advance their careers at a faster pace.

Havas has strong female representation at the CEO, President and Managing Director level, but we saw an opportunity to focus on the Sr. Manager/Director level – ensuring these women are supported and set up to advance to the next stage of their careers within Havas. Havas has supported over 150 women from 23 different countries through their Femmes Forward journey – leading to 50% promotion rate for those women who have been out of the program for a year or more.

What I find fascinating is that across cultures – from Paris to Chicago to Singapore – many of our women share the same challenges and the same ambitions. We’ve seen this #FemmesForward community of women come together to support each other on a regular basis – its super inspiring to see the texts and emails flying across the world with words of affirmation, advice for each other, and more.


Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why? 

I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing women throughout my career at Havas. Before moving to Chicago, I spent six years working alongside Patti Clarke, our Global Chief Talent Officer of Havas Group. Patti has been instrumental in helping to shape the way the Havas Group is approaching its talent strategy. I was fortunate to learn from someone like Patti, and I’m energized by the new team I’m a part of in Chicago!

Every other woman coming up in this business inspires me to do my part to make Havas a best place to work for modern creative talent.