Confidence That Comes With Representation: Shalini Gupta, RAPP


RAPP Worldwide
Marketing/Creative Services
New York, United States
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Shalini Gupta
SVP, Client Partner RAPP

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency?

RAPP is a very flat, smart and transparent agency. It is a truly refreshing culture where ownership of your career, work and success is possible based on your own merits. Everyone gets their hands directly into the work – and doing that work well results in recognition and reward.


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

I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry over the last 20 years! We are having conversations that would not have been possible prior to the #MeToo movement, and there is a rise in social consciousness which is impacting overall expectations of how agencies and businesses are representing talent in the workforce as a whole.

The increased representation within the industry over time has also helped with forward momentum. We have seen women excel in leadership, creative, analytics, and technology roles. There is confidence that comes with representation – more women feel like they can take on more senior roles and are not shying away from these challenges. Subsequently, more agencies are supporting this representation within their organizations due to proven results.


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

Every agency is not created equal. My personal experience has been dramatically different depending on the company/network I’ve engaged with. I’ve been in situations where women have been celebrated and others where I was consistently pushed back and had to claw my way into a business setting with key male decision-makers to showcase my abilities.

There are still archaic challenges out there that women are dealing with each and every day. There is still a lot of prejudice surrounding women in the workforce and their ability to succeed in leadership or technical roles. Women are still vastly underrepresented in our industry – we still have a lot of work to do! 


How should we tackle an issue such as equal opportunity? 

There is a lot of inherent discrimination that exists within business practices, including hiring, compensation and advancements. In an ideal world, we would blind resumes, eliminate unconscious bias, and simply support the best candidate for the job. In the absence of that perfect world, we need to have equal opportunity programs to bring forward candidates/employees that would not otherwise be considered for key business positions, even if they have demonstrated those skills.


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

I landed in the industry by accident. I grew up in Calgary, Canada – and it is not known for its huge advertising industry. Early in my career, I was called by a recruiter working for Critical Mass (originally a Calgary-based company, which is now part of the Omnicom network). I ended up joining that company and was offered the chance to work on the Hyatt account if I moved to Chicago. I’ve been in the Midwest ever since and loving every moment of my career.

RAPP gave me the opportunity to start up the Chicago office and take on the challenge of onboarding the US Army account. I’m most proud of the team we’ve built and we are doing work that will transform the US Army recruiting process for years to come. We’ve gone from two team members to almost 80 in the span of two years. We are continuing to build up that team and I’m so proud to see what the team accomplishes every day. 


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

My mother has been the single biggest influence in my life and career. She is a very successful entrepreneur in the automotive industry. She established a business in an industry that is typically not very accepting of women (especially 35 years ago), worked to overcome those challenges and showcase her abilities to succeed over time. She is smart, hardworking, compassionate and does not shy away from tackling difficult problems or developing new skills. We need more role models like her to demonstrate to the next generation of women that anything is possible.