Equality Is Not Just About Numbers: Alexandra Evan, Publicis Conseil

Although progress has been made, we still have a lot of work to do in creating true gender-neutral opportunities.

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.

Publicis Conseil
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Paris, France
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Alexandra Evan
Vice President Publicis Conseil

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

Publicis Conseil is an agency rooted in resilience with an incredible ability to adapt and this is what makes this agency so impactful. Resilience is the fundamental quality to evolve and adapt to a constantly changing world and to bring about the evolutions necessary for today's challenges. It is around this value that we can support our clients' cultural changes and to support their business transformation.


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

Equality is not just about numbers, it is about influence: when women are heard and respected in the industry, the industry is more powerful. 

Women contribute to rebuild the culture of advertising from the inside out, and the messages are reflecting their influence. In the past, advertising was charged with testosterone, and this showed in the campaigns it created, from Wonderbra to Budweiser. Advertising today is more inclusive, less stereotyped and can deliver even more powerful messages. I believe the more influence women have on big and global work, the more powerful the work is.


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

Although progress has been made, we still have a lot of work to do in creating true gender-neutral opportunities. This is true for advertising as it is for society because the problem is bigger than we believe it is. 

Ben Barres, a transgender scientist has been experienced how his work was judged as a woman and then as a man. He gave an incredible insightful testimony about society being much harder on women. It's extremely valuable as he has the same scientific brain but he noticed how his work gained traction once he started presented it as a man. This shows us how anchored gender bias is rooted in society.

We (women) need to be sure about our value and worth. We need to behave unapologetically. As female leaders, it’s up to us to encourage the upcoming generation to carry themselves with confidence and positive assertiveness. We need to turn “feminine” attributes like empathy and resilience to our advantage. Because we still need to break the fundamental gender bias.


How should we tackle an issue such equal opportunity? 

The tendency is for people to go into their camps. Men against women. Sisterhood versus brotherhood. 

I’m the mother of a feminist young men and I cannot imagine living in a better world if it excludes men like him. I believe we need to tackle equal opportunity altogether. To move from a culture of ego to a culture of togetherness. We need to engage feminist men, men of all levels in our industry to take a stand and support equal opportunity in advertising. We all need to acknowledge the inequalities and the slights. And we need to fix this issue hand in hand.


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

During my career, I had to put up with a lot of obstacles linked to my gender, my origins and ethnicity. And like every woman, I had to use an extra dose of resilience and bravery to be heard and respected. 

I dream of that day when woman does not need to use those qualities on everyday bases, so their energy can be used to explore and show their talent. 

Since I became a manager for the first time, I knew it was not only about putting out excellent work but about been a mentor. I feel proud whenever I can help people to grow and blossom. Advertising is a business of talent and people are more talented when they feel empowered and motivated.


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

Actually, many women inspire me, if I have to choose I would say: Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor for her unapologetic and empowered attitude, Laura Chiavoni, Managing Partner at Sparks and Honey, for her support on women causes (the coaching program “Like a boss” and her involvement as ambassador for "More Grls"), and of course, Agathe Bousquet, CEO of Publicis Groupe France who started her career on the associative world by co-creating one of the most incredible non-profit organizations in France “Solidarité Sida” founding research on Aids. Her human values and her perspicuity amaze me and inspire me. 

In general, I’m inspired by people that are both fearless and humble. You could have all qualities in the world but that's useless if you have an outsized ego.