Perspectives: Women In Advertising: Louise Clements, Global Agency Lead at ICF Olson.
AdForum: How would you describe the current overall culture at your agency? How would you describe the culture among your female colleagues and what are the differences?
Louise: Our culture is all about people. We are an agency powered by empathy, and it influences everything we do – from onboarding, to special events that we hold in our various offices. In our Minneapolis office, for example, every year, we host a Mother’s Day lunch. Everybody brings in their mom for a special lunch, where we celebrate the most important women in our lives – our mothers. Being a woman in people-centric culture is a great thing. We celebrate diversity and achievement, and we have many female super stars in our group. Today, over 45% of supervisory-level staff are women, and as a woman, and a leader, I am focused on continuing to grow and nurture them – especially millennials.
On top of being the leader of a large North American agency, I am also a member of my parent company’s global leadership. ICF is focused on tackling disruption and solving problems for clients and governments all over the world. I am one of five women on our global executive leadership team, and we all represent unique specialties – from digital marketing to cyber security. Our culture is very collaborative, and very cutting edge. I think the type of work we do, and the type of problems we solve, supports a culture where women leaders thrive. It’s humbling to work with women who have PhD’s, and who help solve problems that make the world a better place every day.
AdForum: What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling” into Sr. Executive level positions? What are some of the challenges that still exist for women in reaching the upper echelon of management?
Louise: I am not sure there is one single change in the industry, and I think there are still too few women in leadership roles at major agencies.
I think women still face challenges in the boardrooms and in M&A functions. This means we’re not able to truly impact the future of marketing and advertising agencies. We’ve definitely earned our stripes with operations and business development – now we need to get our chance in the boardrooms.
AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Louise: My biggest achievement is that I have been able to continue growing my career by remaining relevant. When I left my first job at a newspaper company to go work for AOL, some people thought I was crazy. It was the best lesson – it taught me to keep trying and learning. I still try to do that today.
AdForum: How do you find the best work-life balance to help you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?
Louise: Being a working mom taught me that there is no such thing as perfection – and balance is what you make it. Kids keep you grounded – and they challenge you. That keeps you humble, and it also helps give you perspective.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Louise: I had a part-time job at a high-end retailer when I was at school. I learned so much about the importance of customer service, and branding, and always putting your best foot forward – even if you’re folding sweaters! It was a great training ground.
AdForum:Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Louise: I had a boss who trusted in me and allowed me to spread my wings – and fail. He taught me the value of trust, and of letting go as a leader, and most importantly of trying even if you fail. He also taught me how to build and manage a P&L. I thank him every day!
AdForum: How do you as a successful woman in your industry plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
Louise: Be brave, be confident, be kind, and be ready to learn every day! Advertising is very fickle. If you don’t adapt, you will be irrelevant.