Perspectives: Women in Advertising: Zoe Church, Global CMO, Engine Group
In honor of International Women’s Day, AdForum is showcasing the achievements of women in advertising in the month of March through a series of interviews. We would like to thank Zoe Church, Global CMO at Engine Group, for taking the time to offer her thoughts and reflect on her career.
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?
Zoe: At Engine Group, we have a very collaborative culture. We work closely together across the network’s agencies and everyone is ready to jump in and help out when needed. Having a group of people all with expertise means that the types of people we work with is not a one-size-fits-all. We have the brains and the sports jocks and everything in between. This diverse culture means that we all – male and female – respect one another’s expertise and opinions. Our culture reflects diversity in gender, backgrounds and experiences and that makes us stronger as a network, and my female colleagues feel equal and culturally involved in shaping and making it happen.
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?
Zoe: While great progress has been made for female leadership in this industry, there is still a long way to go. Our leaders, both male and female, strive to inspire and empower women within and outside the company however we can, helping to guide their career growth and professional development. I think that this change in more senior female leadership has without doubt enabled employees to work on all aspects of what it takes to be a leader of tomorrow. Although Engine Group is much more progressive than most at having a balanced and diverse senior leadership team, the majority of ad agencies are still white-male-dominated. While we’re beginning to break these barriers as an industry, the lack of diversity, particularly in senior roles, is another huge challenge that needs to be addressed.
AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Zoe: When I started at Engine in the US there were three people that worked at the center: Terry Graunke, Rick Eiserman and myself. Over the past two years, I have watched agencies grow, our culture grow, our people grow, our ability on what we can deliver for clients grow, our leadership grow and, ultimately, I feel like being one of the earliest members and having some form of influence on that has been one of my biggest achievements. I am also proud to be part of a network that is able to master the constant disruption of our industry and understand what our clients need, giving them new solutions while not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
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?
Zoe: When your business is to know consumers and how they live, how they think, what they want, it’s crucial to live like one. And everyone, whether in advertising or not, needs to refuel the creative engine. I schedule time on my calendar to get to the gym, go to dinner with friends, take the occasional vacation – and turn OFF my phone. My rule to the team is if you wonder what to do next… leave. Take time and smell the roses… it only lasts a day – and then we are back in the thick of it.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Zoe: I started in advertising at 17, straight out of school. So, unless my paper run counts… I think I had the good fortune to learn practically, not through a book.
AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Zoe: I worked for Hamish McLennan for 10 years and David Sable for four, and I have now been fortunate enough to work for Terry Graunke and Rick Eiserman for two. Each of these people have shaped my thinking, my actions and taught me that nothing is impossible. The number one thing – although the how changes – they have all taught me to navigate the world of business by being me. I think this is the most valuable thing a mentor can do.
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?
Zoe: To be honest, I don't look at gender. I think about it maybe 2% of the time. Just be YOU! Challenge yourself, keep thinking and make decisions. I was told by one very smart lady: “ask for forgiveness, not for permission.” It’s worked so far.