Transforming for the Better: Sarah Watson, BBH

We have had a history of strong female leaders right from the start at BBH NY - Cindy Gallop was our first Chairman, followed by Emma Cookson.

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Sarah Watson
Chairman, Global Chief Strategy Officer BBH New York
 

Earlier this month Unilever announced its achievement of a 50/50 gender balance across global leadership. This puts the company a year ahead of its goal and indicates the successful implementation of more than 100 diversity and inclusion roles across its markets.
In support of International Women’s Day, AdForum interviewed leaders in the advertising communications industry for their opinion. With the proliferation of women’s advocacy groups ranging from the ANA’s SeeHer to Campaign magazine’s Female Frontier Awards in the UK, the movement is growing. We want to find out just how authentic these changes are or whether old barriers remain.

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

We have had a history of strong female leaders right from the start at BBH NY - Cindy Gallop was our first Chairman, followed by Emma Cookson. We take it for granted that women can lead. But we never take it for granted that you have to keep working for a truly equitable workplace at all levels.


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

Thinking that the job of equality is done. Just because you have some women at the top, it doesn't mean that women get heard throughout the organization, and it definitely cannot mean that because some white women have succeeded that all voices are heard.


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

I genuinely believe that #metoo brought about a huge shift in the workplace behavior. We've all had to do some soul-searching about the things that we accepted over the last decades and the changes we want to make. Women in the industry still face the challenges that women everywhere face - the threat of sexual harassment, the potential not to be heard, unequal pay. The agencies that can demonstrate they are welcoming will be the ones that win.


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

I think the work that Kat Gordon has done with the 3% conference is spectacular. She has brought a truly cutting edge intersectional conversation right into the heart of our industry. I cannot imagine this is going on in any other industry! And bit by bit, year by year it is transforming us - for the better.