Unapologetic Authenticity: RAPP's Global CMO, Anne Marie Neal

SPONSORSHIP, SPONSORSHIP, SPONSORSHIP – I commit to actively seeking and ‘pulling up’ women throughout my organization.

by Nicole Fergusson , Ad Nation News
Anne Marie Neal

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?   

Frankly, our culture is on the mend. We had a difficult couple of years where we became very internally competitive and open criticism was encouraged. That was a result of both a huge (ongoing) shift in our highly competitive industry and aggressive company leadership. However, with a global reshuffle at the top, we are seeing progress towards rebuilding a healthy culture - communication is strong, people are openly saying they want to stay at RAPP and peer support, especially between women, is thriving.

We have learned that supporting each other, actually sponsoring each other, versus competing is a much more productive way to ensure a seat at the table. And therefore, inevitably, there will be a separate female culture and initiatives to ensure we all create a bond and partnership to combat further discriminatory decisions within the organization.  Our ambition is to imbue the entire organization with a true culture of sponsoring women.

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

The most important word in that question is ‘begun” as there is significant work still to do as we have chipped away at the proverbial ceiling, but let’s be very clear, it has not been broken. The biggest change in the industry, and probably in the world, is that we are openly discussing it and forcing multiple steps towards equality. In our industry, we’ve seen amazing women such as Shelly Lazarus, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather to Linda Kaplan Thayer of the Thayer Group, to most recently Wendy Clark, Global CEO of DDB, break that ceiling demonstrating viable progress. We now look to those women to drive systemic change for all women as demonstrated by initiatives such as TIME’S UPTM / ADVERTISING. But it is incumbent on all of us to commit to actions such as mentorship, sponsorship and different hiring and nurturing practices to create a collective force that will indeed break that ceiling.

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

There are many – underrepresentation at most levels (but definitely the C-level), having confidence in embracing our feminism (differentiated strengths from men), discrimination post pregnancy and maternity leave, continued sexual harassment, etc. But two big ones are pressing:

1) The gender pay gap. There is data from around the world that not one mid-sized or large agency or holding company is paying women equal to men for equal work. That is astonishing and disturbing, and to change that is one of my primary plights within my organization.

2) There is not a shared view of the gender problem. When it comes to gender issues, men generally don’t feel the impact. For women, gender issues have full impact, affecting their lives constantly. To this end, I believe we must practice an inclusive approach to getting to our solution, bringing a factual and empathetic view to everyone. Women can’t solve it alone.

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

I don’t believe in work-life balance – we have one life and we need to fit everything we want to do into it. That means that sometimes we need to make more room for our family, friends, hobbies, self and sometimes we need to make more time for work. Having this perspective takes the pressure off of everything having to be balanced all the time. In addition, I have become a staunch practitioner of working from home and taking time off as needed.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Seeing previous direct reports and mentees thrive in new, bigger positions.

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?

I am lucky to have had many women and men mentors who have helped me through, and made me better in, my career. My most recent is actually a current colleague. She listens to and improves on my perspectives, she challenges me to go big or go home in my decisions and she ‘shows up’ every day in pushing capabilities and solutions making me a better practitioner at my job. I always give the advice to not only look up for a mentor but to look across because I feel colleagues can provide a different perspective to a shared context. And that new outlook can actually help catapult your abilities.

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

SPONSORSHIP, SPONSORSHIP, SPONSORSHIP – I commit to actively seeking and ‘pulling up’ women throughout my organization. And when I am not doing that I aim to be a role model of unapologetic authenticity, openness and generosity of time and experience.