Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018, Sophie Maunder

"I am finding this conversation increasingly awkward to have with men, some who feel so marginalized by them they don't want to enter the debate for fear of getting it wrong, and I worry they, and we, are going to tire of it. It's a debate to have with understanding and empathy."


Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018

Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
Sophie Maunder, CEO of VCCPme, the data, direct and customer experience arm of VCCP and also Chief Strategy Officer of Chime.
Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
I used to work for 'Nightline' when I was a student at Edinburgh Uni. That involved pulling all night shifts waiting for the phone or the doorbell to ring to speak/meet anyone suicidal or emotionally unstable. You had to answer within three rings and constantly be on high alert.

I soon learnt the darkest hour of the night was 3am. We had a panic button if we felt unsafe, as you simply never knew what you might face. I think that taught me many, many things - to listen, really listen to what was being said (non-verbal language being even more important). To be empathic, never judge, to call in someone more senior than you when you felt out of your ability to manage, and most of all, it gave me great perspective: that whatever happens in advertising, it's only advertising, and nobody died.
What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
There are two challenges in my view, one attitudinal, one practical. I have sat on the WACL Future Leaders Exec board now for three years, judging female entries for bursaries to have training in whatever they deem to be most useful for them... and without fail every single one of the 200 or so entries I have read talk about lack of confidence, and look for help with confidence. Breaking that barrier and moving us on to more useful skills to further our careers has got to be the next step - I want to see women who want to train in finance courses or better leadership, not confidence!

Secondly, childcare, in the main falls to women. I had a rant the other day when a male colleague announced he had to leave early today because unfortunately, he was 'childcare that evening'. Men talk about 'being the childcare or the babysitter' when they have to leave on time - newsflash for you men, it's called being a father or a parent, to your own child, it's not a paid position. Can you imagine a mother saying she was going home to 'babysit'? It sounds absurd. Gentleman, do us a favour and own this language too, don't make it sound like you are having to step up on the odd, unfortunate evening when your other halves aren't doing it for once... it really doesn't help the working mums around you.
From Like A Girl to Fearless Girl, a raft of advertising campaigns have set out to empower women. How do you feel about these campaigns? Can they change attitudes within the industry?
I love these campaigns and I utterly applaud them. However, I fear we are in danger of being over faced by them. I am finding this conversation increasingly awkward to have with men, some who feel so marginalised by them they don't want to enter the debate for fear of getting it wrong, and I worry they, and we, are going to tire of it. It's a debate to have with understanding and empathy. As a mother to two young boys, I am concerned about their place too...can we be a little more together in it? The very last thing we need is men vs women.
How have the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements played out in the advertising sector? Are they making a significant impact?
I think I am extremely lucky to have found a place in VCCP where I have never, ever felt anything but supported and nurtured and appreciated for what I do, not that fact that I am female. It's partly why I have stayed here for 15 years. Women should vote with their feet and leave if they find themselves somewhere where this is not the case - that will leave that management team with a proper problem on their hands, which thanks to '#metoo' will be impossible, now, to ignore.
Initiatives such as Free The Bid are trying to create more opportunities for women in advertising. But what could be done at a more grass roots level to attract women in the first place?
A great initiative. I have come full circle on understanding the importance of quotas and positive bias. I used to think it was wrong in principle and believed, women being truly as good as men, that we would get there on merit alone. Now I understand the intricacies of unconscious bias, I believe that this kind of positive discrimination won't ever see anyone who isn't suitable for the job getting it, but just giving them a fair shot at it in the first place.
Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Eric Salama, CEO at Kantar Group, was allocated to mentor me 20 years ago when I joined the WPP Fellowship...and when I left WPP he kept in touch with me, about once or twice a year. He's been a great sounding board through good times and bad, job moves and life changes, always with a '10 years further down the line' view from mine. For such a seriously senior man, I know that if I Whatsapp'd him this afternoon he would be back in touch with me within a day, always willing to have breakfast and chew the fat.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
I really value being on the Exec board of WACL for the Future leaders, and find I gain as much in listening to these incredible next generation of women coming through as they gain from the award. I want to do more of this and help drive these amazing women forward. Even five years from now we are going to see a plethora of seriously impressive female talent hit senior management, and the impact of that excites me.

My advice would be: just be yourself (not what you think the male version of yourself would be), you are enough. And try, really hard, to drop the Working Mothers Guilt. I am still working on that one...