A Leadership Response to the #TimesUp campaign

The #TimesUp campaign has drawn considerable attention from professional circles, running closely with the #MeToo movement that woke a world up to the scale of sexual harassment and abuse women suffered in the workplace. Whilst the #MeToo movement empowered women to openly talk about their experiences, the #TimesUp campaign, originally started by 300 Hollywood women, including some ‘A’ list celebrities on the back of the Weinstein scandal, was about affecting real change.

The advertising industry has been swift to respond to the #TimesUp campaign and a group of 14 C-Suite women in the industry quickly formed, to push for reform in their own industry, which has been badly maligned by recent sexual assault allegations. TimesUp/Advertising was created and at the heart of their mission is a desire to fix policies that have failed women and minorities, whilst adopting employee training to make the Ad industry more inclusive and safe.


At its core the #TimesUp campaign is about workplace equity for women and people of colour. Affording everyone equal opportunities at work and the right to work in a safe and harassment-free environment. The two are inextricably linked because harassment at work stems from power imbalances. The mandatory disclosure this year of gender pay gap figures in the UK, revealed some startling results and made uncomfortable reading. And whilst companies with more than 250 employees must publish these figures, there is currently no requirement to publish explanatory data or action plans to address any disparity. More alarming perhaps, were the recent results of research by the Fawcett Society, which showed that the gender pay gap for women in their 20s was 5 times greater than it was six years ago![1]

In addition to this, the reliance on freelance workers is increasing, which can create an imbalance of power as those engaged in insecure contract work are especially vulnerable to exploitation. While this does not exclude men, women and minorities make up the greatest proportion of contract workers in this country. And whilst freelancers are not a homogenous group, The Pension Policy Group reported that in 2017, women made up 97% of the net increase in self-employed workers and yes, you guessed it, the pay gap for self-employed workers is 40%![2]

UK MPs who make up the Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) are currently calling for the government and businesses alike to do more than just make the figures transparent. They are calling for action to close the pay gap. This prevailing zeitgeist, is an opportunity too good to miss and we can only urge companies to take action.

Affecting real change

We have argued for some time this is not just about a cultural shaming but also a real opportunity to affect change that broadens our talent pool and will ultimately lead to greater diversity in the C-Suite. Indeed research conducted by both Credit Suisse[3] and MSCI both came up with similar findings - that having a gender diverse board is good for business although they don’t offer a causal link between women and performance.

Findings from the MSCI report – Nov 2015[4]

Picture1 (1).png

The launch of the #FeedbackFirst campaign on International Women’s Day this year was designed to help both companies and individuals affect real actionable change. Its starting point was not exclusively aimed at women, it just so happened that the results of research showed overwhelmingly, how women were being adversely affected by feedback in the workplace. Feedback which is so important for the growth and development of all talent.

Research into workplace feedback revealed that women, quite simply, receive different feedback to men and this is holding them back!

Why is Feedback so important?

Quite simply feedback is one of the key ways in which we can develop our skills in the workplace. Moreover, it is seen as a ‘soft’ skill and not given the greatest consideration. The research into feedback, however, revealed that women quite simply receive different feedback from men! And it is holding them back.

Men receive much greater developmental feedback, linked to tangible measures, whilst women’s feedback is often vague, non-existent or couched in emotive terms. Either way, it is not helpful and it hinders, which means that men are at a distinct advantage, when it comes to progressing up the career ladder.

Research findings from #FeedbackFirst campaign

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 09.03.06.png

We have developed a rigorous in-house programme that provides organisations with the tools and the supporting internal architecture to become a #FeedbackFirst Employer of Choice organisation. By gaining accreditation you are strengthening your Employer Brand, demonstrating with real practical measures to employees, applicants and the business world, clients and shareholders alike that you are serious about making a difference when it comes to the gender pay gap disparity, improving women’s access to leadership opportunities and serious about widening your talent pool.

Our practical actions masterclass includes:

  • What types of feedback holds women back?

  • Constructive feedback or development dialogue - is the balance right and what effect does that have on women’s progression?

  • How to spot stereotypical feedback and learn how to switch track

  • The three feedback fundamentals - coaching, evaluation and appreciation and what aspects disproportionally affect women?

If we really want to make the Ad industry a more equitable and inclusive place to work, then retraining all staff in how to deliver and receive effective gender balanced feedback has to be one of the best ways to start.

[1] https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/equal-pay-day

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/female-freelancers-self-employed-gender-pay-gap-men-women-a8044021.html

[3]  Credit Suisse. ”The CS Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management.” September 2014.

[4] Elling-Lee et al. Nov 2015, MSCI Publication, Women on Boards – Global Trends in Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards

Fiona McKay