Diversity and inclusivity aren’t just buzzwords anymore. Companies across the globe and various industries are striving to bridge the gender gap in their organizations.
A study conducted by The McKinsey & Company called Diversity Wins stated that companies whose boards are in the top quartile of gender diversity are 28% more likely than their peers to outperform financially. Despite these numbers and efforts, a Harvard research study paints a somber picture — men are 2.5x more likely than women to be executives in the top leadership teams.
These concerning statistics are visible in the Indian workforce as well. According to LinkedIn data, in early 2023, only 23.3% of leadership positions were occupied by women — a decline from the peak of 27.4% in the third quarter of 2020. This year, Indian companies are striving to elevate female representation in C-suite roles to over 30%.
Despite these frustrating numbers, the advertising and marketing industry is known to have better DEI policies. With several women professionals-led agencies, the industry tries to be more inclusive and implement a better culture for the coming generation.
To gauge the status of gender equality in hiring practices within Indian advertising agencies, we reached out to 22 such agencies. Our goal was to understand their gender ratios and gain insights into their approach to inclusivity. Below are eight agencies, listed alphabetically, that took part in the research and provided us with their employee gender ratios.
DDB Mudra Group
The current (2023) female-to-male gender ratio at DDB Mudra Group is 43:57.
To further advocate for diversity in the agency, the company offers various programmes including, a DEI-focused recruitment strategy, medical insurance cover for same-sex and live-in partners, and a paternity leave policy of 12 weeks.
Talking about the agency’s DEI policies, Vanaja Pillai, Head DEI, DDB Mudra Group said, “DEI is different to different people – for us as at the DDB Mudra Group, DE&I is our creative fuel, and it is reflected in the people we hire and the businesses we partner with.”
At Gozoop Group, the gender distribution of the agency's workforce is 51.3% women and 48.7% men across all levels. At the leadership level, the agency’s numbers stay at 50:50.
Bansi Raja, Chief Happiness Officer, GOZOOP Group said, “We're pretty content with our gender diversity and are instead focusing on building a culture where the best talent comes together to produce the best work of their lives!"
Grapes currently has a gender ratio of 42:58, female to male and 1:1 at the C-level positions.
According to Shradha Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO at Grapes, the agency has gender inclusivity across all verticals and the company hires ‘basis talent, regardless their gender.’
Agarwal noted, “Looking ahead, we are dedicated to maintaining a 50-50 gender ratio in the coming years as well to ensure a healthy and diverse mix of talent within my company.”
Vandana Tilwani, Chief Human Resources Officer, Havas India mentioned that Havas continuously strides to fill key positions at the company with women. Currently, the overall female-to-male ratio at Havas India stands at 41:59, and this year the agency wishes to get this number to 50:50. Tilwani also mentioned that within the C-Suite, women leaders comprise 54% of the team.
She said, “A more inclusive workplace allows diverse perspectives, inspires new ideas and innovations. As we see more organisations being led by women leaders, who, in turn, expect to see equal representation of all genders in meetings and creative discussions, the business case becomes even stronger.“
Havas India also has a sexual harassment policy in place where they conduct bi-annual POSH awareness sessions. Apart from this, Tiwani mentioned that the agency offers a maternity program called ‘Bounce Back’ and ‘Havas Voice’, a confidential email support system.
Leo Burnett India
Leo Burnett’s leadership level consists of 40% female leaders and 60% male leaders. The agency aims to increase female representation in all levels and functions of the organisation.
Additionally, the agency also has several policies like HIPO women leaders (leavers), Returnee ship Program, Succession planning and practices pay parity.
Aarti Nagpal – Senior Vice President- Talent & Transformation, Leo Burnett said, “Having a diverse workforce with equal representation of both genders brings fresh perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to better client solutions and nurtured client relations, business-inclusive decision-making, increased innovation, and new-age thinking.”
Mini Nair, Head HR at Schbang mentioned that to directly enhance growth at the company, the agency actively tries to have female representatives in CXO positions.
She said, “We are committed to increasing women's representation at the forefront. We have already taken steps to ensure fair recruitment practices, including gender-neutral job descriptions.”
Nair added, “As the woman heading the Human Resources department, I understand how crucial it is to celebrate the achievements of successful women. This celebration not only acknowledges their accomplishments but also sets a benchmark in this industry for fierce women leaders.”
Additionally, Schbang also has in-house employee resources and resource groups that provide in-depth information, efficiently aiding women to play a vital role in open-source knowledge, networking opportunities, and fostering an inclusive culture. The agency is currently working on an exclusive format and thus did not disclose the hiring ratio at the company.
Speaking about the gender ratio at SoCheers, Nupoor Pradhan, Head - People Operations, SoCheers mentioned that when hiring individuals, the agency values merit and inclusivity in equal measures. Pradhan also said that the agency’s hiring process includes focusing on selecting the best candidate for the job, regardless of their background or origin.
The female-to-male gender ratio at SoCheers currently stands at 60:40, with 133 female employees against 89 male employees.
She further said, “We are a people's first agency and truly believe in keeping our 'People Over Processes'. Thus, our overarching goal has always been to construct a team that exemplifies true diversity and inclusivity, where every individual can thrive, independent of their gender.”
Social Beat’s workforce comprises 57% female employees and 43% male employees across all levels. Above the AVP level, the agency has a 50:50 gender distribution among employees.
Pavan Ramchand, CHRO of Social Beat mentioned that the agency’s hiring process ensures that all qualified candidates receive equal consideration, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or any other defining characteristic.
He said, “We strongly believe that a diverse workforce not only enhances our organizational culture but also propels innovation and success through varied perspectives, experiences, and talents.
Our ultimate aim is not only to eliminate biases but also to create an environment where everyone can flourish, collaborate, and attain their fullest potential.”
At Sociowash, the female-to-male gender ratio on an organisational level stands at 51:49. At the CXO level, the ratio is 63:37, female to male.
Sociowash believes in merit-based hires rather than gender-based hires. Raghav Bagai, Co-Founder, of Sociowash, said that inclusivity for them is paramount and they see it across gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, economic strata and beyond.
Bagai further said, “We don't have targets for women, men or other gender hires but rather look at purely merit regardless of gender. We believe inclusivity isn't driven by setting targets but rather through a culture wherein you don't look at gender or any other attribute while hiring or promoting except merit. We are proud that due to this culture and policy, we have a healthy, inclusive culture with our team coming from men, women, and other genders as well. This also translates to leadership positions which can again be seen with the numbers.”
Tonic Worldwide’s leadership positions (excluding the founding team) comprise a 1:1 gender ratio. At the organisational level, the number stands at 55% of female employees to 45% of male employees.
Furthermore, the agency conducts regular POSH training sessions and offers several policies including, Menstrual Leave Policy, Hybrid Work Culture, Equal Pay Practices and Guaranteed Departure Before 8 PM.
Sanjana Ramesh, Lead - People & Culture, Tonic Worldwide, “In our continuous efforts to attract and support female talent, we actively introduce policies that prioritise inclusivity. These policies are designed to be not only female-friendly but also instrumental in creating an environment that encourages the participation and growth of women in our organisation.”
Despite ongoing challenges, the Indian advertising and marketing sector shows dedication to promoting gender equality through diverse hiring approaches and inclusive policies.
PS.: We reached out to as many Indian agencies as we could. If you still wish to be included in this list, please email us your details at firstname.lastname@example.org