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Transformation through Diversity featuring Phoebe Jones of UM London

Phoebe Jones of UM London talks to us about diversity in the media industry and how it's changing

Phoebe Jones has worked in the media industry for over 17 years. Initially as a TV Buyer at Starcom Brisbane and then at MediaVest in London. A move to comms planning saw her begin a 12-year client relationship with Procter & Gamble where she led the planning on brands such as Pampers, Oral B and P&G’s Prestige fragrances portfolio.

Phoebe went on to head up the UK & Ireland Comms Planning team for P&G at Starcom. In 2017, Phoebe joined UM London as the Head of J3, Johnson & Johnson’s media agency team, for Northern Europe. Phoebe is currently on maternity leave with her second baby boy.

We sat down with Phoebe to find out more about how the media industry is transforming through diversity and why that's a really good thing.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity is about making sure that an organisation represents society as a whole, not just a certain cross-section where people are at an advantage before even getting started. It’s about making sure that everyone has the same opportunity to get a job and then is supported to succeed as best they can. There are countless statistics quoted about how more diverse workplaces produce more effective working environments and better business results.

Has your business launched any effective initiatives to improve equality and diversity?

We’ve signed up to IPA’s Make the Leap programme which is about ensuring representation of women and BAME in senior positions with quantifiable targets, as well as eliminating unconscious bias and raising awareness of the opportunity for flexible working for everyone. I stress everyone as it seems to still be a perception that flexible working is just for mums. I’d love to see more dads take advantage of it, but also anyone who wants to balance work and life commitments.

Also, as a network, we are part of the Advertising Diversity Taskforce, an industry-wide collective of the most progressive agencies in the UK that have the mission to help effect change across the industry. The Taskforce works to attract more people from diverse backgrounds, and ultimately make advertising a more accessible, supportive and rewarding industry for everyone. 

As a senior female in the industry, have you ever experienced discrimination?

Not overtly, or under the guise of ‘banter’. I’m a real advocate of supporting women in the workplace and in particular not letting having children be a barrier to progression. When I came to London 13 years ago it seemed company boards were predominantly white men. That has definitely changed, but there’s still room for improvement. A wholesale change won’t happen organically, we need to have targets in place to address this and force the change to more equality in senior roles.

We also need women to have the confidence to continue pursuing opportunities for progression rather than thinking they can’t work around childcare and family commitments. We should put ourselves forward for senior roles and then talk about how to make it work with flexibility.

How did you manage to join your current role when 3 months pregnant?

On a personal level, I felt awkward for my team knowing how difficult recruitment is and that we would need to go through that process again quite quickly. But in terms of delivering in the role, it really focussed me that I had six months to come in and make an impact. It was so motivating in that regard. The company here has been was wonderful, I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable. 

What other things should the sector be doing to encourage diversity? 

I think more companies need to sign up to monitor gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic and flexible working targets. I do believe we need to have targets that the industry is actively working towards. It hasn’t happened organically yet so something has to change.

Another initiative IPG runs is an apprenticeship scheme which is aimed at getting school leavers into the industry. I think this is a brilliant way to broaden the diversity in our industry rather than just hiring graduates, which will inevitably perpetuate the biases in the industry.

How do you make sure you manage the workflow of individuals so there is no resentment toward part-time workers? 

At the end of the day, it’s about getting the job done. If our clients are happy then I’m happy. The perception that running out at 5pm to pick up the kids means that you are a part-timer is changing, especially with the ability to work remotely. But you just need to be confident that you are doing the best you can. If you’re getting the job done and performing well, your team will see that. Hopefully sitting in the office 9.00 – 6.00 being seen as a representation of the work you’re doing will fade.

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Author: Alice Weightman

As Founder and CEO, Alice established Hanson Search in 2002 and has since gained a reputation as one of the leading search professionals in senior appointments across communications, developing an incredible network globally.

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