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It Takes Women to Know Women

Draftfcb’s high number of female leaders ensures it “gets” that half of the market
  • February 27 2012

“Working with an eclectic group of people brings diverse ideas and experiences to the table,” says Laurence Boschetto, CEO and president of Draftfcb. “The more colorful and diverse our palette, the better we will be able to deliver creative and strategic ideas to our clients.”

Fewer places is this more appropriate than in the agency’s commitment to women. On the one hand, you might suggest this is part of Draftfcb’s active and successful diversity program. But it’s hardly a matter of being diverse when women represent half the population and 55 percent of the agency’s workforce.

“The key reason we have many female executive marketers in our agency is due to the fact that 50 percent of the population is female. They are exceptional at building relationships, and that impacts the bottom line,” says Boschetto.

Not only are half of the agency’s employees female, but women are also well represented at the highest levels of the company. One of those leaders is Cindy Augustine, who joined Draftfcb as global chief talent officer last October from Scholastic. Named one of Savoy magazine’s “100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America,” she frankly wasn’t looking to move, but Boschetto’s commitment to diversity was compelling. “It feels extremely authentic here. It’s not just a check-the-box thing,” Augustine says.

Augustine’s talent agenda is threefold: Define gaps and opportunities, assess and attract talent globally, then develop and retain that talent. Therein lies her challenge. How does one attract creative talent on the executive level, for example, when the advertising industry lacks a breadth of qualified women to fill these roles? Augustine believes the key to a diverse workforce—women as well as people of color—lies in pushing beyond familiar referral networks. She actively recruits from “hot” companies, the networks of well-connected networkers, as well as schools and alumni organizations.

Supporting, developing and retaining the talent already in-house is one of the more obvious ways to diversify the boardroom’s gender. Draftfcb has seen these efforts pay off. Consider Linda Wu and Vita Harris. Both women have been with the company for more than a decade, and both have climbed the executive ranks. In January, Wu was named chief operating officer for the agency’s general advertising and healthcare operating units in New York. Harris became global chief strategy officer in September 2011.

This type of employee growth is nurtured not only within Draftfcb, but is also supported by parent company Interpublic Group (IPG). IPG has an official talent review process that monitors high-potential employees from each of the company’s units and maps these people to an executive succession path. Wu believes this succession planning, along with the mentoring she’s received from Boschetto and other top executives, has been key to her growth within the company. But the big differentiator at Draftfcb, says Wu, is not only their ability to match talent with opportunity; it’s a unique appreciation for the value women bring to the table.