For International Women's Day 2020, we spoke to Jacki Kelley, CEO Dentsu Aegis Network Americas, about taking steps to ensure gender balance, why that matters and what #EachForEqual means to her.
What inspired you to balance the gender representation at your most senior levels of leadership in the US?
I’ve always believed that if you surround yourself with accomplished, generous, innovative, and determined people then you are more likely to create environments where everyone is empowered to grow and take charge.
Inclusivity, including gender balance, is always on my mind when hiring and building teams. At DAN, we have a process for recruiting talent that ensures we are seeing talent equal of skill, but also representative of all voices. I have always been a strong advocate of putting more women in leadership positions. When I took the CEO role at DAN, I was lucky to already be surrounded by some amazing female talent at the senior level. Simply put – these women were already killing it. It made sense for them to move to the Executive level, just because they were the best candidates for the roles. I know that I can bet on the incredible potential of these women, and I know they will deliver.
Why is having equal gender representation amongst senior leadership important to you?
I think my journey was unique in that the companies I’ve been fortunate enough to work for, companies that were very successful, already had a great deal of gender-diversity around the table. For example, at Gannett, where I really “grew up” professionally, I didn’t think of myself as a female leader – I thought of myself as a leader.
I now realize it was that diversity around the table and a real willingness to hear each other out, that made those companies successful. We all need a diversity of voices and thought at the table in order to keep our company relevant and deliver for our people and our clients.
What does #EachforEqual mean to you?
#EachforEqual to me is not just about women – it’s about all of us. I’ve had plenty of strong role models and mentors in my career, both men and women. I think it’s important to recognize that. It’s extremely important for women to open doors for each other, but it’s equally important to make sure that we bring our male colleagues along on that journey.
And again, I would say that #EachforEqual means making sure that women don’t have to think of themselves as women leaders – but simply leaders. I know from personal experience that can make a difference. I want there to be more women that experience that early in their careers.
What would you say to the women out there that haven’t had that experience?
I would say that there is always someone that will believe in you in a way that you don’t believe in yourself. Listen to them. Hear them. There will be opportunities that feel too big or too hard. Listen to your aspirations, and don’t be afraid to take a chance. Not trying means wondering your whole life if you gave up too soon.