TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles has promoted Erin Riley, formerly its president, as its first CEO and elevated Jen Costello to chief strategy officer from her previous role as head of strategy. In their roles, they will continue to drive TBWA’s change agenda around its Disruption X methodology, which was created last year as the agency continues to invest in enhancing and modernizing its strategic and creative capabilities.
The moves, which are being announced today, follow a sudden string of women appointments to senior roles at agencies within the last three months alone.
Last week, Pereira O’Dell promoted Mona Gonzalez and Natalie Nymark to presidents of the agency—new roles for the bicoastal shop. Publicis appointed Sarah Kramer to CEO of Spark Foundry in the U.S. and Danielle Gonzales to the newly created role of chief client officer of Publicis Media. Early this month, Giant Spoon tapped Christina DeGuardi as president and chief client officer and named Nikita Malhotra chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
Then in May, ex-Saatchi & Saatchi veteran, Andrea Diquez was poached to become CEO of DDB Chicago, and Darla Price was named president of DDB New York. Earlier that month, GroupM’s media company Xaxis named Silvia Sparry as its first global chief operating officer. The month prior to that, Dentsu hired Kedma Pognon Brown as its chief operating officer for its Americas media service line and Nancy Reyes was elevated to CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. Also in April, Edelman named Lisa Osborne Ross as its U.S. CEO making her the first Black woman to lead a PR firm of its size.
Is this a long overdue recognition of women's leadership capabilities or simply a step toward normalization in the industry that should have already existed? Some industry insiders say it's a mix of both, and it's not enough–there is still a need for more women in the industry and diversity beyond gender. Others argue that calling out the number of women in senior roles actually sets the movement back rather than advances it.
“Women are 52% of the population, so it amazes me to think that there are people that feel like they're trying something bold,” says Kat Gordon, CEO of the 3% Movement. “This is just a natural evolution of how the world should be. Sometimes I’ll meet agencies and they'll very proudly stand up at our event and say, ‘We have all women in our creative department or we're 90% women’ and I'll say, ‘That's the exact same problem in different clothes.’ We want a really beautiful mix, of all kinds of men and women to be represented, at the appropriate levels and ratios.”
But there seems to be consensus on one thing: the recent elevation of women isn't coincidental.
“I've done this for 15 years and there is certainly a greater onus now on bringing in female leadership than there ever has been before,” says Jay Haines, founder of executive search firm Grace Blue. “This was a trend that began to emerge probably three or four years ago and then really came to fall two years ago. Now whenever we take on a new leadership search, a big part of the mandate is to ensure that whenever we come back to clients there is a diverse slate of candidates by every metric.”