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Corporate Sectors Should Look to Advertising if They Want to Get Gender at the Top Right

01/04/2015 20:48 BST | Updated 01/06/2015 10:59 BST

The need for more women in leadership roles is an issue that refuses to fall off the agenda. Long may that continue. You only need to look at the response from business leaders during the most recent International Women's Day, or the fact that the gender pay gap was an agenda point in George Osborne's budget a few weeks ago - to know that the fight for equal representation is in full force.

15 years ago I authored the 'Women in Advertising' report which analysed and argued for greater representation of women in senior positions in the advertising industry. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically. We've shifted away from hand-wringing towards empowered belief. A big part of that in my mind is that senior women in our industry now are particularly good at mentoring and supporting younger female talent. We're one of the leading industries for that and it's an approach that's proving very successful.

It's why I think that our industry could serve as a blueprint for others to follow.

When I first started in advertising, there were only a handful of senior women and when I wrote the report a mere 10% of MD/CEO roles were filled by women. Now a quarter of the most senior management roles are women, a figure which has been steadily growing. Perhaps the biggest change is in media planning and buying agencies, a part of our industry that has historically been considered the most macho. A shift has definitely taken place and a lot of this progress is to do with advertising being such a young industry. Almost half of our staff at Engine are under the age of 30. It's important for these young, aspiring talents to see women at the top - if you can't see it, then you can't be it. Our next challenge is to ensure that the creative and tech part of our industry get more women in both leadership roles and in at the grass roots level as both of these areas lag behind all over the world. But one step at a time, we are getting there.

We pride ourselves on being inclusive. We are here to create and sell ideas and we know that great ideas don't have genitals. Young women who are coming into the industry now feel that there's nothing stopping them from rising up the ranks. Anyone who can predict what's next and make it real and relevant for our clients will succeed. Mentoring and coaching of women is also fostered far more formally now with organisations such as WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London) playing a key role.

Of course Rome wasn't built in a day, but slowly but surely advertising is creating a working blueprint that champions equality in the workplace with a pragmatic triumvirate of role models, inclusivity and investment in youth, we're seeing first-hand that with greater representation, comes greater benefits to all.

It means that women are more sure of themselves and confident about their abilities to make a difference. They're not trying to be someone else. That's a particularly powerful message when considering people for leadership roles.

So British industry, if you're listening, if you want to do it right - you could do worse than following advertising's lead.