Pam Hamlin will tell you it’s in her genes.
The CEO since 2013 of Arnold Worldwide, a global creative and advertising agency, says her father’s career was in marketing and investments, and her mother was a designer.
“I was genetically born into the intersection of creativity and commerce,” says Hamlin, who oversees a company responsible for advertising campaigns for clients including Progressive Automotive, Ocean Spray and Jack Daniels.
“Early on I found in the world of marketing I was able to leverage both my right and left brain,” says Hamlin, who was recognized as one of Advertising Age’s “Women To Watch,” as well as with Boston Business Journal’s “Power 50” and “Leading Women” awards.
After graduating from Boston College in 1986, Hamlin says she fell “in love with advertising,” with her first job at Ingalls, Quinn & Johnson, before moving toward account services.
“I was a little naive, but I was thrilled to be hired in advertising and begin my career trajectory. But I also saw the imbalance of leaders-- of men and women in the leadership positions not only within the agency, but with client organizations.”
The gender bias that had been the legacy of marketing and advertising in the 20th century and into this century, is shifting with specific initiatives on both the client and agency sides.
One year ago, Antonio Lucio Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at the $13.1 billion revenue company HP, “tasked HP's global agencies—BBDO Worldwide, Fred & Farid, gyro, PHD and Edelman—with including more women and minorities in their ranks, specifically in senior and creative leadership roles. He set a goal of 56 percent women on account teams and 47 percent women in senior leadership roles. All agencies set their own goals for improved minority representation,” Adrianne Pasquarelli writes in Advertising Age.
The results posted recently show, “At HP's agencies, women now represent 61 percent of the brand's account teams—over 5 percent more than the goal. Women also now represent 51 percent of senior roles. When the challenge started, all brand account teams were less than 40 percent women overall, and many had 10 percent or even 0 percent women in leadership roles,” Pasquarelli writes.
“When Lucio started in 2015, there were 20 percent in leadership roles. Overall, the marketing and communications department is composed of 63 percent women. Minorities represented some 26 percent of total employees in 2016, the most recent data available,” Pasqaurelli writes. “Regarding creative, BBDO's creative leadership is 40 percent female and Fred & Farid's is 55 percent female; neither agency had female creative leads on the account last year.”
Hamlin says in her 30-year career she has been recognized for her “track record and capability.” She started with Arnold in 1998 as the Director of Account Management, leading to her appointment as the first woman president of the Boston office, then later the first woman president of the headquarters from 2006-2013.
“I was a believer that I was going to be promoted and rewarded on my contribution, impact and results,” Hamlin says.
All that was true, but she says she also had a great manager and mentor.
Moving up the ladder, Hamlin says, you have to be clear with your intentions. A year before she was made president of the Boston office, Hamlin says her mentor asked what she wanted to do. She responded that she wanted to be president of the Boston office.
“So many smart, talented young women want to look to female role models,” Hamlin says.
With more women in different roles on account and creative sides, better messaging and marketing results, Hamlin says.
“My ambition is to have an employee population profile that reflects the consumer population,” she says.
Then tone-deaf missteps in marketing are less likely.
“It makes for better insight and strategy to deliver campaigns.” Hamlin adds, “It begins with believing that diversity on a team makes a good team.”
Others agree that the push for diversity and inclusion considering gender, race, beliefs, socioeconomics, orientation and more is good for everyone and good for the bottom line.
“Mainstream sportswear players like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour now feature women in their marketing campaigns and are developing lines that women want to wear,” Kati Chitrakorn writes in the Business of Fashion,
“Nike announced ambitious plans to hit $50 billion in sales by 2020 — and the women’s business is a massive opportunity. At Nike, the Oregon-based company pushed its marketing spend to $804 million in 2016, an increase of 10 percent year on year, with a focus on its women’s offering, which it plans to grow into an $11 billion business by 2020,” Chitrakorn writes.“
“Women drive a majority of consumer spending, so it’s smart business to focus on the women’s market,” Bridget Brennan, chief executive of The Female Factor, a strategic consulting firm focused on the study of women consumers,” tells Chitrakorn.
"What we’ve seen over the past year are strong empowerment campaigns that are focused exclusively on women. There has been this idea in the past with many historically masculine brands that marketing to women means excluding men. That’s not the case. Marketing to women doesn’t mean excluding men, but it does mean excluding stereotypes,” Brennan tells Chitrakorn.
This newfound conviction among brands and their agencies that including more women on teams and promoting messaging and products that erase gender stereotypes is invigorating.
Meg Carter writes in Fast Company, “Brand owners should follow the lead already taken by Target in the U.S. and John Lewis in the U.K. to combat gender stereotyping by de-gendering their products, packaging, in-store experience, and other marketing communications–including advertising, new research suggests.”
Carter writes, “A worldwide shift in consumer attitude toward gender is revealed by The Future is FeMale, a new survey of more than 12,000 men and women in 32 countries commissioned by Havas. One of the most striking findings is the significant number of those surveyed who endorse an agendered–or gender-neutral–approach to raising future generations: 61percent of women and 46 percent of men believe children should be raised in as gender-neutral a way as possible to guard against rigid gender restrictions.”
Hamlin is happy to be a part of communicating that shift for brands across the world where she is in charge of messaging. Her advice—and she is asked often—to women looking to a leadership role in their careers?
“I can say without a lot of doubt or trepidation that you can do it but you have to love it. You will figure out how to prioritize all the aspects,“ Hamlin explains.
Hamlin, a mother of two adds, “You can’t do everything, you have to do what’s more important now. You have one life and you get to decide on any given day what’s most important.”
And yes, she was likely born this way.