• Transform magazine
  • February 29, 2024


Five female CMOs discuss the future of branding at Siegel+Gale roundtable

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Siegel+Gale’s 8th annual International Women's Day CMO panel celebration explored the future of branding from a female perspective. Hosted by Siegel+Gale's CMO, Margaret Molloy, the panel featured five CMOs from across different industries including finance, tech and publishing who shared their personal journeys and the important role brands play in improving gender equality.

With Covid-19 particularly harming the female workforce, all five CMOs agreed that brands will have the fundamental job of leading the way forwards and setting an example, both internally, in terms of having greater female representations, and externally, with the products they sell and the platforms they work with. Lisa McKnight, SVP, global head of Barbie & Dolls Portfolio at Mattel, for example, looked back the big growth journey Barbie has undertaken in the past six years. Back then, the brand lacked in diversity, didn’t use its platform to celebrate female role models and wasn’t getting good feedback from society.

Now, Barbie dolls are truly reflective of the surrounding world, with the product offering expanding to include diversely abled Barbies, different gender Barbie, and different skin colour Barbies. The brand changed with society and customer perceptions, while using its platform and digital footprint to inspire and lead. “We have been using Barbie’s social channels to showcase inspiring women, and we lend our platforms to minority and use it to stir up important conversations,” Lisa said.

Similarly, Sanyu Dillon, CMO of Penguin Random House, spoke about the role of a publishing house as that of guiding readers by considering the challenges they are facing and arming them with books to tackle these challenges. “A publishing house needs to provide a platform to different genders, books and storytellers who illuminate new movements and light the way of what comes next,” she said.

Leanne Cutts, group CMO at HSBC and Huda Buhumaid, CMO at Dubai Holding, both discussed the role and representation of women in their respective finance brands. both brands have been focusing on gender equality, with HSBC partnering with different groups who specifically work with female entrepreneurs, creating gender neutral applications processes designed for both a D&I and gender lens and starting an acceleration programme for women, which has seen an initial cohort of  40% have make lateral moves or achieve promotions.

While Buhumaid admitted that the discussion of gender equality and number women on boards is especially in the Middle East Dubai Holdings has made the issue one of their key focuses. In 2013, the brand introduced an incubator programme, of which 26% of the start-ups are led by women and raised $16 MLN in funding.

“Personally, I would like to spend more time mentoring women around me. It’s not easy when 90% of people surrounding you are men and you are  having to cut through and prove yourself. Together can change perceptions around us,” Buhumaid says.

“As a mother of a son, I also think it’s important to focus on boys, so they learn to accept women working and being in senior positions, and it all starts from home where they actually see role models in their mothers,” she adds.

Carla Piñeyro Sublett, SVP, CMO at IBM explored the brand’s leading role in gender equality within the tech industry, through its different initiatives like ‘Be equal,’ which promotes advancement of gender equality in business and society and the BeEqual app, which is about to launch and will help citizens diversify consumption of content.

The panel also touched on the wider discussion of diversity and inclusion, with the CMOs admitting that many other battles intertwine with that of gender equality, from being open to and representing different genders and sexual orientations to looking at how much of the female workforce is actually made up by women of colour.

“While is a women-dominated industry there is still a way to become really inclusive in terms of race and diversity,” says Dillon.