“A Diverse Workplace Is Simply Clever Business”: OMD’s Martin Cowie

“A Diverse Workplace Is Simply Clever Business”: OMD’s Martin Cowie
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In case you haven’t heard, we’re holding an event pretty damn soon to celebrate and promote inclusion and equality in our industry. You’ll walk away from Changing the Ratio inspired and ready to initiate change right now in your own organisation.

And with the event less than a week away, we spoke to one of the most diversity-positive companies we could think of about why events like these are so important in driving change.

OMD is one of the most diverse companies in the industry and the winner of the Agency of the Year Award at last year’s Women in Media Awards.

Martin Cowie is the people and development director at OMD, and said events like Changing the Ratio “create a forum where conversations and action on gender equality can take place.”

“We recognise that placing gender equality at the forefront of industry discussions is needed for positive change. We also know firsthand the benefits diversity has on our own business,” he said.

“Whilst I believe our industry is improving, there is clearly greater progress to be made.”

According to Cowie, men play a large role in making sure there is progress within the industry.

“As Emma Watson so articulately explained, cracking the gender issue requires men to stand up and become champions, rather than standing on the sidelines,” he said.

“Men are still over-represented at board levels, with women only representing around 27 per cent on ASX 200 boards. With so many men in leadership positions, they are key to driving change, so we must continue to engage them on this topic.”

OMD has had strong male leaders committed to change in the past, and the company’s current CEO, Aimee Buchanan, is particularly passionate in driving equality in our industry.

In 2017, the company launched multiple initiatives around diversity and inclusion.

These included unconscious bias training, national International Women’s Day activations, the implementation of a RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan), doubling their parental leave to 16 weeks and an official Flexibility Policy, which Cowie said was beneficial for all staff.

“We launched our official Flexibility Policy to benefit all individuals and allow staff to have greater control of when and how they work,” he said.

“Each employee had the chance to feed into the policy by having their say in a company-wide survey to understand exactly what they need and expect from a flexible workplace.

“Importantly, the results of our initiatives speak for themselves. 90 per cent of new parents returned last year which is an incredibly positive result.

“We’ve improved retention and lowered our churn rate, whilst also having our strongest commercial year ever,” Cowie continued.

But despite OMD’s recent successes, Cowie said there’s still more room for improvement in the industry.

“Whilst as an industry we are particularly active, there is still plenty of room for improvement. I personally would like to see more men in our industry involved in the discussions, creating change through their actions,” he said.

“Ensuring diversity is a key item on all company management meeting agendas is critical, as is making sure the discussions are inclusive of everyone.

“A diverse workplace is simply clever business. As an industry, we should all be embracing change in this space.”

Changing the Ratio will be held on May 28 at Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre in Surry Hills. Grab tickets here, and for all other information, head to the website.

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