zoe eagle

At the Dawn of AI Female Talent Must Appreciate the Incredible Value of Their Own Thinking

In light of the reported risk that AI poses to female talent, Accenture Song's co-chief Zoe Eagle urges action to ensure female voices are heard in advertising.

By zoe eagle

It’s now been a year since stepping into the role of co-chief at Accenture Song and while there has been no shortage of learnings along the way, becoming aware of just how long it has taken me to find confidence in my own voice has been one hell of a revelation - one which has pushed me to reflect on how our industry can better nurture female talent.

It’s been 18 years since I first entered the industry, three years since I’ve been part of Karmarama and then Song's leadership group, and six years since becoming a mother. It’s a line-up that you’d assume puts you in brilliant stead to have long been confident in what you bring to the table, particularly given that I’ve never been considered the shy type. However, the confidence that I’m speaking about is more than the ability to spark conversation in a room of strangers; it’s a completely different currency of confidence – the belief in the value of my own thinking.

Diving into the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the last year has also given me a front-row seat into the mind-bending changes on the horizon – and equally, it has highlighted the risks that exist for the future of female talent in more administrative roles, which stand to be most impacted.

We could debate the future of where these roles will go and why, but what’s keeping me up at night is the reality of why so few women historically have stepped into creative, strategic and leadership roles in our industry.

So, how can we help the next generation of female talent to find confidence in their own thinking and ultimately, become the next leaders who actually set the strategic agenda?   

Male Mentorship

One of the best-kept secrets and greatest weapons when it comes to female talent being supported, seen and heard in any room they may be in, I believe, is the mentorship of a male colleague. Having a male co-chief in Will Hodge has been transformational; he has consistently pushed me to back my ideas and beliefs, pulled me into conversations and given me the floor, and helped me to build a leadership team that puts women front and centre.

I also know the role that it has played in allowing Will to become an even better leader and ally, by seeing first-hand the challenges that women face, and what is needed to shift the dial. There are an incredible number of people out there who, if only asked, are more than willing to show up as mentors – and the two-way learning in that dynamic will pay dividends for gender disparity across the board.

Don’t fear the spotlight, and when given the chance – bring other women into it

Despite holding senior positions for several years before becoming co-chief, I was part of the cohort that shied away from self-promotion and believed that the work I did would somehow miraculously elevate me alongside other women who (rightfully) made time for PR. There is also the belief that many women share that we become unbearable the moment we step into the spotlight – or worse, the disbelief that anyone would value our thinking enough to seek it out.

Since slowly but surely embracing the importance of PR, I’ve discovered the value of it, not just for myself but for the women around me. We don’t speak enough about the responsibility we have as leaders to be more visible. To set the example that you are proudly and willingly taking up space, to share and to listen in public forums, and to create a culture where this is revered instead of feared. It doesn’t need to all be headlines and industry panels, it starts in corridors and meeting rooms encouraging women to share their thoughts and to reward them when they do. 

If it doesn’t exist, build it

There’s no definitive guide to leadership and there’s often no perfect infrastructure when you arrive. I've made it my mission to cultivate an environment where women not only thrive but lead, and where men are an active part of this. This began with building an exco that is two-thirds female – three-quarters of whom also happen to be mothers. What exactly has that meant for us as an agency? Greater acknowledgment that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to working – or leading. It has also meant more people showing up with more of their authentic selves and greater communication across the board. It sounds simple and to be honest, it should be. There was never a shortage of women who wanted or deserved to be in those roles, it just takes decision-makers to get them there.

Whilst there’s no shortage of conversation around how AI can shape what’s next, if we don’t elevate the confidence of the women around us, we risk losing ambitious, capable females at our top table in the future. And quite frankly, no machine could ever replicate the brilliance of those minds.


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