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Taking the LEAD – A New Program Promotes Gender Equality at Acxiom

Stefana RusuJune 07, 2019

On May 23, more than 300 Acxiom associates from across the country, as well as Germany, China and the U.K., came together for the launch of Acxiom Women LEAD (Leadership Enrichment and Development) in our U.S. headquarters.

Founded this spring by Melissa Metheny, Vice President of Sales and Account Management at Acxiom; Janet Cinfio, Chief Information Officer at Acxiom; and me, LEAD is a new program that aims to create a workplace where women and men can pursue their career ambitions without bias or diversity barriers. It seeks to inspire and empower all Acxiom employees to engage in conversations about gender equality to promote inclusion and diversity and support professional and personal development.

We have called the program “Women” LEAD, but it is an initiative open to everyone. We need everyone to be a part of the conversation to raise awareness and drive change. It’s designed to give women and men an opportunity to be engaged across key topics and conversations, to have a point of view, to learn new skills and make sure we are doing our best to create awareness and build our team and our people to be more representative of our diverse broader population.

My peer and program co-founder, Melissa Metheny, opened the launch event, sharing that, in her 21-year career at Acxiom, co-founding LEAD is one of the most exciting things she has been involved in to-date. Melissa went on to share a few key national statistics that make the case for why LEAD matters, now more than ever.

While women account for 53% of the workforce, women are less likely to be hired into manager-level jobs, and they are far less likely to be promoted into them. For every 100 men promoted to manager, 79 women are promoted. Largely because of these gender gaps, men end up holding 62 percent of manager positions, while women hold only 38 percent. Yet, of these women, 83% have a desire to move up to the next level. And, for every 100 CEO roles, less than 4% are women. So, the challenge women face to reach the C-suite is significant and real.  Why is this topic important for companies of all shapes and sizes?

  • Having diversity in companies makes them more profitable, innovative and more respected.
  • Ethnically diverse teams are 35% more likely to generate above-average revenue.
  • The impact of improving culture is 42x greater than the impact of increasing salary, according to an Accenture study.

Successful teams have three things in common:

  • They give each other equal time to talk.
  • They are more sensitive toward each other.
  • They include more women.

The launch event included a panel of senior female leaders including Lee Anne Eddy, Chief Nursing Officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and Holly Marr, former Acxiom executive, joined by Melissa Metheny. The questions ranged from “How do you make your voice heard?” to “What’s your biggest failure?”   Holly talked about the “power of prep,” doing your research, showing up prepared and the confidence that gives you.   Lee Anne shared a similar perspective, emphasizing how important it is to have the knowledge and content to lean on, so you know what you are talking about as well as how critical it is to have the ability to read the room and communicate with empathy.  Lee Anne also shared how important women’s emotional intelligence competencies are, and how these soft skills bring empathy and compassion into any meeting.

A second panel made up of predominantly male executives from Acxiom discussed the importance of becoming male allies to women and emphasized the benefits of having diverse teams as a winning combination for making a bigger business impact.   Christina Munoz Madsen, a PR/marketing professional and former TV anchor, moderated both panels and provided great insights on being a team player, even on an uneven playing field.

Our launch event was a great success, and we are looking forward to continuing the discussions in the monthly series of events, including a big event at the end of Adweek NYC on September 26, which we will host at our IPG New York office and inviting our people and our clients.  To learn more about Women LEAD please watch this highlights video.