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No preferential treatment to women but we must provide equality at workplace, says Publicis CTO Surbhi Gupta

On International Women’s Day, Gupta talks to about the women workforce in the company and how they endeavour to maintain a level-playing field for everyone

Surbhi Gupta

Today is International Women’s Day, and everyone is trying to make the women in their life feel special. Advertising agencies, public relations companies, marketing and communication companies are not to be left behind. They, too, have their own small gestures of empowering their women workforce.

So, on this occasion, spoke to Surbhi Gupta, Chief Talent Officer, Publicis Groupe, South Asia, to find out the scheme of things for women employees across the group and its subsidiary companies in India.

Companies generally create a lot of hullabaloo by trying to prove that they give a lot of preferential treatment to their women employees. But Gupta is quick to mention that Publicis Groupe does not give any preferential treatment to anyone. “We pride ourselves in building a great company that makes a positive impact in the world and in order to do this, we put equality at our core,” she said.

One of the initiatives that the company has taken over the years is to create a level-playing field in areas where women might have been underrepresented. For example, hiring more women from campus, helping women in middle-management with flexibility or role change and other such customised solutions when they need the timely support.

“This has helped them stay the course and grow into larger leadership roles within the Groupe,” said Gupta.

Talking about a fair representation of men and women, she pointed out that they endeavour to create a safe and happy environment for all their employees across the Groupe and believe in equal opportunities based on merit and competence.

Currently, the workforce of Publicis Groupe comprises over 36% women. Earlier, it was less than 30%. “This has improved over the last few years. We have certainly moved in the right direction,” said Gupta.

She also mentioned one of the Groupe companies as an example of an organisation that is way ahead of the curve -- MSL. The workforce at MSL comprises 70% women and 30% men.

There are about 40% women at the junior level and 21% at the senior level across the Groupe.

So has the hiring pattern changed over the years? “Yes, we have made conscious efforts to hire more women within the Groupe,” said Gupta. The percentage of women hired over the last two years has increased from 35% to 44% at the company.

When the #MeToo movement broke out, a lot of people from creative agencies and communication companies were also caught in the loop of misbehaviour. What mechanism or guidelines does the company have to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace? “We are committed to creating a safe workplace for all our employees,” said Gupta.

Publicis Groupe has a detailed Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) policy in place, covering all genders. It is available on their intranet for all employees to view.

The company also has a fully-functional IC (Internal Committee) in place. “We conduct regular sessions for our employees to create awareness on the law and sensitise them about appropriate behaviours at the workplace,” Gupta stated.

The company recently launched an e-module training on POSH for all their employees and they are committed to be 100% compliant on this.

Who doesn’t like a good working environment? Everyone does, and yearns for it. What makes the Publicis Groupe a good place to work? “Equality and equal opportunities are not just ambitions for the future of Publicis Groupe. It is something we work to make a reality, every day, for the good of our people and our clients,” Gupta said.

In India, especially, there is a culture of no holidays/breaks, which is perceived to be very cool. The company wants to challenge this notion, and move towards a culture that is forward-looking and progressive. For this reason, it introduced ‘mandatory year-end holidays’ for all employees, over and above the number of holidays they get. “This helps us in fuelling the performance culture, as people come back energised,” pointed out Gupta.

Talking about performance culture, she shared that being a high performance-driven organisation, the company has a number of programmes, including ‘A-Team’. It is a programme that recognises, celebrates and rewards talent with the winning mindset and contributes to growth. This programme always witnesses more women participating and winning the coveted A-team award.

Some of the flagship programmes of the Publicis Groupe include Next Gen Board (a leadership development programme), Talent in Motion (a talent mobility programme) and Accelerate Learning Program (a people manager programme).

Talking about advancing women’s equality in the workplace, Gupta concluded, “The Publicis Groupe strongly believes in equality within the workplace and that our agencies and our industry would be more successful with equal representation of men and women at all levels.”

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