This year's International Women's Day theme is "#BreakTheBias" in an attempt to break deliberate or unconscious bias that makes it difficult for women to move ahead. The campaign which urges for a level the playing field comes as representation of women in leadership still isn't where it needs to be.

In light of International Women's Day, MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to prominent female leaders in our industry, inviting them to talk about a number of topics, including their career, challenges in their respective industries, and their ideas about women in a leadership position. In this article, we feature Simone Tam, CEO, dentsu International Hong Kong. 

Tam was promoted to CEO of dentsu International's Hong Kong operations early last year after the departure of Pauline Chu. An industry veteran with over a decade of experience in the US, China and Hong Kong, Tam is responsible for driving dentsu Hong Kong's transformation agenda, strengthening business operations, and ensuring clients get the full value of what the agency has to offer.

Here's her story:

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your role?

I am the CEO of dentsu international Hong Kong. As CEO for the group, I oversee all the service lines: creative, media and CXM, which comprises six agency brands: dentsumcgarrybowen, Isobar, Carat, iProspect, dentsu X and our new data-driven customer experience management agency Merkle. I am also a daughter, a sister and a mum.

2. How did you get into the industry?

It was fate. I applied for a marketing role in my final year as a student in an organisation. But that company did not have a vacancy for me at the time, so the marketing director referred me to an agency that served the company instead. That’s what I did, and when I got there, I fell in love with agency life, and have never looked back. I spent 17 years at this agency and worked for them in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and San Francisco.

3. What are some of the barriers you think women in the creative industry facing?

I have seen a surge of women stepping into leading positions in our industry over the years, but probably not enough. I think there are many reasons for it. Society and women themselves can’t seem to shake off traditional expectations, such as women should prioritise marriage, give birth by a certain age, and be the primary caregiver to children. Such expectations hinder career aspirations, and especially so in the creative industry which demands much longer working hours.

4. Have you faced any personal prejudice or misconception in the industry?

Personally, I have not had any big issues with being a woman in the industry. I’ve found my way and risen through the ranks frankly by my passion, dedication, and hard work. Of course, there have been prejudice and misconceptions, as one would expect. They were wrong, and still wrong, but I think somehow, I used them as motivations, and forced myself to work even harder to prove my ability to others.

However, I believe there is not just prejudice against women. There are still unhealthy and entrenched gender stereotypes. Every one of us, no matter what gender, ethnicity, background, has experienced prejudice or misconception in one way or another.

5. What is one area that you are looking to tackle as a woman in a leadership position?

I am learning and striving to be a good leader, not a good female leader. And by doing that, I hope I can become a role model for women and all young adults too. And yes, leaders can have a career and children at the same time. I have an amazing career, and currently I am responsible for hundreds of staff, but I also have two amazing teenage boys at home.

6. What are your hopes for the advertising community in general in 2022?

Currently, at dentsu international Hong Kong, we know beyond a doubt that gender equality and diversity are drivers of creativity and innovation. Over 60% of employees are female in the Hong Kong agency network. and in fact, 63% of senior positions are female. I believe gender equality and women empowerment are key values the whole industry is working on; I am hopeful that we are making progress in getting rid of all the glass ceilings and sticky floors.

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