While reminiscing about the ‘good old days’, Barua, Chief Client Officer at PHD India, also sees the great potential of the present and future for the industry

Nostalgia has a funny way of making us feel happy, almost like a slightly faded but comfortable pair of jeans that one refuses to let go of. As we wander off in the snug world of fond memories, contrasts between the past and present tend to stand out in a stark and glaring manner. Every generation likes to eulogise the ‘good old days’ and look disdainfully at the newer crop, lamenting about how times have changed. However, it is fair to say that the current landscape is really one of the toughest in the history of marketing communications. To remain relevant and worthy today, it is now the norm to reinvent oneself on a continual basis. Staying in a comfortable place is no longer an option.

I must say, there is one particular development that I’m extremely happy has come about since the ‘good old days’ and that is the concept of gender equality. Just a few years back, if anyone mentioned the concepts of pay parity or the lack of gender balance in our industry, they were often labelled as uptight or worse, let alone even addressing the notion of work-life balance!

When I joined the industry, there was a lot we did not question and merely accepted – all the jokes, the labels, the usual biases. I must admit, I luckily managed to get by unscathed, though I did flinch at the times I was called ‘’sweetie’’ or when I was told that ‘’businesses are for alpha males; you won’t be able to run one.” I am extremely grateful that, unlike many others, there was no other form of harassment that I had to endure.

The fact that these are serious concerns in today’s world and are being presented like an open wound on our industry is a great thing. Despite the communications industry having a particularly high level of women leaders, it’s high time that the ‘Boys Club’ mentality is challenged! And there is still plenty more room for improvement on this subject. While we now have forums that celebrate women and address the issue of gender parity, what exactly are we doing to ensure that we are moving from just having conversations to actually effecting change?

In my experience, it will take more than just forums and conversations to get the job done. Over the years, I have learned that there is a lack of a support system in many workplaces, and until women are made to feel empowered, these issues will prevail. Additionally, it is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace – ourselves included – to create this support system and sense of empowerment.

We need to create the infrastructure that allows each individual – going beyond just genders here – to contribute the very best of their capabilities. This means creating the environments that allow one to perform at their very best, rather than conventional norms, and ensuring every individual can flourish in their area of specialty.

We also must encourage ambition – the need to make money, learn more, climb the hierarchy, lead from the front and get the recognition we deserve. It’s OK to want it all, and equally OK to want the shoes, love the flowers and go home to help with the housework too. This does not need any sort of labelling. It needs acceptance.

It’s only through the empowerment of each and every individual that agencies can create the diverse set of solutions clients require in order to remain relevant in today’s consumer landscape. Therefore, I urge all of my colleagues and peers to let go of that ‘old pair of jeans’ and try on a fresh new pair, feeling every bit as confident that the future will be brighter, full of diversity, and more inclusive for us all.

The article is authored by Shavon Barua and published in Exchange4 Media.com