Forbes India 30 Under 30 2023

Media Mavens: The industry needs to start addressing the pay gap, says Monaz Todywalla of PHD India

Todywalla talks about the changing role of leadership, the millennial workforce, the gender pay gap, and the trends to look out for

Published: Jan 10, 2023 05:37:22 PM IST
Updated: Jan 10, 2023 06:26:03 PM IST

Media Mavens: The industry needs to start addressing the pay gap, says Monaz Todywalla of PHD IndiaMedia agencies have been adept at offering women opportunities based on their meritocracy and intelligence. As an ecosystem, it levels the playing field for individuals regardless of their gender," says Monaz Todywalla, CEO, PHD India


Note to readers: Media agencies have seen a 360-degree change when it comes to measurement metrics, strategies and services offered to the clients. What has also changed drastically is the gender gap. Thanks to the women leaders in the space who are showing the way for more and more media experts to aim for top leadership roles at these agencies. Storyboard18’s special series brings to you an exclusive behind-the-scenes view of the media agencies led by women.

With deeper appreciation for the ideas that millennials and GenZs bring to the table, Monaz Todywalla, chief executive officer of PHD India is defining leadership in the business of media agencies.

She is also passionate about fixing the men-women employment ratio in agencies. “Any organization that has less than 50 percent women in leadership roles today needs to take a long hard look at its path to being a more inclusive, progressive organization,” she says.

Todywalla is a big believer in changing with the times in terms of services offered to clients. According to her, media agencies are moving into the realm of trusted advisors for most clients where they are donning the hat of a consultant, helping make data-based decisions, and revisualizing measurement to be more agile, whilst delivering on the core scope of work.

In a chat with Storyboard18, Todywalla talks about leadership, personal achievements, changing skill sets and more

Edited excerpts.

Q. What are personal milestones since you took charge of the network?

The first thing would be the shift in my leadership mindset, which is now supportive and coach-oriented. Leadership is an influencing process and this clarity has helped me build and nurture my team to be great leaders themselves.

Secondly, I now have a deeper appreciation of the mindset that the current crop of millennials and GenZs bring to the table. It is a far cry from the work ethics that most seasoned advertising professionals have seen over the years and have secretly craved for. It’s refreshing to see it evolve, and in many ways, it is imperative to growth.

Thirdly, we’ve seen a lot more women leaders emerging and speaking up in the right forums and power corridors and this is such a vital aspect of inclusive leadership. Any organization that has less than 50 percent women in leadership roles today needs to take a long hard look at its path to being a more inclusive, progressive organization. Personally, for me, it is empowering to see women leaders coming into their own, now more than ever, and I’m all here for it!

Lastly, taking charge of my health in a stronger way and the importance I attach to it has changed for the better.

Also read: Media Mavens: Embracing advertising in a privacy-first world will become critical, says OMD India's Anisha Iyer

Q. What are the three achievements you are most proud about?

I’m proud of the fact that we’ve stabilized the business and managed to create deeper conversations around our offerings. There’s now a heightened appreciation for our strategic product in the market and wider acceptance for thought leadership that is unique to PHD – which hinges on bringing together exclusive research and opinions, helping marketers rethink marketing for tomorrow, today.

Second would be the people-focused initiatives we’ve rolled out this year – including leadership and coaching workshops that enable our leaders and managers to empower themselves and their teams to make the leap into the future with courage and empathy. The Bootcamps we’ve hosted this year have done an impressive job of addressing the entry-level talent crunch that the industry is currently facing.

Last but not the least, is the fantastic talent arsenal we’ve built this past year and are now reaping the benefits of.

Q. What are your leadership mantras?

The three leadership mantras I firmly believe in are giving people autonomy so that they are empowered to engage with their work in the best possible way, holding people accountable because it ultimately leads to employees owning outcomes for the good and giving feedback at regular intervals to help our people learn and evolve as professionals.

Organizations need to pivot their culture and make coaching and mentoring the linchpin – helping leaders and decision-makers across all levels understand the value that women leaders bring to the table and not hold them back.

Q. As someone who has been in the ad business for a long time now, how do you think the industry can fix the gender gap, especially at senior leadership levels?

The industry needs to start addressing the pay gap concerns, starting right at the junior leadership levels. If we’re expecting change, it needs to have an impact across all levels to ultimately address the issue democratically for all, not just at the senior leadership levels.

For the longest time, our industry has also been guilty of passing over women when it came to promotions, owing to reasons like returning from maternity breaks, making them feel guilty for a 9-month leave or even holding back from giving women larger roles due to established gender stereotypes.

While it is great to have a Renaissance person on the team, not everyone can do everything. This is where specialists and individuals with T-shaped skills come into play across various organizational levels.

To tackle this head-on, organizations need to pivot their culture and make coaching and mentoring the linchpin – helping leaders and decision-makers across all levels understand the value that women leaders bring to the table and not hold them back. Furthermore, empathy in the workplace is critical to understanding that women have other roles that they need to play in their lives as nurturers and if companies are not willing to stand in support, they stand to lose an important part of their workforce that is vital in driving success in today’s VUCA world.

Also read: Weekly Shorts: How brands are using hybrid models for influencer collaboration

Q. Compared to creative agencies, media agencies in India have a lot of women leaders. Why do you think that’s the case?

Media agencies have been adept at offering women opportunities based on their meritocracy and intelligence. As an ecosystem, it levels the playing field for individuals regardless of their gender. Prioritizing individuality and hiring people for their strengths is something the media side of the business in India has been doing fairly well and it's the reason why we've gone on to see it produce some exceptional women leaders over the years. That said, when it comes to leading agencies from the helm, creative agencies are now seeing a change for the better as well.

The true manifestation of growth in today's ever-evolving environment requires leadership that is inclusive, agile and ambitious. And for this to take deeper roots, as individuals and as a culture at large, we need to shift our awareness to recognizing people for their abilities and go beyond the gender norm.

Q. How have the skills required to do the job well changed over the years? What are the key skills required now - at entry and mid-levels?

The role of agencies has evolved dramatically over the years.

Agencies are revisualizing structures faster than they did in the past. We’re taking a lot of close calls on what an agency has to offer and how integral it is to the businesses at large. It is now assuming the role of a Polymath – donning the hat of a consultant, helping make data-based decisions, and revisualizing measurement to be more agile, whilst delivering on the core scope of work. We are moving into the realm of trusted advisors very swiftly for most clients.

At PHD, we’re now looking at people who are bold, not afraid to ask 'why', can see the larger picture and help brands on their journey of transformation. The range and depth of skills now desired are changing at a talent level. But we realize that while it is great to have a Renaissance person on the team, not everyone can do everything. This is where specialists and individuals with T-shaped skills come into play across various organizational levels.

Q. Brands are taking to digital platforms like never before. How has that impacted spending? Are brands accommodating digital in their earmarked media budget or are they ready to push their budget for digital marketing?

There’s no discounting the fact that digital today is an integral part of a consumer’s journey. With more touch points, spending increases on digital platforms. Digital marketing has been critical these past few years helping marketers sail through the pandemic and difficult business conditions - digitizing products and services, connecting with consumers across new avenues and driving revenue. Brands are now looking to deepen their gains in this space by mastering data-driven and forward-leaning opportunities as they look to the future. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

Agencies are now assuming the role of a Polymath – donning the hat of a consultant, helping make data-based decisions, and revisualizing measurement to be more agile... We are moving into the realm of trusted advisors very swiftly for most clients.

Talking of budgets and new trends, what are clients looking for mostly when they come to the agencies, is it just reach or ROI? How are you responding to their changing needs?

Clients are now more focused on ROI-driven outcomes. While reach remains critical for most marketers, market penetration continues to be an uphill task.

We are also seeing a dramatic change in metrics now to better accommodate the evolving needs of brands and their consumers. Listening to the winds of change allows us to look at this as a unique opportunity and we are now witnessing art and science in its truest form, coming together to bring forth a data-driven strategy that truly delivers.

Q. Lots of leaders across industries have been sharing their experiences on the new skills they’ve acquired in the past few years. Have you had similar experiences during the pandemic?

My digital learning curve has leapfrogged these past 18 months – especially around MarTech, Analytics and Digital. Following the pandemic, developments in the digital space have greatly accelerated. Brands need to stay one step ahead to keep up with the ever-evolving consumer needs, and if the last few years have taught us anything, it is that digital is a vital part of long-term plans to connect with the desired audiences. Leaders can no longer sit on the sidelines in the race for transformation and digital dexterity is a critical cornerstone of this.

Q. What is your business and media outlook for 2023?

For us at PHD India, 2023 is about staying committed to our vision of empowering our people to make the complex simple, being bold with making recommendations to our clients and working with them to make the leap into the future and driving disproportionate growth.


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