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Each for Equal: A Q&A with our CEO, Megan Clarken

Posted by Criteo |

When it comes to building an environment that promotes equality, everyone needs to play an active role. We spoke with our CEO, Megan Clarken, to find out how she’s seen equality evolve throughout her career and what her recommendations are to create a more equal workplace.

Update - 24th September 2020: Megan has been featured as part of the HERoes 100 Women Executives List for 2020! Megan was judged on the influence of her role, her impact on gender inclusion and equality inside and outside the workplace and her business achievements. She is actively working to create an environment where women and other underrepresented groups can comfortably bring their best professional selves to work

This year's International Women’s Day theme was "Each for equal." There is a saying that an equal world is an enabled world. What does "Each for equal" mean for you?

Megan: When I first heard it I had no idea what it meant, but the more I pondered it the more I think it’s about fairness and respect. We all come from the same place — we all are human beings. We should see all people as people, not putting anyone inside of a box that you define yourself. For those we put in a box, they see you in a box and themselves as being outside the box, and then no one is equal – it’s just what happens. Each for equal is about throwing those boxes away and seeing each other without constraints.

As a women, Is inequality something you've experienced in your journey to where you are now?

Megan: Absolutely. I started working in the early 80’s, when all things were not born equal. My first job, I wrote checks in an accounts payable office. One of the few things I recall from that job was that regardless of the few male clerks who worked in the office, it was the women who were assigned the prestigious task of wheeling up the tea trolley. And that there was a corridor that had all of the executives offices on it – it was called “The Golden Mile”. It was a rule that women couldn’t walk down that corridor unless they were wearing a skirt. Needless to say, I never went there! Those were those times.

As I’ve progressed through my career, I see signs of this (although not nearly as blatant) at leadership level and it bothers me. I see women being overlooked for roles, I see women being talked over in meetings, I see women taking a back seat, sometimes literally in client and business meetings when they might be the subject matter expert in the room. I’ve had this happen to me many times. And it will continue to happen – unless we stop it together.

Those are interesting examples which most women can likely relate to. What advice would you give to women in meetings who are not being addressed and or being ignored?

Megan: I’d strongly advise you not to be passive aggressive. Don’t ignore it but don’t get angry. I tend to sit up straighter, a couple of inches taller, be clear and confident in what I have to say and don’t let myself be talked over. And it works. My advice in this kind of situation is, don’t feel you have to sit in a corner. Speak when you have got something to say, sit up even taller with confidence, and do not let yourself be talked over.

Do you have a personal example throughout your career that embodies the “each for equal” theme? Where you achieved something?

Megan: I’ve made conscious efforts to acknowledge my own bias and recognize bias in those around me. I’ve pushed hard for women’s career progress and taken pride in having a representative team - but acknowledge that that is much harder than it sounds. I’ve pushed hard to have women promoted or rewarded over others when I felt it was deserved and that they were being overlooked. And I’m really proud of the men and women, across countries around the world and across diverse backgrounds, culture, races, sexuality and other areas of diversity – really proud of them for putting their best foot forward and achieve their career goals and aspiration. Being a part of their story is so rewarding for me.

Why do you think that men sometimes behave the way the do?

Megan: I believe it’s an unconscious bias. There is an unconscious bias to act in a certain way. It’s not always men, it’s women as well. It’s in all of us. We’re all a result of where we’ve come from and as much as we try to push down on those behaviors that we don’t like, they can creep out without you even knowing. Gosh – we all do it. I don’t like the way that I can jump to an assumption about something or someone without having all of the information or thinking it through – it just happens, as naturally as my eye closes if something is headed towards it. For the most part people don’t mean it – not at all, but it happens. That much is true. The more we can feel comfortable to call those things out, the more we can try to change those unconscious bias’s to unconscious acceptance and create a better place. But – don’t beat yourself up for it, it’s a result of many years – just try to make it something that you notice , something that you question and something that you change. If we all do it, it can have a profound effect on generations into the future.

Which are the KPIs, qualitative or quantitative, that we can use in a business like Criteo to measure equality?

Megan: Well, I think we do a lot of that today, right? We're looking at gender split and diversity. We're looking at making sure that we have diverse slates when we hire. We're looking at attrition rates and trying to get to the bottom of where the attrition is coming from. Not just by gender, but by how we treat all diverse populations. Can we do more? Sure, from what I've seen, we have some pretty good measures in place, but these are extraordinary times that require us to examine harder, to question how we support our people and the community and to do more. The anguish that we feel when we witness extreme discrimination is excruciating – especially when you feel powerless. And so if it’s racial injustice or women’s fight for equality, we as a company have a role to play in acting and not just admiring the problem.

Moving to responsibility and empowerment, who do you think should be responsible in a company to ensure equality?

Megan: Oh, I think everybody! Let’s start with the unconscious bias piece and work from there. I think we all have a responsibility for checking ourselves. Just listen to yourself and others — you should not be afraid to check somebody. And it’s a privilege to be checked by others because otherwise you would never know. So, if you are in a meeting ask people for their opinions and don’t cut them off, which is a thing I’ve observed happens most. And if you’re not being listened to, or you have got something to say, just let that person know. And this is where it all starts – with all of us, with our behavior and the people around us.

So obviously every year we have International Women’s Day discussions and activities where we talk about these topics and then in two weeks we kind of forget about it until next year. So how do we make sure we don't forget about it until next year?

Megan: Wow, how do you not forget about equality for one year? I’m going to reframe this question. How do you not think about equality for one year?

I don't consciously think about it every day, but something comes up for me every day. It may not for all of us and you may have to actively think about how to be aware of inequality and potential discrimination around you. But know that for some people it comes up every day.

So just know that the person sitting next to you or behind you is perhaps dealing with something you don’t have to deal with or have never felt, and be kind to them. And if you think like that and you’re kind to people then you don’t have to be reminded in 12 months.


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