Y&R Italy: Female Leadership Challenging The Obvious

Oct 26, 2017


An agency run by a close-knit group of women is a rather unusual case to find in Italy. Simona Maggini, CEO of Y&R Italy, reveals the strengths of a team that can change the approach to working both internally and externally.


Only a company open to change can see that present structures and ecosystems can be improved. Open-mindedness makes the difference in fluctuating economic circumstances which cannot be disregarded or overridden by a standardized model of leadership. Yet, in the business of communication, a sector which should nourish natural sensitivity to change, women rarely reach top positions. There are, however, significant exceptions. Y&R Italy, for example, has evolved its organization model with the affirmation of female leadership over the last few years. CEO Simona Maggini says, "Our message, which is also an invitation to the market, can be easily summarized: Don’t take anything for granted, and challenge the obvious. A change in the business model within agencies has been on the cards for a while, and it needs to be said that it’s already happening.”


To make real change, everything needs to be open to discussion - even highly regarded and standard practices. The development of a female leadership model is one way to boost serious change in approaches to working both internally and externally. Today, Y&R Italy has a chain of command with a strong female imprint. "It’s not by chance," says Simona. “We invested a lot in training and peer to peer logic. Leadership coaching and mentoring have shown to be extremely efficient. We work on critical areas like self-confidence and work-life balance - two limiting psychological issues closely linked to the social and cultural circumstances women are brought up in, which must be overcome." 


Simona continues, “This group of women has been established over the last two years, and I thank our Chief Creative Officer, Vicky Gitto, who has fully supported this choice. Our decision was never to just put women in powerful positions, but to choose professionals who were right for each role and could respond to the needs of the agency, regardless of their gender. These managers were selected from inside the group or from the market. Two professionals, Veronica Pagani, Managing Director of Y&R Milan and Silvia Fiorin, Integration Director, were already working for the agency and have had a fundamental role in the evolution of this work model, leading the way towards a new, more contemporary territory, while maintaining capabilities of the Contact dept. from the ‘old school’ of advertising.”


“There are also professionals who have come from other companies. Our CFO, Paola Perrelli comes from the world of finance with international experience and our Chief Digital Officer, Federica Ilaria Fornaciari, comes from media and consulting; two diverse management leadership models which perfectly fit in with those present in the agency. In addition, we have Marzia Puma, our Operations Manager, who carries out the fundamental task of governing work organization flow within the agency, helping to oil the wheels of the process in the creative department above all.”


Naturally, there are many other female colleagues in the area of Client Leadership. They are skilled professionals able to interpret agency work in different ways in an area which is more consultancy and digital transformation oriented. “This contributes to forming partnerships with clients and the building of values and ideas, thus helping us to go beyond the classical services offered by an agency.” This, according to Simona, is due to skill and also due to the peculiar approach of their leadership.


Female leadership tends to be more empathetic and horizontal which works both internally where the hierarchy is far subtler, and externally where women often tend to favor an operational attitude. This makes way for the highest level of partnership and gives extra value to the contribution made by the agency to client's marketing and communications strategies. But the true value for Simona Maggini is in the combination of differences, “A balance which is possible because today, we find more and more women in STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering, and math). Up until a few years ago, sectors such as finance and digital were exclusively men. I am convinced that some female professionals are the facilitators of change, but our strength lies in the possibility of putting together the strongest talents, whether women or men with different personalities and skills, who are proactive, who are put in the right positions to support their aptitude, and make the very best contribution.”


This article was written by Andrea Crocioni and originally appeared on Pubblicita Italia.