2018 CRC: Lg2′s gender balance

How strong female leadership is impacting the #2 CRC agency's work.

Lg2 VP of account services Julie Pilon and VP of creative François Sauvé.

This article appears in the March 2018 issue of strategy.

Lg2 partner and VP, strategy and innovation Anne-Marie Leclair was recently talking with her colleague Marc Fortin, partner, VP and ECD in Montreal, about advertising’s glass ceiling, when he asked: “How are we doing?”

“I told him that I had never really thought about it here because it’s not an issue,” says Leclair, one of 12 women in a senior role (partner and/or VP) out of the 22 leadership positions across Lg2’s three offices.

The CRC’s #2 shop has promoted four women to leadership roles since December 2016 alone, including naming Marie-Christine Cayer and Julie Pilon VP of account services at the Montreal office, and announced two female GMs: Pénélope Fournier in Montreal, and Alexandra Laverdiere in Quebec City. It also hired Julie Benoit as its new VP of digital experience in May.

Lg2’s strong female leadership distinguishes it in the agency world, where men make up the vast majority of partners. According to a 2015 study by the Association des Agences de Communication Créative (A2C), 80.9% of agency partners and 64.3% of management board members in Quebec agencies are men.

Julie Dubé, partner, EVP, Montreal, stresses that Lg2’s hiring practices and its internal appointments are based entirely on merit, not filling a quota – yet Canada’s largest indie agency could be called the standard-bearer for the empowerment of women in advertising.

Women account for nearly half (47%) of its creative department (compared with 35.8% for the Quebec industry as a whole, according to the A2C report), while five of its 15 CDs, among them ECD Nellie Kim (who sits alongside creative partner Chris Hirsch at #20 on the list) and creative director, design Elise Cropsal, are also female.

“I can’t say there’s a policy [towards hiring and promoting women], but it’s something really inherent to who we are,” says Dubé. “To be the best at anything you do nowadays, you have to make sure that different points of view are represented – that it’s not all men, or white people, or millennials. I would say we have a product that’s balanced.”

Leclair says Quebec has historically taken a leadership role in women’s rights through groups like the Conseil du status de la femme (Council on the Status of Women), a powerful voice that championed issues like educational equality, violence against women and sexist advertising. “There’s probably a better balance in our society between the genders, and that’s also reflected in the corporate world,” she says.

While stressing that over-indexing on female leadership doesn’t define Lg2 or its creative approach, they say that it enables the shop to fight against deeply entrenched advertising stereotypes from within.

“When people sum up women as a horde of lipstick-wearing, shop-loving people, that’s where we have to fight against how we are portrayed as consumers,” says Dubé. “What enrages me is when I’m at the hardware store and they try to sell me pink gloves to do work around the house.”

Meanwhile, the agency produces empowering work for female-focused clients like Rethink Breast Cancer’s “Give-A-Care” line of products, which gave female cancer patients a more authentic voice, and landed the organization in the #4 spot on the CRC Brand list. Its work for Penningtons’ “#iwontcompromise” campaign (now into its third year) also strives to create an accurate reflection of women today.

“The audiences we’re speaking to are often women, so we have to have great insight,” says Dubé. “I’m not saying men are not able to understand women, but it’s important that different points of view are expressed.”