To celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday, MAD//Fest asked industry execs to name the female leaders, heroes and pioneers who have inspired them and left their mark on today’s marketing industry.

Penny Parnell, Creative Director, Not On The High Street

“I’m giving a mahoosive shout out this International Women’s Day to Ella d’Amato ; our epic CCMO and all-round blimmin’ powerhouse. She’s blazing a trail in the industry by forcing our brand to stand apart, working collaboratively, trying new things and showing there are different ways creatively to operate within this space.

“We’re lucky enough to work in a company created by women, powered by women, and supported by women. Two-thirds of our workforce are female and 82% of the small businesses we partner with are too – so helping build a brand like this is not only an honour but a responsibility. 

“She’s taught me to always push harder, to be brave, to know my stuff, to help anyone I can, to keep a sense of humour and most importantly, to always be kind. Which I reckon is pretty life-changing stuff.

Abba Newbery, CMO, Habito

“I am fortunate enough to have worked with many super-cool women in my career – Jenny Biggam, Rosie Arnold, Lucy Jameson, Stevie Spring, Emma Tucker, Christine Walker to name a few. But top spot has to go to Claire Enders, of Enders Analysis, the go-to source for media insight.

“She is everything I would like to be: stunningly bright, fearlessly outspoken, poised, generous, and funny. More than that she took me under her wing without me asking, always makes time to see me, introduces me to incredible people, and continuously inspires me with her huge brain and incisive view of the world. 

“She keeps the media industry on our toes with her forensic analysis, and her predictions of the future are terrifyingly accurate. More than that she is also a tireless campaigner for women’s rights, not just in the advertising industry but our representation throughout history. We all need more Claires!”

Lisa Targett, General Manager- UK, Tribe

“I feel fortunate to work alongside Facebook, who share our values of having an open, progressive culture and this year as we celebrate International Women’s Day –  Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA Facebook stands out as someone who has set an incredibly meaningful example for me. 

“Beyond her list of professional achievements (NED at Diageo, Chairman of Corporate Board of Women’s Aid, Founder of #SheMeansBusiness and a CBE to her name), she’s always generous, approachable & leads with humility. 

“Most notably for me, the regard with which our community holds her, was on full display at the end of last year, when she launched the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation. The foundation was launched in an effort to raise awareness of the invisible & chronic disease, which she was diagnosed with a few years prior.

“With the goal of raising £15M in the next three years, our entire industry put their weight behind the Foundation’s launch, educating audiences & readers on FL en masse. There wasn’t a site or publication without Nicola’s personal story or the #CureFL branding, including posts from 30 of TRIBE’s biggest influencers.

You could feel the momentum, and everyone who lended their resources or their media space to the campaign was thanked personally for their support.

“She’s a force in every sense, a champion for others and takes her responsibility as a leader seriously – constantly striving to improve opportunity for talent, across the industry.”

Steph Bell, Executive Director, Marketing Procurement, Avon

“Can I have two? My first shout out goes to Mary Keane-Dawson, Takumi’s CEO. I aspire to be Mary! She is a force for good, has endless energy, is relentlessly curious, enables, empowers and inspires and takes no prisoners.

“She represents the best of the industry and stands up for what she believes in, unequivocally.

“Mary is a huge advocate for those pushing the boundaries and finding the answers for the future industry and giving them a platform to be heard.

“I couldn’t do this without mentioning Lindsey Slaby, Founder of Sunday Dinner, a boutique marketing brand consultancy in the US. She oozes ego-free confidence and her superpower is generosity – read this and you’ll discover why.

“One of Lindsey’s common phrases is ‘steal this idea’, she finds jewels and she wants them to shine, she never hides things for herself and always operates on an open platform that builds strong communities.

She leads the way on innovative collaboration and cuts through the noise with a clear, concise and eminently practical perspective, always advocating for quality and talent.”

Craig Fenton, Director Strategy + Operations, Google

Nishma Robb, the Marketing Director of Google UKI, is a force of nature. She’s a brilliant storyteller who has a knack for bringing a brand to life and adding that magic that appeals to the heart as well as the mind. 

“She’s also been a tireless leader of diversity in an industry that has much more to do….both in the way that we reflect society in the stories we tell creatively, and in the Boardroom of leading companies.

“Nishma has risen steadily beginning her journey in Teletext (remember them?) and riding the digital wave to become one of the leading lights in modern digital marketing.  A true inspiration, both personally and professionally.”

Paul Frampton, CEO – EMEA, Control v Exposed

“I would like to call out an oft unsung hero that works tirelessly in the background to shine a light on emerging female leaders and those driving genuine change in gender equality. Ade Onilude is the founder and CEO of  Women in Marketing which was launched back in 2004 on International Women’s Day.

“Ade thinks big – WIM is a global organisation that touches all aspects of marketing from client side to agency, from B2B to B2C  and she is about action and making things happen. WIM’s Inclusion Charter is a great example of this – rather than focus on quotas, Ade encouraged organisations to sign up to a set of inclusion statements and a charter framed #WeWill.

“This year WIM will celebrate 10 years of its awards which recognises incredible women all over the world who are driving economic and social change and value. It seems fitting therefore, that on the anniversary of a decade of awarding women and at the point that WIM is truly global,  that Ade herself should be recognised for what she has done to promote women in marketing and beyond.

Tom Ollerton, Founder, Automated Creative

My shout out goes to Lizzie Widhelm, SVP Ad Innovation and Sales Enablement at Pandora. I recently interviewed Lizzie for the Shiny New Object podcast – I’ve never met anyone as self aware and open about their own failures and how to learn from them; she’s a self confessed ‘fan of a fuck up’. 

“As well as being able to articulate what many of us would try and sweep under the carpet with honesty and a dose of humour, she’s also one of the smartest people I’ve interviewed. She has progressive views on technology and data and the role they will play in people’s lives in the future – many of which will be controversial, but we need to have these conversations in order to move the dial. 

“We need more people like Lizzie – a great role model not just for women, but for anyone working in the marketing industry today.”

 Tamara Sword, Founder, ThoughtLDR

“There are many inspiring women in our industry, but let’s be honest, most of the gains women have made over the last thirty years have been made by those with a middle-class background. That’s why I celebrate those women who have had to overcome economic inequality to get where they are – and who then take time to help the next generation of talent to overcome those same barriers.

“Step forward The& Partnership’s Heleana Blackwell. Heleana is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever worked with. Strategist by day, stand-up comic by night, superstar by day and night – Heleana can see opportunities where everyone else sees none.

“Maybe that’s just in her nature, but some of that resilience could be down to nurture. Heleana’s first break was winning a place on the UK gov’s Assisted Places scheme – a scheme that gave kids from disadvantaged backgrounds scholarships at independent schools.

“Like so many social mobility initiatives, the scheme is no more, but now she’s an award-winning strategist, Heleana has consistently used her creativity, connections and compassion to create new opportunities in our industry for young people who lack the networks of their middle-class peers. 

“While at Havas, Heleana engineered a ground-breaking partnership between the adland giant and social mobility charity Villiers Park Educational Trust to give talented kids from disadvantaged backgrounds a pathway into the agency world.

“As part of Pitch Magazine’s Futures initiative, she worked with inner-city school children to introduce them to potential careers in our industry. And now Heleana has co-founded The New Work Network, helping transform advertising agency culture to be more supportive of remote, flexible, diverse teams. 

“This IWD, let’s remember that equality isn’t a destination. It’s a journey and as an industry we are lucky to have women like Heleana leading the way. “