Interview with Havas' Tracey Barber

​It's International Women's Day, Marketing Society celebrated by shining a light on some of the brilliant women in their network.

Like Comment

In line with celebrating women, Marketing Society interviewed the Group Chief Marketing Officer at Havas UK, Tracey Barber, on gender equality, breaking down barriers and working with UN Women.

Who is the woman that inspires you most and why?

My sister, Sara. Because while I can (and often do) feel hugely inspired by industry leaders, vocal activists or other forces for good, I believe that sisterhood delivers a unique bond which we should try and emulate in our working lives.

A shared agenda, having each other’s back and a bloody great dollop of humour gets you through a lot.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Stick to your own values no matter what. It’s a trait shared by all the best leaders: you know what they stand for.

What do all business leaders need to know about gender equality?

That it isn’t rocket science and shouldn’t be over-complicated. Make it complicated, and you inevitably end up making excuses.

Women want equal opportunity – but this doesn’t necessarily mean equal treatment.

Some obvious factors – maternity leave and childcare, for example – will clearly affect women more than men. But such factors shouldn’t affect their careers, and need to be factored in fairly to ensure women are given equal opportunity to progress as their male counterparts.

Set an example and call out discrimination and unconscious bias in your workforce. Your company will be better for it.

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women looking to progress into the c-suite?

Keep doing your job brilliantly and honestly and don’t compromise – or get drawn into office politics or game-playing. Concentrate on what makes you good, and ignore anything that distracts from that.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I have worked no more than four days a week from the birth of my first child 22 years ago – deliberately, to ensure I ring-fence time for my family.

And – this is important – it hasn’t impacted on my career at all.

I’ve been fortunate to have bosses who have enabled that. Seek them out, as the industry is changing and they’ll be the ones who are still at the top in five years’ time. Maybe this is a lesson for us all: always maintain a healthy sense of what your priorities actually are.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

From my experience, it has been less about being a woman and more about battling the perception that anyone can do the job of agency new business and marketing. They can’t. It’s both an art and a science, and a hugely specialised job in its own right.

It takes relentless energy, a super-smart team, lots of determination and a unique ability to marshal the troops. And the only way I believe you change those perceptions about new business is to actively change agency culture – and put new business and marketing front and centre as the most important department in the agency. All the best agencies recognise this, and have it in common.

Finally, tell us something inspiring about you, which readers won’t find on your LinkedIn?

I am working with UN Women to achieve 50-50 gender representation globally by 2030 – and doing all I can to ensure my children (two daughters, one of whom is studying medicine, and one of whom is studying law, and a son who is about to apply for university) know that both women and men deserve equal treatment and equal opportunity, regardless of which field.


Havas London

Havas London is Havas UK's flagship creative agency. Our mission is to make a meaningful difference to the brands, the businesses and the lives of the people we work with. We are committed to building a diverse culture where everybody feels they belong, can be themselves, thrive and grow.