Diageo puts focus on gender diversity with pledge on female directors

The drinks giant is joining the ‘Free the Bid’ initiative as it looks to bring more gender diversity to the teams behind its advertising.

alcohol marketing

Diageo is calling on its agencies to put forward at least one female director as part of any creative bid as it looks to improve gender diversity in the teams behind its marketing campaigns.

The drinks giant is joining the ‘Free The Bid’ initiative, which is trying to tackle the gender gap in the advertising industry. Currently, just 7% of directors are female and only 9% of commercials are directed by women.

Syl Saller, chief marketing officer, says: “As advertisers we have the power to normalise gender equality by what we choose to show in our ads, and who we choose to produce them. The advertising industry is moving in the right direction to achieving greater gender diversity, but it must move quicker.”

Free The Bid calls on brands and agencies to put forward at least one option for a female director as part of the bidding process. The call to action is not an obligation for brands to choose the female director’s ad but instead to ensure that at least one woman is considered.

The initiative was set up in 2016 and already has the backing of marketers including HP’s Antonio Lucio, Carla Hassan, the CMO of Toys ‘R’ Us and Visa’s Lynne Biggar. Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Levi’s are also signed up.

READ MORE: HP’s CMO – Brands and agencies must publish their ‘scorecards’ to move diversity forwards

Alma Har’el, founder of Free The Bid and the director behind ads for brands including Coca-Cola, says: “With Diageo’s pledge, we’re thrilled about the incredible opportunities that will open up for women directors globally. Diageo and its creative agencies are about to discover the most untapped pool of creative talent in the ad industry – women directors. We look forward to seeing the results of this unprecedented collaboration.”

Diageo prides itself on championing gender diversity and has also made steps to tackle gender disparity within the company itself. Its executive committee is made up of 40% women and its board of directors will achieve gender parity when Ursula Burns takes up her position in April 2018.

This commitment to diversity extends beyond higher-level hires as the company also ensures  50% of hires to its global graduate programme and mid-career development programmes are women.

The company has been recognised for its role in gender diversity. In January, Diageo was one of just 100 companies included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for performance and disclosure around gender equality.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here