It’s Not Just About Empowerment: Ajeeta Bharadwaj, Wunderman Thompson, India

What we should NOT do, is make it about Men vs. Women. That’s not what the Equal is about. It is about equal opportunity given to the best talent, irrespective of gender.

To mark International Women’s Day, AdForum is gathering opinions from women working in advertising and marketing communications. We asked women from a range of job roles both agency- and client-side, for their view of the state of the industry.

Wunderman Thompson South Asia
Werbung/Full Service/ Integriert
Mumbai, Indien
See Profile


Ajeeta Bharadwaj
National Planning Director Wunderman Thompson, India


How would you describe the overall culture at your agency / company?

In an industry where Boys’ Clubs aren’t entirely uncommon, the culture here is refreshingly gender-balanced. This isn’t just about having a good gender ratio in the agency, it is also about the number of women who are heading their respective functions, be it strategic planning, creative, business, PR, Human resources. This creates a healthy balance and equality not just in the big announcements, but in common everyday dealings, where it equally matters.


In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?

I would like to feel that the portrayal of women in advertising is becoming more realistic. Sometimes it’s not just about empowerment, it is also about portraying today’s women the way they really, instead of some textbook imprint of how they are supposed to be. I remember when a few years back, I had a tough time convincing some internal folks about a Mother’s Day idea that said that it was OK for moms to be imperfect. It’s true… moms are not always perfect, and they certainly don’t have all the answers and constantly telling them otherwise, just puts an unnecessary pressure on them. I’m seeing more realism in women portrayals in advertising today, having said that, still some way to go.


Do you think that women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they?

Late hours are a challenge. While this is true of many industries, it’s particularly and regularly true of advertising. This sometimes brings a lot of talented women to unnecessary cross-roads where they have to decide between work and home. Over the past few years, I have seen a lot of guilt and regret that I wish could have been avoided altogether.


How should we tackle an issue such as equal opportunity?

I think what we should NOT do, is make it about Men vs. Women. That’s not what the Equal is about. It is about equal opportunity given to the best talent, irrespective of gender. If the male candidate for the job is genuinely more talented, then he should have it. The question is, has the decision been made on unbiased, open grounds without looking at which gender box is ticked. Without assumptions of how marriage and motherhood might impact professional commitment. I think if this relentless talent-only focus takes roots, equal opportunity will automatically happen.


How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry and what professional achievement are you most proud of?

Coming into the industry was a lucky accident… staying here was a choice. I made that choice because I felt and continue to feel that advertising is one way in which you can impact culture and change opinion, while building brands.


Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?

I have always admired Sudha Murthy. Her entire life has been about breaking stereotypes first at work, then through the foundation, now through the stories that she writes. Yet she has stayed true to her core, taking people along with her actions rather than the spoken word. To that extent, she is quite the unlikely action hero! And through all her achievements, her personal life has never been on the backburner, which makes her all the more admirable!