Jenny Ashmore is the current President of CIM (The Chartered Institute of Marketing). She is also Non-Executive Chairman of Girlguiding UK Trading, plus a non-executive director for Saffron Building Society and Commonwealth Games England. Jenny’s experience includes roles at Mars, Procter & Gamble, Shell, British Gas and Yell Group.
“…Membership organisations such as CIM are a great place for people to showcase their skills and experience. They thrive on case studies and thought leadership on how we take the profession to the next level – so taking a leading role is not only a showcase, but a door-opener to additional contacts, roles and influence…”
Marketing – balancing art and science
I studied chemistry at university and was sponsored by British Gas, but then moved from a science and engineering path to marketing with Procter & Gamble. I have to admit that I have always found my scientific and analytical training very useful, and this has become even more true with the more recent growth of analytics. I find the fine balance of art and science in marketing fascinating.
Becoming CIM President
I was inaugurated as the President of CIM in 2014. CIM is a multi-faceted membership organisation – coming to life for members in local and regional groups across 43 countries, but also with a regulated examination board, a marketing training business and a conference centre near the Thames. This is managed through a series of key member committees and the staff team.
Like any non-executive role, I look to ensure that the organisation is making the progress each year as committed to members at the AGM and other key forums. I also think that it is important for us to partner with the other marketing organisations to promote the marketing profession – attracting students to work as marketers, giving them the support and continuous professional development that they need to succeed and to promote the positive impact that marketing brings to our economies and communities.
A female President, a female CEO and a number of other women in leadership roles – why gender balance is so important at CIM
I was lucky enough to be in Cannes last week for the launch of the first Glass Lion – recognising campaigns that help to address issues of gender inequality or prejudice. Cindy Gallop was the hugely popular Chair of the judges and commented on the importance of the award. She challenged the advertising industry to see that this new category is not long-lived, because there is the opportunity to make so much progress that a separate award is not needed.
The campaigns that won – for example P&G’s Always #LikeAGirl and Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan stand out as not only highly impactful creative work, but also deeply insightful about the barriers that girls and young women experience at adolescence and at all ages in doing sport and exercise.
Such work requires people throughout the organisation ready to understand the barriers and champion the actions to make a difference. I think that this requires a level of diversity and open debate of a high-performing team.
Advice for other women looking to gather the necessary skills and experience to apply for board level roles
Having worked across a number of executive roles and with some wonderful brands, I am also now enjoying working with teams as a non-executive director (NED). One of my passions for the marketing profession is that we must consistently talk with our business teams about the parts of marketing which are at the core of business success – i.e. understanding what the customer really wants and will pay for, then shaping the company delivery to provide this with a cost structure that makes for a sustainable and successful business. This counts for a lot of the conversation at the boardroom table.
When people ask me about how to get into NED roles, I would start by saying build a breadth of understanding and influence in your current business and volunteering roles that you do. Then you can work out where you have specific value to add, and which sectors and organisations would benefit.
Then you need to build and reach out across all of your networks to find a good match. There are lots of great networking groups that are worth spending time with.
Supporting Girlguiding UK and why championing the next generation of women is so important
Girlguiding has been a part of my life since my early 20’s. It has 550,000 members in the UK and is part of an incredible worldwide movement. I see championing the next generation as so important, to enable them to make the impact that the want and deserve to make. The mission can be boiled down to the hashtag #girlscan and we are starting to see movement on some of the participation and impact measures.
I think that the question in the business community is whether there is a structural issue that is holding back women from making it to the CEO roles, or whether there is a cohort coming through that will change the current tiny percentage numbers of female CEOs in major companies.
How membership organisations like CIM can help women showcase their skills and experience
Membership organisations such as CIM are a great place for people to showcase their skills and experience. They thrive on case studies and thought leadership on how we take the profession to the next level – so taking a leading role is not only a showcase, but a door-opener to additional contacts, roles and influence.
Know yourself… Your career is a marathon not a sprint
I am a keen marathon runner and endurance sports person, so the career advice that a friend introduced me to and I still find useful is the analogy of a career being a marathon, not a sprint. This sets up the usual themes of having a goal, a plan, the skills etc., but also the importance of knowing yourself, balancing the mental and physical demands and making sure that you keep enjoying it along the way!
Inspiring business leaders and passionate brand-builders with a ‘customer first’ mantra
As we look ahead, I am keen that we as the marketing profession find a way to articulate the value that brand growth brings to our economies and our communities. Business growth and success comes behind the marketing fundamentals that I talked earlier and strong brands.
Some of our most inspiring business leaders have been passionate brand-builders: think Steve Jobs at Apple, Richard Branson at Virgin etc. This approach can help us to rebalance the day-to-day conversation from Mad Men to Math-People, from W1A to FTSE and AIM drivers and to a consistent code and approach that starts from ‘customer first’ as a mantra that all successful businesses start from.
We need to get this message over to the wider societies that we live in – to ensure that we attract and retain great people in these very competitive marketplaces.