Feer McQueen or The Power of Women
Posted on 2021 May,10  | By Ghada Azzi & Iain Akerman

The independent agency Feer McQueen is dominated by powerful, creative and ambitious women. ArabAd caught up with six of them to discuss the agency’s approach to equal opportunities.

“I would like to live in a world where the gender topic is not on the table anymore, just like at Feer McQueen,” says Elsie Arayes, the agency’s senior art director. “I never felt like a second-class citizen, I never felt like I was taken for granted, and most importantly the thought never even crossed my mind. That is true gender parity. And some day I hope everyone will be weighed by how they think rather than whether they pee standing up or sitting down.”

Elsie Arayess

  Founded by Firas Mghames, Feer McQueen has conscientiously worked towards the creation of a more female-centric agency. One that empowers women, offers opportunities that extend to every facet of the business, and prides itself on increasing the presence of women across the full spectrum of agency life, especially within leadership positions. The end result? More than 35 female team members and seven departments headed by women.

  “I had the chance to build my career path at Feer McQueen, where there is no gender bias for any position,” says Rebecca Mourani, one of the agency’s creative directors. “As long as you are creative, responsible and determined to achieve your goals and prove yourself through hard work and dedication, all the positions and chances are available.”

Rebecca Mourani

  Hala Adaimy, another of the agencys creative directors, agrees. “The empowering vibe was always there. Since the first day I joined other women heads were leading different departments,” she says. “And those women proved [for] a long time that they are trustworthy and they fit perfectly. This has been the source of my inspiration for three years and counting. At the end, what do you expect from an agency that has a ‘queen’ in its name.”

Hala Adaimy

At the heart of everything lies a more respectful and inclusive culture. The empowerment of women is at the very core of the agency, says Arayes, who has been working at Feer McQueen for the past four years. “The culture here is everything,” she says. “Everyone should feel included, content, and passionate. We all work hard on making sure the culture is intact. By doing this, women empowerment became an innate part of the culture.”

   Is Feer McQueen representative of the wider industry, or an outlier or outright anomaly? Certainly if you read any literature relating to equality in the regional communications industry, gender parity shows no sign of occurring anytime soon. Even within those industries that are historically dominated by women, equality at a senior level is absent. Yet thankfully the women of Feer McQueen have experienced something different.

“Since the beginning of my career, I never felt that this industry has a macho culture, maybe due to the variety that exists in the industry and the different opportunities that women had,” says Adaimy, who has a master’s degree in advertising and joined the agency three years ago. “I was surrounded by female art directors and creative directors and decision makers. Although I was trained and mentored by male creative heads, I never felt that I dont have an equal opportunity to actually one day be able to lead as they did.”

   Karen Abi Saab, Feer McQueen’s growth marketing director, feels much the same way. “I have never felt discrimination because of my sex in this industry,” she says. “As someone whos worked in both agencies and on the client side, I can safely say that agencies have created a unique (sadly) formula where gender is not the issue. Getting to my current role required a lot of hard work, a lot of time, and consistently re-inventing my definitionof my job as the digital world grew and changed. It takes dedication, curiosity, and an innate love to create something new most days.”

Karen Abi Saab

   That’s not to say that issues don’t exist. The representation of women in advertising remains questionable, if not occasionally outright sexist, and the industry at large still has a lot to do when it comes to the treatment of working mothers. “While research has shown that the gender pay gap is narrowing for young workers, it is widening among working mothers as they are effectively suffering a pay penalty for taking time off,” says Patricia Abboud, the agencys head of accounting. “One of the most significant hurdles that currently prevent women from reaching the top of their career is the lack of available childcare support. Companies should consider helping to pay for child and elder care and ensure they dont oversell how family-friendly they are to job candidates if such options are not already in place as this can lead to frustration and early exits from the company.

Patricia Abboud

“To relieve working mothers, parental leave for fathers should also be promoted as this will not only allow mothers to invest more time into their careers, but research has shown that fathers want to be and should be more actively involved in childcare duties,” she adds. “Companies need to play a vital role in supporting mothers by working together to agree on a fair and balanced workplace that will promote productivity, while also allowing flexibility and the option to work remotely where possible.”

Abi Saab, a mother of two with a master’s degree in political science from the American University of Beirut, states that it “takes me twice the effort to get through the day compared to when I didnt have kids, but it is possible for a mother to progress in her career and enjoy fair pay. The true question here is the question of time. When a mother has to choose between more time at her job or more time with her kids, very few will choose the first. Where you invest more is key in the result you get.”

   Equal opportunity is not a hollow promise or an empty policy. It has clearly definable business benefits, as Abboud points out. It increases an agency’s chances of finding and attracting the right talent, improves company culture and reputation, and boosts productivity and innovation. “Workplaces that have equal opportunity policies in place are usually more successful in attracting a diverse pool of talented candidates,” she says. “This is because when a business is known for implementing equal opportunities, candidates are assured that they will be judged based on their individual merit, which encourages greater applications.” What’s more, when a business is open to a diversified workforce “you effectively increase the variety in ideas, experiences, skills and talents available to the company”.

  Importantly, Feer McQueen gives credit where its due, regardless of gender. As Mourani says, it’s important to evaluate the skills and the character of a person rather than their gender. Personality and talent are key in the Feer McQueen workforce. “We believe in talent, no matter what your gender is,” says Ryme El Khoury, the agency’s digital communications manager, simply. “Equal opportunity = if youre all in, youre welcome, no matter what your gender is. But, not to brag, were 80 per cent female power.”

Ryme El Khoury

“It never mattered whether Im a woman or a man,” adds Arayes. “I was always valued for how I think and what I do rather than what gender I am. I dont think it was easy at all, but thats not because Im a woman, its because the advertising world is very aggressive and fast paced. Any man in my shoes wouldve done everything I did to be where I am today.”