Tech: The first female global CEO of ad agency DDB says even at the top, she battles a little voice of doubt in her head: 'You gotta shut that b***h up'

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Clark shared lessons she's learned about how to balance working and being a parent of three.

  • Being a high-flying executive, as well as a parent, is a tough balancing act.
  • But Wendy Clark, global CEO of Omnicom Group's DDB, says she has learned to deal with the guilt that comes along with the pressures of an executive job.
  • "That voice, that 'Debbie Downer in your head,' never goes away," said Clark. "But what I say is that you gotta shut that b***h up."

Being a high-flying executive as well as a parent is a tough balancing act. Just ask Wendy Clark, the first female global CEO of ad holding company Omnicom Group's DDB agency network — and a mother of three.

Speaking at Business Insider's IGNITION Conference in New York on Monday, the ad executive admitted that the long hours and the constant flights that are part of the job, are often accompanied by guilt.

"That voice, that 'Debbie Downer in your head,' never goes away," said Clark. "But what I say is that you gotta shut that b***h up."

Clark said she learned how to deal with the guilt better with age. And having technology at her disposal that lets her constantly be in the loop has helped.

"Age has given me the ability to control her more," she said. "And technology allows you to show wherever you are."

Clark said she's been able to balance between her professional and personal pursuits by integrating her family with her work when possible. Her children, for instance, joined her on a recent business trip to London.

"I’ve always worked … they’ve grown up this way," she said. "Making it part of your kids’ lives instead of saying, 'This is my life and I’m not sure what you’re doing,' where we all do it together either virtually or in person — that’s what we try and do."

Clark also talked about the lack of diversity and representation of women in senior leadership. DDB was moving "away from a narrative," toward "actions and accountability," she said, pointing at the fact that it had placed 30 women in executive roles worldwide out of about 52 roles in 2018.

"I'm not quite positive there's going to be one tipping point — I believe every single day we’re working harder, we’re driving more outcome," she said.

She also addressed DDB using former Droga5 CCO Ted Royer as a freelancer on a pitch last month, which received some blowback. Without naming Royer, she admitted that hiring Royer was a "mistake," and said it was something she had talked about with DDB employees.

"What we can’t do is be afraid of failing. We have to have a learning culture where we share how we arrived at a wrong decision or how we failed and then make sure that we’re moving forward," she said. "It’s important that they see me in a moment where I’ve made a decision that was not the right decision, owned that, and moved forward."

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