advertising is an industry for the young [women].
An interesting topic hit the floor of our agency last week and one that has followed my career throughout the years. As an agency of 80% women, we are certainly in the minority category for this industry, with statistics that usually sway towards an abundance of the Y chromosome in private offices while young women fill the open plan spaces reserved for eager Account Coordinators and driven Account Managers. Certainly I am making a blanket statement here but it is an observation that got us talking and with a few Google searches, it is clearly a topic that plagues our industry more so than other, more liberal, career paths. “But isn’t advertising all about liberal conversations and political incorrectness?” No, imaginary voice of this article, it apparently is not.
Earlier this year, The Guardian printed a story that stated quite firmly that “females make up 85% of all purchasing decision, yet are woefully underrepresented in creative jobs in advertising … In 2008, just 3.6% of the world’s Creative Directors were female. Since then it has tripled to 11% — Still shockingly low”. While this article focuses on the creative department, it is a trend that extends into the world of us suits too. So if we, as 50% of the human beings, are statistically stronger in the purchasing arena but completely overrun as senior agency people then are ads for women doomed to be irrelevant?
While women seem to come in drones when they are young with a learned perception that if you drop the ball, another savvy, young woman with more Instagram followers than you will be there to take your spot; however, when the clock strikes 35* there is a perceptual shift felt by many women in the industry and so the internal dialogue begins. “Am I getting too old for this?” “Should I move to client-side?” “How much longer can I maintain these long hours?” “I wonder if I can breastfeed in the boardroom.” “Is work/life balance a real thing?”
For the minority of us that stay in agency land as ‘older’ women in Australia, we are often expected to harden and even emulate typically male traits in order to stake our claim. No periods, no emotion, and if you feel a tear coming on, run to the nearest coffee machine and throw down an espresso to disguise the tears as residual steam. But are these expectations put on ourselves by ourselves? Perhaps it is time to evolve our thinking and celebrate emotion, use our intuition in business decisions, and nurture our way to the top. Sure, we can be ballsy but we don’t have to dampen our feminine side in the process.
Live fearless, courage is contagious — okay, I took that directly from a Libra campaign — but it really is time that we saw a shift in our industry; flexible working hours, generous maternity leave, I mean surely the big 3 have the means to get a crèche going, and what about a breast pump bar alongside the wine fridge? It is possible and it is necessary to start getting a more equal representation of women in director roles in advertising.
For me, this clear gender favouritism is boarding on the outrage felt when a recent hiccup in our country’s political history saw a male take the reins as the Minister for Women. So, in conclusion I guess the only way we can insight a real shift is to, as Gandhi says, be the change we want to see in the world. For this Account Direction however, it may just be time to say goodbye to the ad world and find a new world where ‘baby’ is not a four letter word.
*Age chosen at random to symbolise the ‘scary age’. Please insert your own ‘scary age’ in its place as required. FYI, 22 is NOT a scary age.