Why Recruiting and Retaining Women Matters

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about why empathy matters in advertising and design. Recently, with total lack of foresight or empathy, Kevin Roberts, Executive Chairman at Saatchi & Saatchi, declared that the debate on gender diversity “is all over,” in an interview with Business Insider. A well-deserved backlash erupted and he was quickly forced to resign. I could try to explain why the debate is certainly not over but quite a few people have already been covering this brilliantly.

I was going to write a few ideas on how to recruit and retain for diversity, but I think we need to address the why. Why should you care, managing director, recruiter, creative director, account exec, why should you even pay attention to the gender and diversity balances in your departments?

1. IT’S 2016

I almost just wrote “IT’S 2016!” over and over 20 times (like this brilliant Reddit post), it seems so absurd to be explaining the WHY in 2016. Well, here I go anyway, because it seems like we still need it.

2. Women make your company more profitable

Even if you really could care less about all this equality and doing-the-right-thing and living-in-the-year-2016 stuff, maybe you care about making your company profitable. Or, making your company more profitable. Great, because hiring and promoting women into leadership and putting them on your board will make you more profitable. Companies with more women in leadership rank in the top 20% for financial performance, have a higher stock prices, have higher ROI, and improved governance among other things. Women have also been found to outperform men in picking good investments and are better at negotiating good mergers and acquisitions.

Profitability alone might be enough of a motivator for you to reconsider the gender debate and look into how to recruit and retain more women, but there are so many more reasons.

3. Women buy all of the things. Women should be selling them too.

Worldwide, women control at least $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and drive 70–80% of all consumer purchasing, often also buying for other family members, which means their buying power is multiplied. Women are also gatekeepers to the household spending, even if they don’t earn the paycheck. Here in the US, women control at least 85% of spending. Women are also more likely to be on social media, where many companies are still struggling to find the right kind of voice and message.

In spite of this, female creative directors are still at a paltry 11%, up from the last depressing 3% number, which inspired and launched The 3% Conference. Over ninety percent of women say advertisers don’t understand them. I wonder why?

Yes, of course men are capable of writing and art-directing brilliant campaigns targeted at women, but the best advertising gets at a human truth. And if you don’t have at least a few people on your team that have lived that truth, it’s a lot harder to pull off. Having women on your team that are high enough in leadership to call out sexism or stereotypes also helps prevent embarrassing mistakes and losing clients.

4. Parents are better workers

Not all women are parents, but when a woman becomes a parent, it is often followed by a hard stop in her career, while many men actually get rewarded for having children. So many women are afraid to tell their work they’re pregnant, for fear of not getting promoted, or being put on the mommy track. Parents often can’t go out for happy hour drinks to bond with their bosses, can’t travel as much, or have to have accommodations like parental leave, a “new mother’s room,” or needing to work normal hours because they’re pregnant (me). All these things mean a lot of people are hesitant to hire or promote parents, especially moms, who probably don’t have a stay-at-home spouse doing the important, unpaid work of childcare, household duties and emotional labor to support the breadwinner’s career.

You should want to hire, promote and retain mothers, though, (aside from the fact that they’re increasingly our target audience, see #3).

Sixty percent of employers surveyed said mothers make better team players. Studies also show that parents are more productive, and better at time management. Before having a child, I struggled working from home. I got distracted easily and worked inefficiently. Having a baby forced me to learn what my husband calls “time boxing,” where you designate, and limit, certain times to get certain tasks done. I couldn’t believe how much I could get done during the baby’s 20–60 minute naps, that when I returned to paid work, I felt time ticking by with only me to take care of, finishing tasks much more efficiently, with time to spare, savoring the fact that I could again drink coffee while it was still hot.

A group creative director I recently met also pointed out that people with children go home and play. They’re silly and creative in their home life. I think it’s important to give creative people time to refill their creative wells, and if a that person has a child, it’s as easy as going home before bedtime.

In spite of this, many mothers are leaving the ad industry or are failing to get promoted into leadership positions.

5. Having women in leadership improves your company culture

Finally, you need to recruit and promote more women because it improves the company culture for everyone. Studies show that having women on your leadership board means that the discussions you’re having “better represent the concerns of a wide set of stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the community at large. [Women] can be more dogged than men in pursuing answers to difficult questions.”

Having a diverse group of people running your agency just might mean happier and more productive employees, who are confident they’re being paid fairly and will stick around for longer, whether or not they chose to have a child. It might also mean your clients and your audiences are better represented. It is 2016, after all.

What did I miss? Why do you think having more women in leadership helps your company?