Marlene Hore (left), the Canadian grand dame of advertising, said that when she was executive creative director at JWT in Canada in the 1980s, she thought: “I’ve opened a door for women – lots will follow. But they haven’t.”
Depressingly, in 2013, senior female creatives are still a rarity and no one really knows why. Even female senior creatives struggle to explain it. At Cannes this year, Elspeth Lynn, the executive creative director at M&C Saatchi, said: “We’re getting the influx of women into the industry. But something is happening on the journey.” Dave Trott has tried to pin it on the boisterous “playground” atmosphere of a creative department, but arguably that only scratches the surface.
Elspeth Lynn puts her rise to the top down to sheer determination, noting: “I don’t think the industry is stopping women.” But it isn’t exactly encouraging them either. Cilla Snowball, a major proponent of female empowerment in the industry, recently noted that many agencies fail to motivate their female staff. She suggests introducing careers advice for women as well as equipping them with skills to launch their own businesses.
But is it all the fault of others? Would it not help if women started supporting each other in the workplace and stopped the ‘whispering behind the arras’ snide personal sniping about a female colleague’s: size, relationship status, age, hair etc. If we trivialize each other’s attributes at work, we just reduce our chances of being seen as a great leader or part of a team. Men keep their personal ‘joshing’ for the pub, I suggest we do the same.
While there were no solutions offered when the Labour party chipped into the debate last month, there were at least a few words of encouragement. In his address to the ad industry last month, Ed Miliband, said that, a hundred years on from women winning the right to vote, no female should be “quietly waiting in the wings” for anything. And, when it comes to waiting in the wings, the opposition leader knows what he’s talking about.
Advertising’s portrayal of women was another bugbear for Miliband. It’s not a new debate. Apart from the occasional Dove ad (left), women in the ad break tend to look like either downtrodden housewives or models.
But for all the current talk, will anything ever change?