JWT shares the “horrendous shame” of its gender pay gap

“It was horrendous. Embarrassing for all of us. Like a punch in the face. Shame on us.”

Two brave souls from JWT London got up on stage at the Creative Equals conference to share the humiliation of having the worst gender pay gap figures in the industry.

Creative Equals: Create Your Future, St Lukes, London,16May2018, ©BronacMcNeill

To remind you, JWT’s mean pay gap is 38.3 per cent and its median pay gap is 44.7 per cent.

So what is the agency doing about it, apart from putting two representatives of diversity – creative director Jo Wallace and executive creative director Lucas Peon – in the firing line?

Wallace introduced herself as a gay woman and promised to “obliterate” JWT’s reputation as an agency full of white, privileged, British straight men creating traditional above-the-line advertising. “I love a challenge,” she added.

Wallace and Peon said that the gender pay gap figures had put “a rocket up the ass of all the diversity plans at JWT” and created a transfer of power at the agency to the people who want change.

James Whitehead, the white, privileged, straight male CEO of the agency, was in the audience to show his support, but there was no game plan on the table. Only next year’s gender pay gap figures will show whether the trumpeted transfer of power shows up in the wage packets.

AMV BBDO’s Cilla Snowball and Rosie Arnold didn’t mention their own gender pay gap (32.3 per cent mean and 37.5 per cent median put them comfortably in the top ten offenders) but they acknowledged the struggle, likening themselves to the three female pilots who flew into Saudi Arabia but weren’t allowed to drive when they got there. To illustrate their point, they showed an image of themselves as 95 year-old women, still hard at work, because that’s how old they will be before the gender pay gap is closed if things don’t speed up.

Creative Equals: Create Your Future, St Lukes, London,16May2018, ©BronacMcNeill

Cindy Gallop urged the mostly female audience to “be Martina Sorrell” and go out and make an “absolutely f**king shit ton of money and be on the Sunday Times Rich List.” She suggested that the way to do this is to “forget passion and find things you want to punch.”

WPP’s UK country manager Karen Blackett, Google marketing director Nishma Robb and Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon were also among the impressive line-up, but the highlight of the day was film director Gurinder Chadha (“Bend it Like Beckham”) who — 25 years after her first movie — is still the only Asian woman to make a living as a film director in Britain.

Chadha had the final word on diveristy: “People ask me what was it like in the bad old days, but the bad old days won’t get behind us. We still have to fight tooth and nail to have our voices heard in their full complexity and with integrity. Diversity is not about sticking a person of colour or a female into a committee or onto a panel, it’s about the very top echelons of whatever industry you’re in honestly hearing a person talk about their world from their point of view.”

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