Gender Disproportion in Creativity: Why We’re Due for a Change and What You Can do to Make it Happen
Within the advertising industry we still have a job to do when it comes to increasing diversity and achieving gender equality, not only in management but also in the creative departments. Could more female involvement actually change the lives of women outside the industry bubble, and also affect the success of business?
I stumbled into the advertising world as a 24 year old fresh out of university with a backpack filled with high hopes and ambition. I was prepared to work hard and prove myself. What I was less prepared for was learning how to decode titles and roles, and being strategic in approaching the culture within the bubble we call “the industry”. What was striking (and annoying) to me right away, was the “women are project managers and men are consultants” culture. Also, all leaders and key decisions makers – mostly a bunch of men.
Luckily a lot has changed in advertising since the ‘Mad Men’ era, both in terms of gender balance and equal pay. However, men still occupy the majority of key roles and leadership positions. Men also dominate in the creative departments, where I work myself. The creative department is where advertisements and messages that actually reach the consumer are born, crafted and produced. Advertisements affect culture, and so the people creating them should have a diverse understanding of all consumers and their needs. So, what happens to the female creatives?
Even though the percentage of female Creative Directors keeps growing, women are still underrepresented in this position – actually even more so than other executive roles in the advertising industry. The disproportion of gender also applies to the creatives working in their departments, and young women coming in to the industry often end up lacking female role models. This could affect both their motivation and their development of skills and tools to “make it” in the tough industry, and consequently make them leave these jobs without having reached their full potential.
So, why should you care? If not for gender equality’s sake – what if clearing the path for women to lead and be central decision makers could ensure better results for the agencies? The female consumer makes 85% of purchase decisions globally. As advertisers, the majority of our messages are therefore directed at women, yet 91% say they feel advertisers don´t understand them. Could having more women in charge of promoting products and messages make us better at serving the female audience?
I believe women can make advertising more culturally relevant, change how gender is portrayed in media, and create a more diverse and exciting type of output. As young ambitious females, we do have the possibility to influence the creative department of the future, spark empowerment and have a positive impact on other women’s lives. Here is some advice on what you personally can do to make it happen:
Demand More From Your Employer
Employers must focus on hiring-processes that ensures diversity across genders and backgrounds, as well as encourage women’s ambition and their professional goals. To make sure this happens, we need to put pressure on them by making suggestions for initiatives. We also need to be unafraid of reaching for big and small opportunities to establish ourselves as leaders, and not be afraid to speak up and claim our space. More female involvement in creativity could potentially improve business and benefit the company’s bottom-line , which should most definitely catch your boss’ attention!
Stand Your Ground
If you feel like someone is constantly speaking over you, and you are not being acknowledged in professional settings, it can be difficult to stand up and make yourself noticed . Practice conversational tactics to brush off those outdated suppression techniques and you will feel more powerful in challenging situations. It might feel unpleasant at times, but be consistent, calm (even though your insides are boiling) and stick to the point – be so good they can’t ignore you. Keep in mind that some people are impossible to communicate with – channel your energy on what you can actually do something about, keep your head up and your mind sharp, and focus on getting your point across.
Whatever you have going on in your career; chances are someone has experienced it before you. By seeking out a mentoring relationship with another woman, you can get valuable advice on how to tackle industry culture and other challenges with great confidence. I myself, have found mentors from other industries very helpful, since they often have a different point of view and perspective on things, but the core issues tend to be similar. Reach out and invite someone you look up to for coffee, most people are happy to get involved and be able to share their expertise.
Support Other Women
Even though we have a big wave of female empowerment and girl power heading towards us these days, women can still be each other’s worst enemies. By amplifying the voices of your female coworkers and cheering them on, you are contributing to change – every single time. In order for anything to change, we need to speak up for each other, support each other, and applaud other women’s success rather than seeing them as our competition in a male dominated workplace.
Never Give Up
Sometimes you will get tired of the struggle, and it will be tempting to take a step back and just leave things as they are. But we cannot rest on the progress that has already taken place. We need to continue pushing for female leadership and decision making to make the world more diverse and representative, especially in industries aimed at, and affecting, women.
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]