I’ve been labouring over this piece ever since Campaign asked me to
think about why there are so few women in the creative side of
advertising. Everyone whose opinion I have sought has sighed heavily and
admitted that they don’t really know. Many guesses have been made.
‘Departments are too laddish.’ ‘Women tend not to be aggressive enough
to compete in this world!’
Art schools and college courses often start out 50 per cent men and 50
per cent women, and in most cases those women go on to graduate. But
somewhere between graduating and going into advertising, most of them
disappear, obviously choosing other creative areas to work in. Many of
the tutors say some of the best students they ever worked with were
women. It’s a shame that something is holding back their contribution to
an industry where we all approve of ingenious work.
Advertising agencies are not alone, however. Graphic design has the same
problem - great female students but no all-female equivalent groups
cutting a swathe.
Many of the women creatives I know have had the problem of not getting
some of the briefs they would love to work on because they are often
Top headhunters advise women that they will do better in this area if
they team up with a man. They also very rarely seem to get to the giddy
heights of creative director.
Maybe creative directors need to think about creating more sympathetic
environments. There is a reason why most women who do make it into
advertising tend to be assertive: they need to be. Being a mouse just
doesn’t work when it comes to persuading your male colleagues you can
promote beer and football better than they can.
This brings us round to last year’s debate on the D&AD jury. As there
are so few women in the creative side, let’s make sure that at every
opportunity students can see evidence that it does work for some. Give
the girls who do well as much publicity as possible.
Reading through some of my favourite female quotes, two came to my
notice as possible ammunition for any female students considering
advertising. Try these...
‘Our strength is often composed of the weakness we’re damned if we’re
going to show’ (Mignon McLaughlin, 20th-century writer).
‘Women are repeatedly accused of taking things personally. I can’t see
another honest way of taking them’ (Marya Mannes, writer, 1904).
Helen Langridge runs Helen Langridge Associates