Women now occupy nearly one in four of the most senior staff positions in UK agencies - but they are still thwarted by the laddish culture of most creative departments, accor- ding to new research.
While women have become more successful in climbing the advertising career ladder over the past decade, the proportion of women in creative departments has dropped, even though they make up more than half of the students on creativity courses.
As a result, only one woman among the country's top 20 agencies - Kate Stanners at St Luke's - has the title of creative director.
This is the verdict of an IPA-commissioned study among more than 500 agency staffers to find out whether or not the prospects for women in the industry have improved since its last survey ten years ago.
It also reveals that men are now just as keen to strike a better balance between work and home and warns that agencies will have to be more accommodating to part-time workers of both sexes if they are to keep their best talent.
On the plus side, the study shows that 22 per cent of the top agency managers are women. This is 6 per cent more than in a survey carried out in 1989 by Marilyn Baxter, the former vice-chairman and executive planning director at Saatchi & Saatchi.
'The stereotypical laddish atmosphere with the pool table is still very much in existence,' Debbie Klein, WCRS's head of planning and the report's author, said.
Rupert Howell, the IPA's president, said agencies might have to consider a form of shift working if they were to meet client demands without losing good people who wanted to work part time.
MT Rainey, the joint chief executive of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, claimed that it was often the conscious decision of women not to go for promotion, rather than prejudice, that kept them out of the most senior agency jobs.
'Running an agency can be a high-profile, lonely and exposed job,' she said. 'As women balance their lives they're asking themselves: who needs it?'