Editorial: A reminder of the talent adland is failing to foster

Anybody who was at the IPA to honour the recipients of the Mann Award for Women couldn't fail to have been impressed by the confidence of the winners (see page 24).

It must have been a daunting prospect for Alison Chadwick, Lee Wright and Mythili Chandrasekar to face an audience made up of some of the industry's leading lights. Yet all three rose to the challenge and, in doing so, pro-vided the most eloquent and compelling reason for why the Mann Award is so important and why it must continue.

Patricia Mann, whose memory the award honours, rose from a secretarial job at JWT in the late 50s to become its international vice-president. Yet the trail she blazed is one that too few talented women in the business have followed.

An IPA survey conducted in 1990 into why adland's women don't reach their full potential found they accounted for just 13 per cent of agency senior managers. Eighteen years later, the figure has risen by only 3 per cent.

The reasons are the same now as they were then - a paucity of inspirational role models and the problems of trying to balance a career with the demands of motherhood.

Mann, and those following her, succeeded despite the system, rather than because of it. Sadly, that situation looks unlikely to change dramatically in the near future.

That's not to say things shouldn't or can't be done. The first Mann Award provides a tantalising foretaste of what the industry's most talented women are capable of if somebody is prepared to invest in their further education.

Meanwhile, more thought needs to be given to how agencies can better progress their best women. The youthful make-up of the industry means women can be given positions of responsibility at an early age, but it's clear their career-development programmes will often have to be different to those of their male counterparts.

Whether or not the award continues is an open question. Allowing it to wither for the sake of a few thousand pounds would not just be tragic for the industry, but short-sighted in the extreme.

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