Is the future of media female?

The debate over where women stand in the media industry is showing no sign of concluding. Ed Owen reports.

Women used to keep the home and men used to bring home the bacon. It is hard to believe that this was the model for gender roles until the outbreak of World War II forced us to be more pragmatic.

The Croner Marketing Rewards survey, published by Women in Marketing, shows the sector to be more equal than many others, yet there are nearly 3.5 times more male marketing directors than female. At that level, there remains a pay gap with a 2.7 per cent variance in favour of men.

Kath Hipwell, the head of content strategy at Red Bee Media, told Marketing last week that new campaigns aimed, designed, shot and developed by women transcend tired stereotypes. The inspiration for the piece came from the "throw like a girl" film from Always.

Meanwhile, men are out – out of ideas and out of energy. Simply finished. At least, according to Grey London’s chairman and chief creative officer, Nils Leonard, who documented the rise of the "fierce, fearless and female" creative in in Adweek.

He wrote: "When pro­ducing a piece of work, she won’t ask herself ‘Who can I get to do this?’ but will instead ask ‘How can we make this happen ourselves?’ Because she will have grown tired of agencies making themselves dependent." Women will become, apparently, self-determining.

But Melissa Robertson, a managing partner at Now, was among those to voice "anger, frustration, humiliation, anger again" on reading the piece. "I think he maybe thinks that women are the future of creative directors. But he sadly missed the mark – it just came out all wrong," she said.

For Leonard to pop his head above the parapet and invite cabbage-throwing could be considered brave. It has certainly reignited a debate over women in media, so will perhaps have a positive outcome.

Yet despite the positive trends, there is always a setback – note the attitude of Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella, who seems to suggest that the glass ceiling should be taken for granted, or the harassment experienced by the actor Shoshana Roberts during her ten-hour silent walk around New York.

Is the future female? Should the future be female?

Take part in the poll below...


YES Niamh O’Reilly,  senior director, digital, Sony Music

"With digital, there is an emphasis on skills such as agility, adaptability, creativity, persuasion, curiosity and passion. Women are excellent at this and demonstrate all these traits and behaviours in their private lives and at work."


MAYBE Tamara Sword, founding director, TRM&C

"Media should be more diverse – not just more female. The signs are promising: more women at board level addressing diversity; feminism is a marketable brand; and open-content platforms give anyone incredible reach."


YES Cindy Gallop, marketing consultant

"Our industry’s default setting is male. Women are the primary buyers of brands; men are the drivers of how we’re sold to. Our industry will be more creative and effective when the setting is female, and men will be happier in it."


NO Lindsey Clay, chief executive, Thinkbox

"Notice anything unusual about this panel? Yes, it’s all-female. And yet male panels, or those with one woman, are so common, they go unremarked. Our industry is filled with incredible women, but the future isn’t female – just equal."