As the IPA revisits the 1989 Women in Advertising study and the
D&AD president, Larry Barker, makes the lack of female creatives a
central pillar of his manifesto (Campaign, last week), there is only one
issue for this week’s column: women in advertising and why there are so
few women in top management and creative departments.
In 1989, when the IPA president, Winston Fletcher, asked Marilyn Baxter,
Saatchi & Saatchi’s planning director, to write Women in Advertising,
the most obvious reason why women had not reached the top of agencies in
any numbers was because there had not been enough women in the industry
for long enough.
By now, you might suppose that the significant increase in the number of
women entering advertising would be reflected in an increase in the
number at the top of agencies - which is patently not the case.
In fact, while stalwarts like MT Rainey, Christine Walker, Cilla
Snowball and Jennifer Laing forge ahead, many of the other significant
female role models and spokespeople have left agencies, for whatever
reason, for other fields. And they have not been replaced by a new
generation of women. Think of Baxter (now the chair of Hall & Partners),
Rita Clifton (chief executive at Interbrand Newell and Sorrell), Stevie
Spring (chief executive of the More Group) and Carol Reay (chief
executive at Great Ormond Street).
For Barker and the D&AD, there are two questions: why are there so few
women in agency creative departments, and why are there so few at the
top? His is the tougher brief. It will involve calling into question the
nature of creative departments (intensely masculine), the nature of the
best creative people (aggressive, unco-operative and uncompromising) and
the huge demands placed upon them (conspicuous talent and heaps of
awards, not just management talent, is an absolute requirement for
creative success). Whatever, D&AD is the best body to investigate
further and let’s hope Barker makes his promises a reality.
There are no rumblings from the media world yet. However, my spies
suggest that recent IPA banter concerning what constitutes a suitable
female candidate for the IPA media policy group (in summary: crumpet
first and worker second) seems to suggest that all the macho cliches
still hold true despite media’s positioning as a more ’thinking job’
There are no quick and easy answers to this issue, and a host of
sociological, historical, biological and economic forces are at play.
The only certainty is that it is worthy of investigation for basic
commercial reasons. It is in agencies’ best interests to attract the
best people; many of these will be women and if advertising has a
reputation, for whatever reason, for not promoting women, then its
capacity to attract them will be impaired.