There are several more reasons to believe that women are having a better time in advertising than some of the hysterical early reviews of the IPA's new Women in Advertising report would seem to suggest. Over the past ten years there have been significantly more female board directors - unequivocal evidence that the contribution of women is more highly valued.
There has also been a marked increase in the proportion of women in account handling. Attention to more flexible working practices suggests a new understanding that advertising workers of both sexes now deserve a better work-life balance.
And yet there is one point in the report of outstanding and rather chilling significance: in the creative department, where, uniquely to the London agency scene, women remain under-represented in the extreme, the proportion of women has actually decreased over the ten years since the IPA first published its landmark study. Weird, isn't it? On the one hand, creatives are praised as the geese that can lay the golden eggs, capable of making millions of pounds for grateful clients; on the other, they are decried as laddish, yobbish, childish, petulant, myopic etc.
The reasons, it hardly bares repeating here, are many. The outdated placement system for would-be creatives, the lack of female role models, the attitude and approach to recruiting and the very nature of men and women.
There are no quick and easy answers to this issue. Ban all pool tables?
Decentralise creative departments and disperse creatives through agencies, like at St Luke's or Howell Henry? No, what is needed is a concerted effort to ensure not only more women but a greater diversity all round in the creative department. Getting on the radar earlier with students, recruiting from a broader pool of talent, revising the placement system to offer humane wages and limit the amount of time a team can be on placement from months to weeks, introducing a graduate trainee scheme for creatives as for other agency departments, co-ordinating a PR drive to attract women.
Interestingly, the report stumbled across an even bigger issue than that of women in creative departments: the desire across the board for a better work-life balance. This concept was not really in existence ten years ago but it is now a burning issue for both sexes - and particularly for junior men and women. What this means is that people are getting fed up with advertising before the spectre, real or otherwise, of the glass ceiling is even a factor in their lives.
Advertising is no longer the only sexy business in town and clearly the balance of rewards offered versus sacrifices needed is shifting away from it. If that mood lasts, it is a more serious threat to the
industry than any other.