Supporting Women Creatives

More must be done to increase their C-suite representation

When I started creative leadership coaching 18 months ago, I had no idea that 90 percent of my clients would be women. Or that they would be financing themselves.

This brought up so many questions.

Are women more willing to invest in themselves than men?

Are women more likely to trust a woman who has jumped over the many hurdles they face?

Or is it simply that women are not afraid to ask for help, and recognize they need all the support they can find?

Thing is, despite an equal number of males and females entering our industry, the gap starts at the ACD level, with nearly three-quarters of that tier occupied by men. True, the creative industry is undergoing a shift, with more women stepping into leadership roles, but there's still only 12.6 percent of creative directors globally. More needs to be done. Especially when you consider women make 80 percent of the purchasing decisions.

Tara McKenty (BMF) did an analysis of five years of D&AD entries, covering 1.2 million names from 289 countries. Results show that gender diversity (mixed teams vs. single sex teams) increases the chance from moving from shortlist to a pencil by 13 percent.

Diversity means better work. So, why in that same study did Tara find only 9 percent of women globally make it to CCO? And why is there still such a significant gender pay gap?

Sure, in the United States things have improved. Over the past 10 years, the number of female creative directors has grown to 27 percent. But in England and Australia, that number hovers around 10 percent. And that's despite some terrific programs, (mainly initiated by women for women) such as the 3 Percent Movement, SheSays, More Girls, See it Be it and Fck the cupcakes.

Fact is, more women are likely to suffer imposter syndrome than men. The majority won't ask for pay-rises or promotions, despite (generally) being more emotionally intelligent than men, a quality Brene Brown recognizes as increasingly essential in business.

So what can we do to even the balance?

Support women. Pay them equally. Promote them equally. And do whatever we can to keep them.

Encourage work life balance. Family is important. So is the time to reset.

Talk to your people. A ping pong table, free snacks and the like won't cut it. Don't wait for exit interviews. That horse has bolted. Have stay chats. Ask them what they want. What they need. What you, as a manager, can do better.

Get your rising female stars on juries, at networking and educational events, and  in front of clients. Spotlight them. Help them address their opportunities for growth and celebrate their success.

And invest in coaching.

Surveys show that 40 percent of the advertising creative industry has never received coaching, though almost all of them would welcome it.

Finally, if you’re a creative leader, do whatever you can to mentor, support and elevate your talented female colleagues.

Together we will rise. The work will be better. The culture will be better.

And you, as a human, will be better off, too.

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June Laffey
June Laffey, former CCO of McCann Health, is a creative leadership coach.

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