We’ve been inspired by the recent ‘3% movement’ gathering momentum in the advertising industry. The movement is based on the staggering statistic that only 3% of Creative Directors in the world are women. In November, San Francisco hosted the first 3% Conference which exploded into a 2-day 400 person event aimed to teach men and women how to address the 3% issue in new ways, by challenging industry norms and assumptions.
We caught up with 3 young women in our creative department to get their perspectives on the movement and, more generally, on being a woman in a creative advertising role.
In your day-today, how aware are you of the lack of women in creative roles?
Millie I feel I am quite lucky to have joined Cheetham Bell at a time when it just so happened the new intake of staff was mainly women. I have a senior designer that I work under who is female and a host of other females in senior roles within the agency to look up to. I feel like the divide is becoming less of an issue and I hope it will continue that way.
Amelia Somewhat. I certainly feel respected and nurtured in my role, but there have been a few occasions where I’ve sat in a meeting or a review, looked around and been struck by the fact that I’m the only female present. As a student, more than once, older Creatives advised me to work with a male Art Director, as I’d have a higher chance of breaking into the industry than if I were paired with another woman. I did happen to work best with a male Art Director, but the fact that this advice needs distributing in this day and age just isn’t okay.
Megan I became more aware of the lack of women in creative roles due to others’ reactions. Before joining Cheetham Bell I worked in two smaller agencies where women held the majority of both creative and account roles. I discovered this was quite unusual in comparison to the setup of agencies my friends were working in at the time. People were often surprised or even shocked to hear I had two female creative directors and three female seniors, which lead me to question why.
What can female Creative Directors offer their agency?
Amelia An understanding of the female consumer that we are often talking to, an ability to look good in a skirt or trousers, and an emotional intelligence that is (sometimes!) lacking in men. I think there’s a pervading myth that a female CD would mean the end of laddy, irreverent humour, but I really don’t think this is true. Commercials of the Lynx variety aren’t targeted at women – they’re targeted at men and they’re very effective. A female Creative Director wouldn’t mean the end of Lynx ads; it’d mean the end of ads that assume all women want is to lose ten pounds and be perved on by George Clooney.
Megan In my experience, female Creative Directors can and do offer just as much as males. It’s about offering the agency your ability, patience, enthusiasm and, amongst many other traits, your unique personality. I don’t think gender makes a difference to what any creative role can offer, although I could generalise and say that men and women tend to have different interests, which can naturally reflect in their professional practice.
Millie I personally don’t see a difference between female and male Creative Directors. I think it all depends on the individual themselves.
What advice can you give young women wanting to work in creative roles?
Millie Go for it! You might get turned away 50 times before you get a chance to prove yourself but as long as you keep at it and have the determination you’ll get there in the end. I think that goes for either gender when it comes to taking a creative job role.
Amelia Don’t give anyone a reason not to hire you. There seems to be a general consensus that female Advertising Creatives “aren’t funny”, but out of all my friends in the industry, some of the rudest, riskiest and wittiest are girls. Work hard, put a great book together and you’ll be just fine. Also, remember how valuable your input is – not in spite your gender – but on account of it. Young women are an advertiser’s wet dream, so why aren’t more of us informing those adverts to begin with?
Megan I’d give the same advice that I’d give to a man – you’ve heard it all before but it’s so true – work hard and be nice to people. Enjoy your role, be patient and grasp opportunities as and when they arise. Women shouldn’t have to take any different advice to get noticed – your work will speak for itself.
Do you notice a shift in gender stereotypes in the world beyond advertising?
Millie Absolutely, and I think it is for the better. However, I still find women in the music industry are heavily criticised (even by other women) for the way they look. The sexier/better looking they are then the more successful they will be. I don’t feel like men always come up against that same barrier and I think that needs to change.
Amelia Definitely. There are so many great female role models in the media at the moment, from Tina Fey to Emma Watson, not only proving that women are hysterically funny, but that feminism is an accessible movement that anyone from men to the not-particularly-political can get involved with. I think most men are in favour of gender equality, but 3% just isn’t good enough. No one’s saying that a woman should be appointed purely on account of her gender, or to make up the stats, but I don’t believe for a second that out of everyone suitable for the role of Creative Director, 97% just happened to be men.
Megan I’ve certainly noticed a more refreshing attitude towards workplace equality in modern society on the whole. I read that companies seem to be taking a distinct approach to making sure genders are equally considered, compared to say 15-20 years ago. I guess it goes hand in hand with the nature of the ‘Generation X’ woman who chooses to focus on her career, and now has the time and perhaps further experience to climb the ladder due to life choices. Different people are good at (and enjoy) different jobs, it really is all down to a specific person’s attitude and ability to do the job, gender aside.
Click here to find out more about the 3% movement.
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