It is great to see the subject of women and gender balance has become mainstream in our industry – even The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity significantly upped its game this year, with the launch of the ‘See it Be It‘ programme, and a commitment to increase numbers of female judges. But in our eyes this still isn’t enough.
The industry has been paying lip service to the problem of late, and appears to see it purely as an issue of equality: “We get more women into senior roles and the job is done.” Right? Wrong. It is more than this – it is actually good business. We persuaded Cannes Lions to let us host the panel discussion ‘Why 80% of your advertising budget is wasted’.
If you are reading that thinking, ‘Wow, 80% sounds huge. Surely that can’t be right,’ then let me explain something you probably don’t want to hear. The way we operate as an industry is broken, and if we don’t fix it soon, we’re in for some big trouble ahead.
Women are the purchasers
It should be common knowledge by now that women are driving the economy and account for 80% of the purchasing decisions in every consumer category. Now take a look at the advertising and marketing you see around you on a daily basis. How well do you feel it connects to this powerful audience?
Just look at the recent backlash against the gender stereotyping of Clarke’s shoes in-store posters. More than 3,000 people signed a petition set up by Emma Dixon, a lawyer from Islington, who was out shopping with her children. Within days it made the national news.
Just how can marketeers meet the new demands of these powerful, yet largely ignored, consumers, when the norm is still the all-male creative team? With just 3% of creative directors worldwide being female it is no wonder there is such an inherent disconnect.
Our clients are asking ‘where are the women?’
Brands are now one step ahead of the creative industry in their progression of women within their businesses. These senior women are now fast becoming our clients and they are asking their creative agencies: ‘So, where are the women who will be working on my account?’
More and more brands are seeking out female creative teams to help them create, market and advertise their brands in a completely different way to this powerful audience.
We’re not making enough progress
Where are all these women? The common myth goes that pregnancy is to blame for the lack of senior women. Apparently, these women leave to have a baby and then don’t want to come back. Wrong again.
It’s now completely possible to have a mobile, global, 24/7 workplace. Yet even within the creative industries – known for constantly championing the new, the innovative, the visionary – no one has been able to redesign their business to take full advantage of this technology. Where today’s businesses are concerned, work doesn’t work – and it is women who are losing out.
But hang on a minute. Why is childcare solely the responsibility of the mother? Men are getting stuck in work and the women are getting stuck out of it. When are we going to redesign business to work for parents and not just mothers? This is a problem that is not just affecting the output of creative work but the culture of business too.
Can you see what I can see? Can you see how ridiculous this all is? Can you help to change it? I really hope so.
Emma Sexton is UK director of SheSays