Breaking Through The Glass Ceiling

The gender gap in creative industries is still pretty wide, even if some of the overt sexism that raged during the Mad Men era has waned a bit.

A panel of women executives in leadership roles explored what has been achieved and the work that needs to continue at an Advertising Week session.

An ongoing challenge is creating an atmosphere where women feel confident about achieving their goals and aspirations, said 4As President Nancy Hill, “so they can seize opportunities” as they arise. There’s no silver bullet for magically leveling the playing field, Hill said.

But continuing to raise awareness and getting behind efforts like the 3% Conference will help. The mentality among men of “hiring people that look like me on paper” is still prevalent, she said. “We have to get past that.”

That said, Hill also noted that during her seven years leading the 4As she’s reported to four men who served as chairman during that time. “Every one helped me be successful,” she said.



She recalled an experience some years back when she was working at a San Francisco ad agency. She was offered a promotion to president and CEO and she asked for some time to think about it. The reply from her male boss: “a man would never say that.” After she accepted he told her, “next time you don’t get to hesitate.”

Looking back, she said that attitude was both “right and wrong.” Opportunities have to be seized but they have to be the right fit.

The gap will continue to narrow as women generate revenue for their companies said Leslie Simms, Chief Creative Officer Y&R New York. She said she’s had help from men as her career has advanced but that profits “will be what really turns the tide.”

Camille Hackney, executive vice president, Brand Partnerships and Commercial Licensing, Atlantic Records, said that women have to assertively manage their career path. “Don’t let things happen to you,” she said. Part of that means knowing the level of workplace flexibility you require for the kind of lifestyle you expect to live.

Tricia Clark-Stone, CEO and Co-Founder, Narrative, added that finding “the sweet spot between passion and skill set is the environment you need to be in.”

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