I was recently at the 3% Conference where speaker after speaker discussed the need to get more female representation into the advertising industry. It’s clearly not a new idea or a problem unique to our industry. Why we need more women, at the top and in the front lines, is obvious and I won’t even go there. The more pressing question to everyone in our industry is what can we all do other than simply “leaning in.”
The fact is, as an industry, we are clearly not doing enough. As part of the 3%, all females should feel a sense of responsibility. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
So following are four things I will seek to do to improve our numbers, and that everyone else in the ad industry should also feel obligated to consider:
Point out the issue when you see it. Most women know when someone doesn’t treat them with the same regard or respect they’d give a man. Most of the time people treating women differently don’t even know they are doing it, and for most it’s embarrassing to point out. But gender bias is real, and it’s up to us – both females and males – to stop it. Let’s make it our imperative to call out such behavior when we see it. Nobody wants to be “that idiot” that crossed the line. If they’re smart, they’ll thank you.
Give women power. I have a dear friend who’s an investment banker and the way she made it to the top is she got a big chunk of cash to manage, and twelve months later, she did it “as well the boys.” Let’s have more women manage budgets or critical pieces of business. Men at the top, think of your granddaughters’ future. Will you please give a woman a chance to handle the same responsibility you’d give a man? Tie it to results. Performers perform if you allow them.
Fight and audit the industry on equal pay. An issue that is hotly debated from the tech sector to the entertainment industry, equal pay is an ideal we need to make serious headway on. Simply put, men and women in the same role should make the same money. We should all demand and ensure that this happens at our place of work. By being vocal about it, we’ll put a magnifying lens on the issue. Women shouldn’t have to be forced to lean in or prove their worth. Perhaps, we should look into auditing the industry and calling out the agencies that are the biggest culprits.
Stop making it about confidence. If 97% of industry leaders were women and 3% men, men’s confidence would be pretty shaky too. The truth is it’s harder for women to be confident than it is for men. It’s a statistical fact. If women at the top say that it isn’t, it’s because they either a) got lucky or b) have better emotional blinders than the average.
All in all, it’s about getting personally involved. Men and women at the top, how many women have you helped? I got lucky because I stumbled on mentors who saw potential in me that I was perfectly blind to. They pushed me to see both my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen throughout my career that young men get a lot of steering. Women in the advertising industry, not so much. If you can’t give me the first and last names of women’s careers you have altered, you are not helping enough.