We Need More Women-Owned Agencies

In 2019, women-owned businesses were growing twice as fast compared to all businesses nationwide, according to that year’s “State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” commissioned by American Express.

That statistic was nowhere near true in the advertising industry.

I wanted to know how many agencies were owned by women. The North American Industry Classification System reports there are 22,870 agencies. When I asked the 4A’s how many agencies are female-owned, its list showed 125.

That can’t be right. I thought immediately about the 3% Movement, which aimed to get more women into the ad biz -- but then I realized it’s specific to creative directors. On a mission for answers, I stumbled upon another post, written by Mira Kaddoura, about the .1% of female agency founders. That proved to me it’s quite possible the number of women-owned advertising agencies could be .5%.

That did not sit well with me, for so many reasons. How is it possible that the industry seeking to connect with and motivate women -- who make over 85% of all purchasing decisions -- is run by businesses owned almost entirely (99.5%) by men?



Even more concerning is Vice President Kamala Harris’ reporting of 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic, constituting a “national emergency.”

“In one year, the pandemic has put decades of progress we have collectively made for women at risk,” she said, as reported in The New York Times.

I remember sitting at the “Badass Women” Cannes Lions sessions two years ago, feeling so disturbed by -- and yet personally spared from -- the volume of experiences being shared about the realities of being a woman in this business.

I’ve been at the same agency since the beginning of my career, choosing to be a part of building something great versus joining something someone else already made (in their eyes) great.

Early in my career, several of Kentucky’s most prominent agencies were owned by women. So, the path to my owning Cornett was paved in mindset long ago. Kip Cornett, now the agency's chairman emeritus, always welcomed my big thoughts and visions.

But I don’t want to own it all myself. There are parts of my life I’m not willing to sacrifice. Being a mother, a good partner, sister, friend and contributor to the community are important to me.

What’s holding women back? “Women do not believe they possess adequate entrepreneurial skills as much as men do,” per a post on What To Become. “Only 39% of women think they are capable of running their businesses, compared to 55% of men. There is no real difference between skill sets, women-owned businesses statistics show, but it is only a matter of perception and confidence.”

I still hope to have others join me in ownership, but I’ve also found it’s possible to create a place that that values women and pays them fairly, but also values life outside work. One that gives them time to start and grow their family, promotes them, and listens to and dreams with them. For me, there isn’t a different way.

While groups like Chief -- a private network focused on connecting and supporting women leaders -- are so popular they have a waiting list, clearly there is a lot of progress to be made in this industry to close the gap.

I’ve got the position, but I don’t want to do it alone.  If you’d like to join me in working to get more female ownership in this industry, let’s talk.

Next story loading loading..