Our industry, though fun and essential for business, has its issues. AdLand is far from perfect. But one of the most prevailing issues in our environment is that of recruitment and advancement of women in the workplace.
Can more women get to the top of the food chain? Do many of them want to be?
Interestingly enough, we aren't too sure that the questions warrant the same answer.
More studies and articles have been coming out showing the continued disparity between the amount of women who work in advertising and at advertising agencies, and women who hold leadership positions. Of course, outcry in support of more women in leadership roles ensued.
We are torn about the results. Naturally, we agree with the sentiment of an ad agency exec who stated that better ideas come out when there is more diversity. But it is difficult to foster diversity if the supply isn't there.
We were of a similar strain when it came to attracting and retaining minority talent, a subgroup even less represented than women, but unfortunately not nearly as loudly, and that perhaps the environment doesn't have much representation due to the pool.
Therefore, perhaps the surveys and data need to be adjusted.
Example: the article linked above reveals a statistic that 30% of an agency's creative department are women, with 16% in a leadership role. While that's well above the national average, we'd like more insight before a fervor is started. Out of the 30%, how many feel that advancement is impossible because of their gender? How many are actively seeking a leadership role, or are looking for a professional development track towards being a creative director?
The assumption that everyone works with the ambitious attitude to reach the top is too simple for an intelligent audience to entertain. Some people prefer to be the work horse instead of the strategist, or decision-maker. And that's not a bad thing. A bad thing would be placing people in positions they do not want to be in order to please a crowd that doesn't understand exactly what it's advocating.
Now, we can answer the questions we posed near the beginning of the article. Can women reach the top of the food chain? Of course they can. Those with the ambition and talent, and the desire to adjust their schedules for the more demanding work, can definitely make it. Do the majority of women in the industry want and desire that responsibility? Unfortunately the research and data has been so superficial that this underlying element of intent has not been thoroughly reviewed. In short, we don't know.
But, if these conferences and cries for fairness and advocacy are to be continued, perhaps the data should prove that they are in fact needed.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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