Voices

What does it mean to be a woman in the creative industries?

While over 60% of creative students are female, only 12% of creative directors are. We spoke to industry insiders, both junior and senior, to find out what it means to be a woman in the creative industries today.

Sarah Glover, Leagas Delaney

Creative Director

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For the longest time, women traditionally took on the thankless, selfless jobs. Think about it; teachers, nurses, housekeepers, housewives, secretaries. While men were quietly going for two-hour pub lunches and sitting in meetings with their feet up laughing at their own ideas. Maybe instead of feeling like victims, we should consider the fact that we’re finally taking our heads out of our asses and saying, wait a minute!?! I like a nice cocktail at lunch.

Ok, ok. Yes, I’m being shallow and very short-sighted. Yes, I could tell you the one about how I moved from NYC to London and was told to set my sights much lower because I was American and female. How I went from being a creative director among many female creative directors to being a senior copywriter below younger, less experienced male leaders. Of course, I have stories.

But something tells me that having a chip on my shoulder, working twice as hard or talking more in meetings to prove myself doesn’t actually inspire all these amazing creatives just getting into the industry. Honestly, I welcome their enthusiasm and passion with open arms.

Usher in this new generation of diverse creatives. I’m desperate to talk about something else!

As a woman of colour that is at the very bottom rung of a ladder that leans precariously on a structure built by straight white men, I still can’t feel anything but optimism for what’s to come.

Alysha Radia

Alysha Radia

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Junior Creative

Leagas Delaney

I think it’s really easy to be disheartened by the future if you judge purely on the cold statistics that represent the portion of women and minorities currently holding senior creative positions in the industry. But as a woman of colour that is at the very bottom rung of a ladder that leans precariously on a structure built by straight white men, I still can’t feel anything but optimism for what’s to come. How can I not be optimistic when I have had the astonishing pleasure of learning and growing at SCA 2.0 alongside some of the fiercest and brightest women I have ever come across? I am excited to be a part of an influx of formidable female talent that I am positive will be making an impact on the industry in years to come. The future’s bright.

Jane Asscher

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Co-Founder & CEO

23RED

As the co-founder of a purpose led creative agency that changes behaviour, IWD means a lot professionally and personally, as a mum of two daughters and a feminist son. It is an opportunity to applaud those who are championing the cause; Campaign’s Female Frontiers is a great example of this. This year’s focus on ‘enabling’ is really timely; we all need  to work hard convert the awareness into action and it is beholden on those of us in a privileged position to extend the ladder down and enable women from all backgrounds to step up. In my industry for example there is still much to do in terms of women creatives and women from BAME communities.

This [gender] imbalance only further drives my passion for being in this industry and to strive to challenge perceptions that only men attain senior positions.

Rachel Rollinson

Rachel Rollinson

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Creative Services Manager

23RED

My expectations of the creative industry stem from my experience at university where, studying a degree in Textiles and Surface design, then a BA in Creative Practice, it was most definitely a female dominated environment. However, it has become apparent that in the working world of a creative agency it is quite the opposite. This imbalance only further drives my passion for being in this industry and to strive to challenge perceptions that only men attain senior positions. I am lucky in that my manager and director within the business is a female, so gender has never crossed my mind in being a barrier to be able to achieve success. I think a focus to ensure a woman is interviewed for every creative position would help correct this imbalance.

Ben Bailey

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Cultural Director

Ogilvy

We are seeing more female creatives and creative directors coming up through the ranks, which makes our outlook and output broader and better. The key things we need to offer to more women in the workplace are access, opportunity and support throughout all stages of their careers. As more women see more women in positions of power, we all hope that this will continue to drive us ever closer to an equal world. It is our duty to support and celebrate women in the workplace not only today but every day, and I look forward to a day where this will be the case.

International Women’s Day is important to me as it reminds everyone, regardless of gender or status that there is always room for progress, to be fairer and inclusive across the board.

Anita Wu

Anita Wu

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PR Apprentice // Member

Ogilvy // Ogilvy Roots

There is much truth to the IPA stat that 60% of creative students are females but only 12% of creative directors are women. When I was at university studying Journalism and Film, a large proportion of the students in my lectures were female. In journalism it was closer to 50:50 but in my creative classes, film, literature, visual arts, media, etc there were definitely more females.

Since graduating in 2017, I would say there is still an even split of genders in the creative industry, but definitely not as many females in senior positions. Being a woman poses a wide array of challenges in the workplace with the biggest issues being diversity, representation, equal pay and opportunities. International Women’s Day is important to me as it reminds everyone, regardless of gender or status that there is always room for progress, to be fairer and inclusive across the board.

Caroline Paris

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Creative Director

Brave

I walked through the doors to my first agency just under 12 years ago, and whilst I’d love to say, “I’ve never looked back”, I can’t. It’s not that I have career regrets; I don’t. It’s more that at every stage I’ve been challenged; by haters, doubters and some absolute ballers, people who, for whatever reason, wanted to dampen my sparkle. Which, in an industry where imposter syndrome is rife, can make it tough to rise above and continue to believe.

So how am I still here? Well, for every hater, I have also had a supporter. Culminating as a handful of career-defining individuals, mainly men, each of whom have absolutely championed me and my strengths. Whether male or female:

They are the people who gave me opportunities against the odds.

They are the people who told me I could, when I thought I couldn’t.

They are the people who dropped me in at the deep end, knowing I would swim.

They are the people this industry needs more of.

The women around me were not suppressing their personalities in the slightest; it was actually their individuality that was the key to their success.

Hannah Preston

Hannah Preston

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Junior Planner

Brave

Before entering the world of advertising, I did not have any expectations as to whether the industry would be male, or female dominated. I assumed it would have been a mix. However, as someone who has always been bossy and outspoken, I did think before entering my role that I’d probably need to tone myself down in the workplace, especially as a woman.

But then I joined Brave and realised how wrong I was. The women around me were not suppressing their personalities in the slightest; it was actually their individuality that was the key to their success. I really love being a woman in this industry because I know that I can truly be myself and it won’t give me a lesser chance to succeed than my male peers. In fact, it might just give me a better one.

Guest Author

Sarah Glover, Leagas Delaney

Creative Director,

About

With fifteen years’ experience in the advertising industry, Sarah Glover’s creative career spans broadcast, design, social, content, and branded entertainment for leading global companies. Prior to her role at Leagas Delaney, she worked as a senior creative at agencies including VMLY&R, Publicis NY and BBDO Worldwide. Since starting her career at Barkley in 2006, Sarah has worked on campaigns for the likes of Colgate, P&G and Starbucks. Her work has been recognised at Cannes Lions with a Silver Lion and 20 shortlists, as well as with a D&AD Merit, Clio Merit and an FWA award.