Five unspoken truths getting in the way of gender equality

After Cindy Gallop called out Leo Burnett for hiring five men to senior creative roles we revisit an opinion piece by Nitsa Lotus examining why more women are not working in creative roles.

I was having a corridor conversation the other day about the virtues of gender equality and on overhearing the conversation a senior male colleague asked, “Why are we still even talking about this?”

I agree.

Why the hell are we still having a conversation about gender equality in 2014?

Because although there is a lot of rhetoric on this, the change we need to see isn’t happening quickly enough. The fact remains that there is still an overwhelming proportion of women leaving the workforce – brilliant, talented, competent women who are not getting ahead for multiple reasons. And frankly, I’m impatient.

The issues are well documented and are broader societal problems that cannot be solved by the business community alone. So rather than adding rhetoric, I want to focus on five unspoken truths, how they’ve impacted on me and how I deal with them (sometimes well and sometimes not so well…).

Unspoken truth #1: We have preconceived ideas about how a woman should behave.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that demonstrates unconscious bias influences how we assess people’s performance criteria, from entry-level to leadership. An extensive research study conducted by a British research firm, Catalyst, asked senior managers to rate leadership attributes they associated with a man or a woman. They found that taking charge was perceived as a male trait, while taking care was associated with women.

Unconscious bias is not gender-specific. Both women and men are guilty of it. But how does this impact women? Those at the top of a company, who let’s face it, are predominantly men, will influence how the organisation manages its talent pipeline so that those being promoted will often mirror the traits and biases of top leaders – a vicious cycle in which men continue to dominate executive positions.

In her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg references a Harvard Business School experiment in which students were assigned to look at a case study on Heidi Roizen, a successful venture capitalist. Except half the participants were given a report in which real-life Heidi’s first name was changed to “Howard”.

“Howard” was instantly likeable. People wanted to work for “Howard”. He was accomplished, brilliant at his job and considered a true leader. Ironically, Heidi’s actual accomplishments were perceived by students to be unlikable, aggressive and pushy. Almost nobody wanted to work for Heidi.

This study hit me between the eyes. It was as though I were reading an old performance review I’d been given (aggressive, pushy, etc.). And to be fair, sometimes it was warranted (I’m crap at separating my professional self from my Greek DNA. Seriously. Have you ever heard two Greeks having a conversation? People think we’re arguing…).

However I believe unconscious bias is the square root of the problem – everything else is symptomatic of it. It is this hidden truth that people don’t talk about because they’re unaware they’re doing it. I’ve been guilty of it myself and it’s only recently that I’ve made a concerted effort to catch myself (albeit sometimes too late).

Unspoken truth #2: Many male leaders don’t want to set gender targets because they genuinely believe in meritocracy.

I also used to believe in meritocracy. And part of me still believes (or wants to anyway).

But for the very same reasons as unspoken truth #1 – meritocracy doesn’t really exist. Believe me when I tell you I don’t want to be given a job because I’m a woman – I want to have earned it because I know how hard I’ve worked to get it. But women still get passed up for opportunities because they don’t display the ‘leadership’ characteristics a man did.

According to Catalyst research, the traits perceived as feminine are also seen as less vital to leadership – a situation that can result in women being evaluated less positively than men for leadership positions. The most important advice an old (female) boss gave to me was to put my hand up. And put it up constantly. To not be afraid of asking “…because Nitsa what’s the bloody worst thing that can happen to you? You’re called pushy? So what?” I can still hear that voice ringing in my ears. Easier said than done. (I already had a reputation for being pushy remember?)

I could fight for my team and my peers. But when it came to me, she hit the nail on the head: I didn’t want to appear pushy. Twenty years later I’m pushy. Big deal, so what. Don’t care anymore.

To be fair, I’ve worked with progressive male leaders who have supported me and didn’t see my traits as pushy or aggressive – they liked my style – didn’t see it as any different to the men in the team and respected what I had to offer. It’s those men who’ve promoted me time and time again (yes they do exist).

Unspoken truth #3: Men get paid more than women for doing the same job.

It’s a fact.

It’s what motivated President Obama to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women fight back against pay discrimination.

Every working woman faces a moment of truth when she’s pregnant. Particularly if she’s paid less than her husband. So imagine a couple are a having the discussion about who stays home with the baby; a key factor that plays into this decision is the finances. And if her husband is earning more, how do you have a conversation and structure an argument that actually makes sense for the better-paid parent to stay home?

So with many women leaving the workforce because of a logistical, practical problem, how can we expect to retain women when there aren’t enough role models showing HOW you can have a family and have a career.

Some of the best advice came from two very important women in my life: my mother and, believe it or not, my mother-in-law. Both said to me to pursue my career once I’d had the baby and they would both help because “…after all the children leave the home and you’ll be left with nothing…”.

It was a pivotal moment where I once again started to seriously think about how I could have both career and kids. It’s thanks to my immediate family (including my very supportive husband) that I’m able to go to work without guilt.

For those who don’t have that kind of luxury – I urge you to have an open and honest discussion with your boss and your partner about how you’ll enter the workforce again – if of course its what you want. You may not be clear about your needs before you have the child, but keep the dialogue going and be honest.

Unspoken truth #4: One of the biggest fights for equality still happens at home (and we can’t blame the men for that…)

It was the fabulous Joan Collins who remarked, “We should celebrate being women and having the opportunities to do things that our mothers and grandmothers were not allowed to do. They were expected to stay at home and do the cooking and the cleaning. Though now, of course, we are expected to do the cooking and the cleaning and the working.”

The Economic and Social Research Council found that a staggering 70% of the housework at home is done by the women who work full-time. They still run the household and make the domestic decisions. So think about a typical working woman’s day. The first shift starts around 6am – getting kids ready for day care or school – then they rush off to work during the day and rush home to do the night shift; bath, bed, bottle, cooking, etc. And then the working woman logs on to do the emails that just can’t wait till the morning or next day.

It is un-re-lent-ing. And we wonder why women leave the workforce? To be fair, based on my own experience, it’s me that’s made that rod for my own back. It takes a while to let go – I’m no domestic goddess but I like things a certain way. Sound familiar?

So ladies, I have been there and I urge you – stop trying to do it all. Let go. It won’t be perfect. Talk to your guy, make a list and delegate – there’s a good chance he wants to help but doesn’t know how to if you’re doing it all.

Unspoken truth #5: We discriminate against men who choose to stay home.

A year or so ago I bumped into a very talented art director I used to work with that I hadn’t seen in a while. I was getting coffee and he was at the coffee shop with his kids. We got to talking and it transpired in the conversation that he had chosen to stay home with the kids and put his career on hold. His wife, a talented and well-paid lawyer, instead had gone back to work full-time and was “wearing the pants of the family” as his mates put it (his words not mine).

I admired the guy and congratulated him. And then I silently caught myself. Why would I congratulate a parent for looking after their kids? Why is this BIG news? I haven’t congratulated a mother yet for staying home after giving birth to look after her family. It was clear from our conversation that his mates were giving him a hard time. You know the kind. When it’s all jokey-jokey but there’s a sharp edge that digs in somehow?

True gender equality means both sexes will be on the receiving end. When it’s not news that a dad stays home.

So how do we stop talking about this much-debated subject? The issues are multiple, complicated and wrapped up in bigger societal issues. I haven’t given up hope that there will be more women coming up through the leadership ranks – there’s plenty of talent out there. I encourage male leaders to pick up this issue and take a hard look at their organisations to see the opportunity cost of not cultivating a workplace environment conducive to true meritocracy.

And then we can bloody well stop talking about this once and for all.

Nitsa Lotus is general manager at Whybin\TBWA, and current member of The Communications Council’s gender diversity working group ——

This piece was first published on May 22, 2014.


  1. Anon
    22 May 14
    1:57 pm

  2. “Every working woman faces a moment of truth when she’s pregnant.”
    Possibly the biggest road block to equality: the assumption that all women want to have kids.

  3. Rob
    22 May 14
    3:23 pm

  4. It occurs to me that women fighting to break down the barriers and claw their way to the top of male-oriented and dominated institutions would be better off starting their own institutions (that will ironically have a female skew that may not suit males who join them). If you can’t join them, beat them.

    And regarding Truth #3 about men getting paid more than women. There are two underlying causes:
    1. Men push harder for more pay. I’ve seen it up close when it comes to review time with staff. It’s not universal, but it’s got to be a contributing factor (see truth #1)
    2. Statistics tell us that the male in a married couple is generally a handful of years older than the female. Is more time in the workforce as much (or more of) a contributor to the pay divide at the ‘moment of truth’ as anything else? And is it societal pressure or greed/ambition of the couple that makes the lower earning spouse default to staying at home?

  5. Anon
    22 May 14
    3:43 pm

  6. 1. In equivalent jobs and pay, it’s proved men work longer hours than women. (US Department of Labor)
    2. Women tend to seek jobs with regular hours, more comfortable conditions, little travel, and greater personal fulfilment. Men, in contrast, often take jobs with less desirable characteristics in pursuit of higher pay.
    3. Women who have children or plan to have children tend to be willing to trade higher pay for more kid-friendly positions. In contrast, men with children typically seek to earn more money in order to support children, sometimes taking on more hours and less attractive positions to do so.

    It’s a mistake to assume that “wage gap” statistics reflect on-the-job discrimination. Much of the wage gap discrimination is down to personal choice.

  7. Nitsa Lotus
    22 May 14
    4:21 pm

  8. Dear Anon 1:57pm…
    I believe that equality means the ability to choose a path without being judged, or unfairly discriminated against. The equality debate is multi dimensional and of course covers a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to have kids or not. As much as it is a man’s right to stay home with kids without being given the grief that comes with that.

    Perhaps it would have been clearer if I’d said – “Every working woman – who chooses to have kids – faces a moment of truth”… I had kids at age 40 and experienced a career without kids up until two years ago. The issues were similar and consistent in my experience. But again, these are words from my view of the world.

  9. Em
    22 May 14
    5:44 pm

  10. 3:43pm I’m afraid your argument doesn’t stand up. Women ‘seek’ or are ‘willing’ to do jobs with more ‘comfortable hours’ (what does that even mean? They come with trackie and uggie wearing time?) because they compromise for the family. They trade higher pay because unfortunately as a nation we still don’t offer the flexibility that allows them both. Just as the men who choose stay at home have to compromise. Also – we don’t live in the US.

  11. Nitsa Lotus
    22 May 14
    6:17 pm

  12. Dear Anon 3:43
    I wonder if the President of the United States used the US Department of Labor data you speak of to help inform his choice to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

    Perhaps its “a mistake to assume that wage gap statistics reflect on-the-job discrimination” but accepting the status quo and not accessing the other 50% of the workforce in senior roles is an equivalent argument to the world being flat wouldn’t you say?

  13. Honae
    22 May 14
    6:57 pm

  14. Dear Anon 3:43 pm,

    Do you not think that the reason a huge amount of women chose kid-friendly positions is because they have no choice? If youre saying men work longer hours and take on roles with less desirable characteristics doesnt it mean the woman/wife/mother have to take on the role of home maker as well? It’s such a tricky situation and as a fulltime working mum i feel the pressure of wanting to see my child more than i do but i also love my work and love that he will grow up in a non traditional household. My days often start at 530am. Im either up to exercise (if i dont do it then it doesnt fit into my day!) or up to work. If im up to work, it’s because im on kindy duty and my husband has gone to work early (film technician). I get some work done between 530-7 and then i get into morning routine. Child is normally at kindy for 830 and im sat in Nth Beaches traffic (the joy) for anywhere between 40 – 60 mins. Often on the phone catching up on missed calls or getting my day in order. I might not be at my desk till 945 but i might have already have done 2 hrs work. Cut to the end of the day and im on pick up duty which means (due to awesome Nth Beaches traffic) im in the car for 445, kindy for 530, home for 545. Dinner, bath, bed. All while fielding calls and sending the quick odd email. That might be it for the day, but if ive got a lot on, it might be dinner for me then back to work at the kitchen table. Im lucky that i work with people like Nitsa who know i dont need to be at my desk all day to do my job and because of that . Im also lucky that im married to a man who does nearly all the house work, is on dad duty far more than most and has never felt like he had to be the main or only money earner. My days are full, always. I multi task like a mofo. I like it that way. Not all women want comfortable conditions and not all men have to provide for the kids!

  15. Vanessa Bernardo
    23 May 14
    8:38 am

  16. Nitsa, from my experience and perspective, your article really resonated. It was well rounded and delved into some of the incredibly complex issues surrounding this topic. I’ve also been described, in multiple performance reviews actually, as pushy. I’m with you – I don’t care anymore. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Anna
    23 May 14
    9:52 am

  18. great article Nitsa

  19. Scoop
    23 May 14
    10:31 am

  20. Research shows the PR and comms industry is made of 80% women. Where is the equality in that?

    As a male, I have lost count of the number of times I have gone for a job interview in front of an all-female interview panel, and as soon as I walk into the room, I know I don’t stand a chance.

    There is a gender gap problem and in my view it swings totally the other way. Men are being pushed out of the industry at every turn.

    Why are we not talking about this? We all know it’s happening.

  21. Backing up Anon
    23 May 14
    11:06 am

  22. Nitsa, I see your response to Anon at 4:21.

    I am confused about the switch of feminism from the search for equal opportunity, to what you are asking in your response – which is outright equality. I personally believe that the best person should be hired for the job regardless of their gender, race, religion. And if that person has proven themselves to be more hard working than the competitors for that position, they rightly should be rewarded as such.

    Females have exactly the same opportunities as males in every industry, and it is wrong of you to dismiss the statistics of that Anon provides. If a woman makes personal choices that limit her time in the industry or limit their choices for advancement – that was her choice – but it does not change the fact that she had the same opportunity as a man might have had.

  23. rebecca
    23 May 14
    11:09 am

  24. Scoop – because this article is talking about women in creative. If you’d like to talk about men in PR and comms, write an article! Let’s examine that TOO.

  25. KGB
    23 May 14
    11:54 am

  26. Hi Scoop,
    Indeed, there are many more females in the comms industry (assuming you are referring to PR, advertising and media). But, it’s hard to ignore the fact that most senior roles are filled by blokes, like myself.
    I’m not going to go into the causation, as Nitsa does a brilliant job of this, but I don’t really think you can argue that men are unfairly discriminated against.
    And I’m sorry to hear you were so terrified of the all female interview panel. I’m sure you didn’t get the job because of your gender, rather than simply not being the best candidate.

  27. Nitsa Lotus
    23 May 14
    12:55 pm

  28. @ “backing up Anon” – Not really sure I understand your point about the switch of feminism from the search for equal opportunity to “outright equality”. What’s the difference?

    I agree with you about wanting meritocracy. What I’m challenging is that meritocracy doesn’t really exist. For the very reason pointed out in “Unspoken Truth #1 and #2).
    If you believe that unconscious bias is a figment of my imagination, let me point you to the following studies and you can make your own informed decision.,d.dGI

    or this one

  29. Backing up Anon
    23 May 14
    2:00 pm

  30. Nitsa – Equal opportunity is making sure that no one is discriminated against in their career, whereas a ‘equality’ is a pushing for exactly the same outcome.

    There is a massive difference. At the moment, there is equal opportunity. If anyone wants to do the work required to get into the industry or to earn themselves a promotion there is nothing holding them back from doing it. That is absolutely fair in my opinion.

    You are pushing for equality, which means that you want an outcome of 50% of creative directors and creative salaries to be held by women. My point is, that if women tend to work less and are not as pro-active in their careers, it is not fair for them to hold 50% of senior creative salaries etc… because fewer of them are deserving of that reward than their male counterparts who have done more work to achieve it.

    As well, if you make the choice to take time off work, that does not mean you did not have the opportunity to pursue higher aspirations. You had the opportunity but chose something different. Which is fine. But coming back into the workforce and expecting yourself to be held in equal measure as someone who has continued working (whether male or female) is unrealistic, and patently unfair.

    I hope that makes it clear.

  31. Maria
    23 May 14
    4:14 pm

  32. Thanks Nitsa – great article.
    Very inspiring.

  33. Louise
    23 May 14
    4:56 pm

  34. What a great fucking article.
    I agree 100% with everything that you say.
    I am ever more conscious of gender discrimination as I grow older, not that i feel it has ever stopped me, having been lucky enough to work for both men and women that support and admire my talents and my forthrightness. And on the more trivial side of things I hold just as many doors open for men as I do for women.

  35. Irina
    24 May 14
    9:53 am

  36. Spot on Nitsa. Women’s movement toward gender equality is far from being behind us, however it’s the pressure we place on ourselves of “doing and having it all” that is often the first and hardest challenge to overcome… from the bedroom to the boardroom.

  37. Irina
    24 May 14
    10:15 am

  38. Spot on Nitsa. Women’s movement toward gender equality is far from being behind us, however it’s the pressure we place on ourselves of “doing and having it all” that’s often the first and hardest challenge to overcome…from the bedroom to the boardroom.

  39. Nitsa Lotus
    24 May 14
    10:30 am

  40. Dear “Backing up Anon” 23 May 2pm:
    Perhaps lets start with addressing your perspective on Equality v Equal opportunity.
    The definition of Equality: [noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. synonyms: fairness, justness, equitability, impartiality, even-handedness, egalitarianism, equal rights, equal opportunities, non-discrimination…

    Just wanted to clear up that they are one and the same (ref: Oxford Dictionary reference http://www.oxforddictionaries......q=equality)

    But what is more alarming is your perspective and determination that there aren’t enough women in senior roles because they don’t deserve to be that women don’t deserve to be there because “they don’t work hard enough”, and that “their male counterparts have done more to achieve it…” This is simply not true.

    While we’re dispelling myths, I reference your other point about taking time off work to “choose something different”. If you mean having babies is choosing something different and being away from work for up to a year means it disadvantages us – that is simply ridiculous. If a role comes up, and a women who happened to take a year off to have a baby comes back into the work force and she’s the best candidate for it, then she should arguably take the role. She had a baby, not a labotomy.

  41. Gentle man
    25 May 14
    5:28 pm

  42. Nitsa, I’m a great fan of yours and it’s not because you’re a woman. It’s because you’re good. I would hope that most men are afforded the same treatment. Particularly creatives, who are often not the bullies in the business.

  43. Yasmin from SheSays
    25 May 14
    7:35 pm

  44. Thank you Nitsa – you’re awesome.

    It’s easy to overlook the courage it takes for people like yourself to publicly state your opinion on a subject that inevitably brings a barrage of anonymous comments.

    This isn’t a female issue, it’s a people issue.

    We’re looking forward to working with anyone who’s interested in doing something about. Just like you Nitsa, we’re keen to end the talk and move into action.

  45. Lisa
    26 May 14
    9:20 am

  46. Thank you Nitsa.

    “Unconscious bias is not gender-specific. Both women and men are guilty of it.”
    This is fundamentally what prevents real progression in our business. It takes real courage to acknowledge it and even more to try to stand against it.

    In regards to the comment about ‘equal opportunity’. This can’t exist when unconscious bias is in play. We all play a role in this and unless we can work together to remove our biases and put the ‘best people’ into the right roles we miss our potential as an industry. “If nothing changes, nothing changes”.

  47. Backing up Anon
    26 May 14
    12:13 pm

  48. Nitsa, nice way of skewing my response to fit your narrow narrative.

    I never said ‘senior women don’t deserve senior roles’. I simply stated that if a man had done more work at the same stage of his career (by not taking a year or two off – and by working longer hours) then it is hard to imagine an employer not valuing his additional experience.

    Furthermore, my point still stands that any female had the ‘opportunity’ to put the same amount of time into her career as the male. But the choices anybody makes – male or female – always serve to limit their options. For example, if a male had decided to go travelling for two years to dig wells in Africa – he would be in exactly the same position as a female who took two years off to raise children.

    He had the choice to either go away from the industry or not. But he cannot expect the industry to stand still while he is gone and accept him as if he had been working on his career while he was gone.

  49. Dig wells for love
    26 May 14
    2:54 pm

  50. @Backing up Anon (12.13pm): Never thought I would see pregnancy compared to digging wells in Africa as a male v female life choice… You are too funny!

    I assume you also believe that: A woman having a child = A man’s year spent throwing up all over Europe, on and off Contiki tours?

    Or maybe: A woman having a child = A man’s year-long surfing safari along South America’s coastline.

    Those choices we have to make in life…

    I’d put more value in the experience of a woman who has taken a year off to raise a child that that of a man who hit his KPIs for the year, any day of the week…

  51. Michaela
    26 May 14
    3:33 pm

  52. What’s that saying again? The comments on an article about equality demonstrates why we need equality.
    Funny that it’s only male voices that get louder when it comes to “disproving” gender-based workplace discrimination, despite not experiencing it.

  53. Backing up Anon
    26 May 14
    4:21 pm

  54. @Dig Wells For Love…… huh? I don’t get your point.

    Read my post again… I think you misread it. I’m not comparing the relative value of digging wells vs childbirth at all. I’m simply stating that whether you are male or female, the choices you make in your life will affect your employability and also your perceived value for more senior roles.

    Lets forget the gender thing for a moment – if a male took a year off and did something, anything in that time that didn’t further his career, would he be equally as valued as another male who did do something to further his career? Probably not.

    Now replace either word ‘male’ with ‘female’ – or even both words if you like, and I believe the statement will hold true.

  55. JD
    26 May 14
    8:36 pm

  56. Love love LOVE this article so much – more of it please, and keep the debate going. This is such a pertinent topic for me. Late 20’s, probably going to have kids within the next 5 years and unsure how it’ll affect my career in Marketing. Which is going pretty well, and I earn more than my partner which will make the financial conversations interesting.

    Most men I’ve spoken to like to believe the above points aren’t true or these problems don’t exist, but I’ve been thinking about it for my whole career. Sheryl Sanberg’s book was an important one for our generation. I want to add it’s not just the (usually male) bosses that need to be aware of this, it’s also up to us, the colleagues – to support women in these situations and to champion each other. As a young female I’m very conscious that there are so few women in the industry who have kids, which makes it hard to have role models. I try to be there for those that are, as there’s a voice in the back of my head that says “someday that might be you, and you’ll want the same support back”.

  57. Ricki
    28 May 14
    3:33 pm

  58. Excellent piece Nitsa. Well argued.

    Most men I know want to be part of the solution, and not the barrier to women achieving more equal representation in senior roles. They are open minded and willing to learn how to start breaking down both the unconscious and structural barriers in place.

    However as per usual, there’s always those few, who rather than look for solutions to the obvious disparities, or question their own biases, jump in to defend the defended and give a voice to the voiceful. God forbid they should have to share their position on the pyramid of privilege.

    Of course they’ll tell me I’m wrong because of that one time a woman didn’t give them a job so that proves women are bad blah blah blah…

  59. Nitsa Lotus
    28 May 14
    5:30 pm

  60. Dear Anon Backing up Scoop 26 May 14 12:13 pm

    To be fair, I wasn’t skewing your argument to fit my “narrow narrative”.

    You made an assumption that (and I quote) “women tend to work less and are not as proactive in their careers”. Which you then linked to the unfairness of them holding senior positions. Which then naturally correlates to the lack of women in senior roles.

    But lets go back to your assumption. It is simply untrue that women work less. I look at the teams I’ve had in the past and hard work is not gender specific. However I agree that women are less inclined to put their hand up to ask for things proactively. I agree with you whole heartedly on this. Iv’e been guilty of this too.

    On your point about an employer valuing a man’s “additional experience” – we’re talking a year at most in the majority of cases where a women is off on mat leave. We need to take two things into consideration:
    a) 12 months doesn’t break the bank as far as experience goes.
    b) Experience is but one part of your game as you get into more senior roles. Emotional intelligence, stature, strategic skills, intelligence, persuasion skills and importantly likability the ability to lead play a much larger role and are critical components when you get to more senior roles.

    I’d love to see the argument shift from a linear / experience only to the best candidate for the job wins.

  61. Get a grip
    29 May 14
    12:24 pm

  62. This column is proof that you cannot constructively debate this subject across gender and ages. The hostility from the female comments is pretty worrying.

    I am a 30 year old male, have hired two teams in my time, and have never judged a candidate based on gender. Gender is not an issue to me and many men my age – it’s foreign and we don’t even think about it. Yet to our female peers, it’s like we are part of some brotherhood that is focused on how we will continue some form of male dominance against them. It was like that at uni when I studied Marketing, there is an overwheling and undeniable movement against all men that we are the modern day KKK equivalent to females in our fields. This article is a perfect example of it – a guy talks about input vs output, and he gets babies and life choices and circumstance thrown back at him. All he mentioned was output to pay and qualifications.

    I know that if you go up the ladder in many businesses there are boys clubs, however there are some businesses that have become girls clubs also and I have seen and experienced this first hand.

    Nitsa your article was valid, but it comes down to interpretation and there are many subtleties that you need to be mindful of when going down this path.

  63. Ricki
    29 May 14
    12:59 pm

  64. @get a grip

    So you’re saying that you show no bias towards ‘females’ and then proceed to claim you are being prejudiced against by females and despite you being a totally awesome and bias free guy, many, many women of your acquaintance think you display bias (incidentally, say ‘women’ or it sounds like you’re discussing animal husbandry). But you’re not judging ‘females’ in any generalised, gender-specific way right?

    Too funny.

  65. Backing up Anon
    29 May 14
    2:49 pm

  66. Nitsa, men work harder than women in general. Here are the stats from the OECD.

    The latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Better Life Index (2013) found about 14 per cent of Australians work very long hours each week.

    A gender breakdown shows 21 per cent of Australian men work more than 50 hours a week, compared with 6 per cent of women.

    The OECD index found men tend to take on more work after they marry and have children, while the opposite is true for women.

  67. Anonymous
    29 May 14
    4:06 pm

  68. @backing up…

    Well that settles it then eh?
    It is absolutely no surprise to me that men take on more work after they marry and have children. (Interestingly what the report is not showing is the UNPAID work women picking up at home). So the opposite is not true for women, it is simply not reported.

    But back to your point. Of course the numbers will show that women are working less after they marry and have children. Might it be because the man has to then do the heavy lifting as far as bringing home the money? Or that its taking a while for Flexible Work arrangements to filter through the broader business community and she is forced to take on a less demanding role / one that is not equal to her experience now? She automatically starts leaning out of her career because there’s no other option available?
    You’re looking at numbers without asking WHY.
    Which is kind of the point of the article.

    Now that we have the “well boys work harder” debate covered off… let’s look at a different stat which would get any CEO’s attention. The Reibey Institute reported that ASX500 companies who had female company directors / snr women at the top delivered a 50% better Return on Equity than those with men only at the top. As a business woman that gets my attention. And it makes me want to access the other 50% of the workforce. And I’d break down convention and do something to keep women in the workforce.

    I’m not promoting an all female business world. I’m challenging the lack of balance at the top. I’m questioning why it is that there are 54% of women graduating uni, and only 13% of female directors on ASX boards. The companies who have cracked this are ahead financially.

  69. Get a grip
    29 May 14
    4:59 pm

  70. Ricki – thanks for reaffirming my post.

  71. LW
    29 May 14
    5:20 pm

  72. Oh dear, Backing up Anon, you’ve opened a can of worms there by not adding the word ‘paid’ to your work statistics.

  73. Rob
    29 May 14
    6:15 pm

  74. @Anonymous i’ve heard those stats re better returns for companies with women at the top. In this case we can all relax – the market should eventually set up the most effective management teams and steamroll the old boys clubs in the process…..the debate should be whether we need to agitate for change and manipulate market forces or let the results speak for themselves knowing change will come anyway.

    Perhaps women should start their own institutions and kick the butts of the companies biased towards male senior executives.

  75. Backing up Anon
    30 May 14
    9:06 am

  76. @Anonymous – unpaid work is completely irrelevant to the discussion that has been set up here. Nice little straw man argument there. Employers don’t take into consideration how much unpaid work someone has or has not done when considering for promotions and so on. So let’s just leave that aside.

    As for the companies being led by female CEO’s. Cool. I have never said women are less capable than men. The women who have made the choice to put in the long hours and work as hard and as smart as the best of them deserve every success they get. But the fact is, far fewer females make that lifestyle choice than men do – and that is why the numbers of females at higher levels are lower.

    It comes down again to the question – is feminism about equal opportunity, or equal outcomes? Because without a doubt, equal opportunity exists. Alison Watkins and Gail Kelly are testament to that, as well as umpteen other examples in the world. Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg. They have worked extraordinarily hard and made many sacrifices to get to their positions. But until more females make a lifestyle choice to pursue their career with the kind of work and sacrifices required to get to those top positions, the numbers will justifiably be skewed toward males.

  77. Natalie Cutcliffe
    30 May 14
    1:02 pm

  78. Congratulations Nitsa on writing by far the best article on gender equality of the recent 3 in the opinion column, thank goodness it is you representing us female creatives on the Communications Council and not Suzie Shaw!

    Your point about meritocracy is BANG on. The sneaky thing about sexism is that often when your living amongst it you can’t see it. The men and women who don’t see sexism as an issue today are no different from the men and women who didn’t see sexism or racism for that matter as an issue in the past. No doubt in the future the sexism that exists today will be glaringly obvious.

    Id like to address a couple of arguments challengers to your article have put forward starting with the big sticky one of negotiating procreation. There seems to be an assumption that it is only women who are driven to have children. As a woman who has no maternal instinct, it strikes me as particularly odd that we don’t talk about men’s desire to have kids too. Shouldn’t men be sacrificing higher income, status, undergoing unpaid household labour and missing out on work experience for what is ultimately a choice made by a man and a woman to bare THEIR children? Money aside, why is it still presumed it should be the woman’s choice to take on maternity leave and not the father’s?

    Which leads me to my next point of why it’s so important that we don’t just say well women are good at other roles like account management, comms and PR and that is because the content of our very persuasive line of work (I don’t think it’s a stretch to say advertising is a form of propaganda) is still so sexist. As a woman I am still offended by how many ads for cleaning products are still aimed at women, and by how many ads for men’s things (like beer) paint a picture of the woman as a nagging or doting ball-and-chain type.

    And while I’m on a roll I’d like to propose another unspoken truth and that is, in my experience, male Creative Directors like male ideas, just like men like different films to women. Year after year we see 10 male judges select 10 male students to top Award School, despite the enrolments being roughly equal between the sexes. I’ve spent 7 years putting forward creative ideas at some of the most highly regarded agencies in the country that ever so slightly challenge stale and offensive gender status quos, still only the same old boring shit gets up telling us we should be thinner, younger, cleaner and desperate for male attention while men get all the confidence affirming and funny roles in our ads.

  79. mick
    30 May 14
    2:33 pm

  80. It seems that everybody want everything……without compromise.

    There are many brilliant operators who are senior execs…and they come from both genders.

    Inequality is built into the physiology.

    Men can’t have babies (not an option…we do have a pending case before God regarding the equality of being the major bread winner and being able to pursue our careers with aplomb is not quite enough).

    Any commercial role within a commercial organization should be made based on evaluation of the commercial imperatives of that entity. Not some conceptual idea of equality.

    For one, my experience with executive level employees has been that committed women do seem to be more productive. Nonetheless I have worked in an environment where the CEO has been exceptionally supportive of female execs returning to work under flexible arrangements. Which is great for the female exec. they typically worked 2-3 days per week 9 with arrangements for contact ability on the off days. Nice theory……. typically what happened was a dilution of the passionate connection with the business imperatives. We often experienced delays in setting appointments due to availability, lost time as flexible execs were brought up to speed on what happened whilst they were away.

    The CEO was admirably so committed to the concept. This frankly presented as denial of the very real issues on fully engaged employees. Al;though a great idealistic position to take it was not optimal for the business.

    Perhaps we need to accept that ……..we are really arguing for Equality between Humans and Capitalist driven commercial organisations – which consistently choose ROI over human need.

  81. ANON
    3 Jun 14
    5:16 pm

  82. It doesn’t help when self styled industry leaders come out with gems like this…

  83. Disgusted of Melbourne
    17 Jun 14
    6:10 pm

  84. In a country that treated its first woman PM so shabbily, it’s not surprising women workers in general face inequality and discrimination.

    Unfortunately, it’s other women who also contribute to this.

    Freelancing at 3AW, I asked several people why there were so few women on the air, to be told “listeners don’t want to hear them – especially women listeners.”

    MASSIVE insecurity…

  85. Take a number
    11 Nov 15
    6:27 pm

  86. We live and work in an unfair world. Period.
    At every level and in every industry discrimination exist.
    Some may be gender, others, ageism, or race.
    The only weapon against such bias isn’t legislation or affirmative action.
    Just be the best as your job.
    Be so good that employers have to promote you or pay a premium to stop a competitor from poaching you.
    Once you hit that position, you are no longer a he/she, 30/40/50-something or C____k, spic or N___r.
    You are an asset to have or a threat to be feared.
    I have worked for women who rocked as well as tanked.
    No sex has a monopoly or talent or BS.

  87. Add up the women
    11 Nov 15
    8:56 pm

  88. Advertising is measured by creativity. If you don’t make the board, your work didn’t make the numbers. Nobody will ever believe my experience – most agencies I worked in – the men were better performers than the women.

  89. Creative Hack
    11 Nov 15
    11:17 pm

  90. We’ll know when we finally have true equality when patently incompetent women are being promoted into positions of importance.

  91. Elcore
    12 Nov 15
    3:43 pm

  92. In the third comment Anon claims that “In equivalent jobs and pay, it’s proved men work longer hours than women. (US Department of Labor)”.

    From the US Department of Labor blog:

    “Decades of research shows a gender gap in pay even after factors like the kind of work performed and qualifications (education and experience) are taken into account. These studies consistently conclude that discrimination is the best explanation of the remaining difference in pay.”

  93. @creativehack
    12 Nov 15
    8:36 pm

  94. Thank you that is genius. And sadly so true

  95. @takeanumber
    12 Nov 15
    8:38 pm

  96. Take a running jump.

    There is 1 woman out of 30 in Leo’s creative dept.

  97. @takeanumber
    12 Nov 15
    8:39 pm

  98. oh yeah and their biggest client is woolies. Go figure?

  99. Creative person
    13 Nov 15
    9:04 am

  100. Thanks for a well balanced article.

    So why is it that account executive departments and many production departments inside agencies are full of women but only with creative departments we have a problem? Does it actually make sense that creative people are more sexist than the average advertising person?

  101. WWGD (What would Google Do?)
    13 Nov 15
    9:58 am

  102. Unconscious bias is real and directly impacts everybody. You may not be intentionally biased, but EVERYBODY is unconsciously biased.

    So, if we all agree on that point, How does Google hire trying to reduce bias?

    They look at data, not names, faces and sexes.

    I think we are all in agreement that Silicon Valley is similarly skewed white male, so instead of hoping the media would fix their hiring problems, the fixed their HR departments.

    Here’s the video link….

  103. But... but...
    24 Nov 15
    12:08 am

  104. @WWGD (What would Google Do?)
    13 Nov 15
    9:58 am

    Surely that would mean the heads of production, heads of account management, managing directors, operations departments, PR agencies and marketing departments are all unconsciously biased towards hiring females?

    Because the only sectors that are male dominated in our industry are the creative department, directors and photographers. 3 out of about 10.

  105. Richard Moss
    26 Nov 15
    1:49 pm

  106. Lots of dogs barking here, not all up the same tree, but that doesn’t mean that any of them are barking up the right tree.

    The Industrial revolution took place within a one hundred year period, roughly 1750 to 1850, which was surely a time when the gender identity was well and truly set in stone, and starkly black and white. Capitalism was in its infancy, the containable life style was under threat, the order of things was in flux, and muscle power was in huge demand.

    “Things have changes dramatically since then” I hear you cry. Yes they have, but the natural order of mammals has remained the same.
    Some, snakes and other reptiles, some fish and other marine life may well practice parthenogenesis, the biggest fish may well switch from female to male and dominate the reef, but this phenomenon ( outside one heavily disputed biblical reference) does not apply to mammals, not even the highly developed, perilously unprotected species that ranges from pink to deep black, and has left the forests and the seas and the pastoral life of yore, to fill the very recent requirements of the industrial revolution and Capitalism.

    All these changes are down to that change, when muscular men were forced off the land and into the factories, and women were cast into domestic service, which had once been as vital to human existence as any other form of human endeavour; it still is, but to suit the dictates of the new found industrial wealthy, it was suddenly designated “menial work,” largely to keep the costs down.

    Both men and women benefitted from the vast new wealth of the industrial revolution, yet many women were able to escape the drudgery of house work and child rearing, by employing other women to do it for them. Eventually, after a period of resistance and the reactions of the Luddites, nearly all would realise a benefit from the new and ever improving system of working.

    As the middle class grew, men and women found a new financial freedom. The men were paid more than the women, because they were the brawn at the coal face of industry, but the married men were also supporting the household, consisting of a working wife and family, and sometimes one or two, even three or four grandparents as well.

    The system was forced upon us, some didn’t like it, others got what they wanted, but many wanted more, and others wanted it all.