Gender diversity in adland was once again in the spotlight during an Ad Tech leadership panel, but while one panel member contended she left agencies because of a lack of opportunities for women, HCF’s chief marketing officer argued it’s actually impossible to hire men in marketing.
Jenny Williams, HCF CMO, said she’s trying to hire men
During the Leadership Panel moderated by David Koch, eHarmony’s marketing director Nicole McInnes – who has spent time at Pandora, AdShel, Ogilvy & Mather, American Express and AAPT – said creative agencies were lagging behind in offering opportunities to women.
“I left advertising because I was a female creative and I could see really clearly that I could never progress and it was obvious,” she said. “I didn’t get too bitter. I’m over it. I’m fine… but it didn’t change for 10 years.
“Maybe it’s changing now, but the creative part of advertising is probably the worst.”
McInnes conceded there may be more women in marketing than men, but noted it’s “pretty interesting” there are far more male CMOs and c-level execs.
HCF’s chief marketing officer Jenny Williams, however, was quick to argue Australia’s cultural and gender diversity is increasingly represented both in board rooms and in the work brands and agencies are producing.
If anything, she said, she’s struggling to bring men on board.
“Actually there’s a lot more women in marketing I reckon. I’ve been trying to hire men, but I just can’t find them. Sorry guys,” Williams told the panel.
In a 2014 study, Mumbrella found women make up just a quarter of creatives in agencies but 70% of client-facing roles. Communications Council figures claim women make up just 13.5% of senior positions.
Williams however warned of the dangers of ‘tokenism’ in trying to achieve a balanced workforce and using those in the minority as inspiration.
“I think having employees of different backgrounds is interesting and adds to the cosmopolitan nature of an agency, but I think the only challenge to get there is: What’s a statistically relevant opinion? So if, for example, you happen to have one Chinese person in the room and you’re trying to think up a campaign for Chinese people, then all of a sudden they become the expert – when in reality they’re one individual representing an incredibly large body of cultural diversity in Australia and they may or may not actually have a relevant opinion.”
Stewart Gurney, national head of strategy at PHD said the creative and media industries were increasingly waking up to the benefits of having a diverse workforce but conceded “we’re nowhere near there”.