‘I look forward to the day that we no longer need to mark IWD’: Is International Women’s Day tokenistic in adland?

As International Women's Day rolls around every year, and the cupcakes come out to play, the same conversations are being had: Despite a nice day celebrating us, there is still so much to be done to see real workplace equality.

A number of female creatives and agency leaders spoke to Mumbrella's Lauren McNamara on the challenges they face in the industry, and how International Women's Day can be better used as a catalyst for change.

Mumbrella asked three questions this year:

  1. What being a female in a typically male industry is like;
  2. What this year’s themes, ‘Inspire Inclusion’ and ‘Invest in Women’ mean to you; and
  3. How International Women’s Day can be better used and understood to create change.

Simple, right?

Here’s what these strong, kick-ass women had to say.

Dani Bassil, CEO, Clemenger BBDO

1. On some days it’s really hard. There’s a lot of macho voices in adland and it feels kind of exhausting sometimes. But mostly it’s pretty good. There are some awesome women in this industry who are very dear to me, and their energy and intelligence is the best fuel on a hard day. Mark Manson talks so brilliantly of giving zero fucks (seriously read the book if you haven’t already) and I love the spirit of that. It’s not that I don’t care, I care deeply about many things, but the benefit of middle aging is that what people think of you has become less and less important and that’s useful when you walk into a room full of men. I do recognise though, that not everyone is like me, and it can feel incredibly intimidating for some, and its why culture and creating a sense of belonging is so critical in any business. As a Lebanese Australian woman who dropped out of university, I tick very few boxes when it comes to the stereotypical CEO. And I know for some that’s reassuring.

2. It takes a village to raise something. Whether that be a child or an incredible piece of work. When you look around at your colleagues and think about the teams you are building and assembling it’s crazy not to think about bringing different perspectives and experiences to the table. Modern Australia is a vibrant and multicultural place, and it’s our job to resemble that in the workplace. It’s not just about ticking boxes; it’s about listening and embracing differing points of view. And a woman’s perspective is critical. We are important, valuable, and integral to the success of any business. The statistics prove it, and data doesn’t lie. I’ve worked in a few workplaces that were the least inclusive places to women on the planet and I’m so glad I didn’t hang around long enough for it to crush my soul. My advice to anyone out there that’s experiencing this right now, is leave. Life is too short. Find an agency that fits you and makes you feel proud to work in every day.

3. IWD feels like yo yo dieting. We gain 2 pounds, we lose 3 and so it goes on. I go through a cycle of inspired, angry, bored. Today I mostly feel angry. Maybe the menopause, maybe the purple washing. Someone asked me the other day for my views on another agency – asking why an agency that was so award winning had such a terrible Gender pay gap. I almost laughed. This stuff is hard, it takes strategy, policy, time, and commitment and for people to really properly give a shit. And in an industry where awards, and revenue and being on stage are more important than anything else then I’m not sure we’ll ever really get there. It’s going to take staff and clients to walk away from the agencies that aren’t paying attention. I suspect this will start now that the numbers are being published and that may force progress. It’s a shame it comes to this but whatever moves the dial meaningfully works for me. Hopefully, next year I’ll be a bit less angry.

Jen Sharpe, founder and managing director, Think HQ

1. I think language about typically male sectors misses the point – we all know that this sector is kept alive by brilliant women. But there is absolutely an issue with what roles many of these women have – where they are working for agencies and not leading them. I started my own business earlier than I planned because I realised I worked for a boys club and genuinely senior opportunities for women were few and far between. Which is sad, because not every woman is going to start their own agency, and I know not much has changed unfortunately.

2. It means that all women are important and acknowledged. It means women from different cultures, sexuality, neurodiversity and social economic backgrounds. But that said, I’m not sure how I feel about IWD – to me it kind of reinforces inequality by having to have a day to celebrate over 50% of the population.

3. More women probably need to take the leap and start their own agencies or join women-owned ones, because I think the change in the big holding companies is too slow. While there are more female CEOs, the glass ceiling seems to have just been raised with new roles above the CEO being created and occupied by men. Roles like Executive Regional Chairman. Very creative! We probably need to see less tolerance of mansplaining and shit chucking from often very comfortable male creatives as well. I’m not convinced that a ‘brilliant’ creative should be tolerated for terrible behaviour because it’s considered part of their ‘brilliance’. I think it’s a load of crap and the whole industry is complicit in facilitating the stereotype.

Julia Sheehan, general manager – Melbourne, Leo Burnett Australia

1. Thankfully, my response to this question today is very different to the response I may have given seven or eight years ago. I no longer feel held back because I’m not a man. I don’t have to have to sensor my personality, my intuition, or myself to be respected, valued and heard. During my time in the industry, I’ve watched it evolve from having one or two women in the room to having many across creative, strategy and business management – a lot of them with senior titles. This is reflected both within the team at Leos as well as our clients and our partners. Together, we create an environment and relationships where there is no bias based on gender. I absolutely acknowledge that I’m in a far more fortunate position than many of my peers, especially given the female managers and mentors I’ve had. And I hope to be a role model for the next gen of women in our industry.

2. We have a responsibility, as creative professionals, to positively impact inclusion, particularly through women’s portrayal in ads. This responsibility starts with ‘inspiring inclusion’. Creating genuine change starts with avoiding harmful stereotypes and creating positive portrayals not just of women but age, ethnicity, body types, abilities, and socioeconomic status. The next phase of change is gender equality through an intersectional lens. Being curious and empathetic about the lived experiences of diverse groups of women who have faced different barriers, to become more aware and knowledgeable and find new areas of improvement. This starts by listening to others we don’t often hear from.

3. We’ve all seen the image of a woman holding a sign that reads “I can’t believe I still have to protest this f#$%ing shit” and that’s really my position on IWD. I look forward to the day, hopefully within my professional lifetime, that we no longer need to mark IWD. Putting this frustration aside, I hope we can use IWD to have more than just a conversation on what obstacles are still holding women back professionally, and actually implement change. Publicis Groupe, like many other big businesses, have put a lot of systems in place to support the intersection of work and life, events that have previously created friction for women and their careers. Flexible work arrangements, mentor programs, parental leave, fertility leave, gender affirmation leave and menopause leave are real, helpful support for women (and men) to reduce obstacles and create opportunities. As an industry, our focus needs to be on the unseen biases and behaviours in hiring, building business partnerships, recognising and celebrating talent, and nurturing an ongoing conversation on diversity and inclusion (holistically) with clear actions and outcomes.

Leisa Ilander, associate creative director, Dentsu Creative

1. Sometimes it means you get opportunities you wouldn’t have gotten simply because of your gender – like getting on pitches or briefs that you might not have had a chance on because they are “female centric”. And sometimes it means knowing if your CDs favourite footy team won so you have something to chat about on Monday morning.

2. To be honest, I think women inspire inclusion well already. Especially when you are in an industry that for a long time was very male dominated – the senior creative women I have worked with have all been fantastic in helping women climb up the ladder behind them.

3. Creating real change? Put more power in your traffic manager, SLAs and timelines. Becoming a mother impacted my career more than anything else. Because being a mum there are days you have to go home at 430. Or spend 3 hours getting your kid to sleep. And in those times you can’t work back. Can’t spend extra time crafting, building out a proactive piece, or getting an extra idea down. And in this world where timelines are getting smaller and smaller, this impacts on what you can do as a creative. If you want women to stay in the industry, you need to give them enough time to do their work, well, during work hours.

Elle Bullen, executive creative director, Bullfrog

1. At its worst, being a female creative is like being pulled into the opposition’s team to make up numbers in a grade 3 netball match. You’re cautiously accepted, but you’re not one of their own. That means working twice as hard to create trust and to prove you deserve to be there. Thankfully, that’s changing. In recent times, I’ve found attitudes and agencies far more welcoming than the Flagstaff Hill Falcons ever were.

2. Stop excluding. It’s that simple. Include women from all walks of life in the work, the decisions, the research, the casting, the policies, the department, and the vision.

3. This day can get a bit like Christmas. Everyone’s slinging gifts and good wishes without really thinking about why it exists. And while I admit to being an atheist that loves to get around a secret Santa, in the case of IWD, the “why” shouldn’t be ignored. To create change in the creative industry, we should be inviting the voices of the women it’s left behind. Not just the ones that have persevered or “paved the way”. If we really want to shake things up, let’s listen to the women who never made it back from mat leave. The ones who were punished for the idea of part-time. The ones that were made to feel so unwelcome, they excluded themselves. There’s certainly no shortage of them.

Jenny Mak, creative partner, DDB Sydney

1. My motto throughout my career has always been “let the work speak for itself”. By consistently delivering high-quality work and pushing creative boundaries, I’ve been able to earn respect and recognition for my contributions. In more recent years, this approach has been supercharged by finding some fabulous mentors and advocates. With their support and counsel, I’ve never felt more heard and seen – which is something I wish I’d experienced much earlier in my career. That’s why as a female creative leader, I’m passionate about advocating for diversity and inclusion within the industry. I believe that diverse perspectives lead to more innovative and effective work. By championing the voices of women and other underrepresented groups, I strive to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all creatives.

2. The theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ for this year’s International Women’s Day resonates with me deeply. It signifies a powerful call to action to foster environments where diverse voices are not only heard but celebrated, driving positive change and progress within our industry and society as a whole.

3. International Women’s Day presents an invaluable opportunity to move beyond tokenistic gestures and drive real change in the creative industry. By leveraging this day as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue, action, and accountability, we can implement concrete strategies such as mentorship programs, inclusive hiring practices, and leadership development initiatives to empower more women to ascend to senior roles. It’s about fostering a culture of equity and inclusion year-round, not just on one designated day, to truly transform the landscape of our industry.

Jane Burhop, creative and co-founder, Common Ventures

1. Vastly different from being a male creative in a typically male sector.

2. We need active male allies who are driven to solve female inequity within our male-dominated industry. We need to replicate the feeling of being at a Taylor Swift concert. Chaperone dads unite.

3. Divert the money you’re spending on flowers and boujee IWD lunches and invest in women within your organisation. Stop the gender pay gap within your own creative teams, set compulsory 50/50 gender targets for your senior and C suite levels and hire more females for their potential, not just their experience. And when you’ve done all that, Ken, do more beach.

Katie Barclay, founder and CEO, Hopeful Monsters

1. It’s a shame it’s such a rare thing – to be one of the only creative agencies in Australia to be solely-owned and led by a woman. Even saying that out loud is odd. For us, unlike many other businesses out there, gender inequality has never been an issue. Our creative teams have an equal balance of men and women, our leadership team is 50/50 and our gender pay gap is 2% favourable towards women. For me, the bigger issue that we as an industry need to fix is inequality in all its forms – across gender but also ethnicity, age and social mobility (I could go on).

2. I appreciate that ‘Inspire Inclusion’ is the specific theme for IWD, but for me, it’s about inclusion across a much broader range of groups. And not just inclusion, but actual action. A lot of great talk and discussion goes on around this time every year, but so much more could be done all year-round so we’re telling a very different story in 2025.

3. Ensuring a fair balance of women in senior roles is a great thing, but it’s only tackling a small part of the problem. Our industry has a huge diversity issue that needs fixing. Putting more middle-class white women in senior roles with other middle class white men isn’t going to fix the problem. After all, the best creative work comes from diversity of thought, which comes from the diverse lives we have lived. I get that it can’t all happen at once and every step towards tackling inequality is progress, but as an industry there’s so much more we can do to ensure more equal representation – from a gender point of view and beyond.

Michelle Melky, creative director, Amplify

1. I think it’s been an advantage, particularly for the work we do at Amplify. In the creator space, often the most engaged fans and followers are young women. Look at the three winners of the TikTok Creator of the Year – Millie Ford, Kat Clark and Indy Clinton. All women, with majority female followers. Developing creative strategy for this audience is second nature to me. Amplify is also a very women-led business (at the time of writing, the Australian team is 75% female), so I’ve been lucky to always feel supported as a creative.

2. At Amplify, inclusivity isn’t a grand gesture; it’s the subtle art of everyday empowerment that shapes our workplace. Our team is made up of women who are trail blazers, each carving out new paths in the fast paced and ever evolving influencer and content creation landscape. What makes us stand out is the genuine belief that inclusion is not a checkbox but a fundamental part of our business ethos. Personally, I’ve made it a mission to champion this within my team and on the sets I oversee, creating a space where everyone’s unique contributions shine.

3. I think the only way to make IWD not tokenistic is to use it as an opportunity to hear from your female employees. This isn’t a day about cupcakes and wearing pink. Hiring women into key roles is great, but listening to their feedback and learning from their perspective is the purpose of having them in those roles. I encourage other leaders participating in IWD afternoon teas to find 5 minutes to check in with their female team members and ask them for feedback.

Carleen Ramsay, senior art director, Dentsu Creative

1. I’m fortunate enough to work with some incredibly talented and supportive women at dentsu (and many senior ones at that). My experience is that things have shifted for the positive, with the way we interact and collaborate and come together as an agency, no longer divided into genders. The playing field feels even.

2. Inclusion doesn’t mean stopping at the first signs of progress; we should always be championing for inclusion (beyond gender), in the work we do, the people we hire and the way we show up. Diversity of voice and talent is what will propel the work, and our industry forward. We all need to be agents for change.

3. I see IWD as a friendly, but necessary, reminder about why this day exists. We should be recognising and celebrating the accomplishments of women within the industry and seeking out more opportunities to support each other in our efforts and pursuits. By boosting each other wherever possible, we will naturally start to see more women occupy those senior roles, and the more we see it, the more it will feel tangible for us all.

Maddie Chew Lee, art director, The Company We Keep

1. In my experience, I’m fortunate to have not experienced being marginalised in this industry. That’s not to say I haven’t had the odd bad experience. I was once asked to “wear heels” to a client meeting, to which I refused to do. What’s wrong with closed toe flats? They’re way more practical. This comment was maybe not intended to be sexist, but was absolutely received that way. They perhaps could have phrased it, “We want to be seen as a smart dressed team”.

2. ‘Inspiring Inclusion’ to me, as a first-time mom of young twins returning to work, is a huge step in the right direction for women in the workforce. My workplace has embraced me returning back to work and provided the flexibility so I can juggle the responsibilities of my family, team and career – all my hopes and dreams. I know there are many women in the workforce who are not provided the same support. I hope this year’s theme raises awareness about the mental load many women bear on top of their work responsibilities and begin to reform their environments to better support mothers and women carers.

3. IWD is a reminder of our self worth and value. Our ability to contribute to the workforce as well as in the home. When you see your company supporting your career dreams, you are excited and motivated to achieve them and exceed your expectations of yourself. By more women being financially and physically supported in the workforce, we will encourage women to remain in their work environment for longer and be invigorated to work.

Anna Borien, partner, Galore Creative

1. If I was 6ft4, male and built like a s*it brick house, there’s no way I would have been spoken to the way I have been at points throughout my career – particularly by males. But for me, this is two fold; it’s less about the system and more about the individuals within it. It’s the individuals who are making choices to behave that way, likely based on their views about men and women in society as a whole (thus it’s a much bigger issue than just the creative industry). The role of the industry however, is to provide a level and supportive playing field that not only supports the underdog (females) but also holds individuals to account.

2. Sure, the sentiment is right – I too believe that we need to ‘inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion to forge a better world’. But we really have to walk the walk with this one. It’s the collective efforts and actions of individuals, businesses and industries to inspire through actually showing change. The best part is, we’re in an industry where we have the power to persuade. So we not only have a responsibility to take the lead with our companies, but also use that power to influence what we’re putting out into the world; every touch point needs to be considered from the creative process, the language we use, the diverse representation, right through to the final output.

3. *takes a deep breath*… Big question. With the risk of a very long answer! Firstly, I have no qualms about IWD having its own day as a way to help keep us all accountable. Same reason that I’m pro Valentine’s Day, sometimes we all just need a good nudge/excuse to make a little more effort! But, I’m really hoping we’ve waved farewell to the IWD cup cakes, and instead are using this time as a great opportunity for businesses to stand back and look at the way in which they operate, the policies they have but most importantly, the representation they have making those decisions. Before even getting into solution mode, it’s no use sitting down to review your company’s policies if 75% + of the people making those decisions are white, senior males. Diverse representation will allow you to make a positive difference to the way you do business, no question! If your diverse representation is one woman amongst a group of men, that’s when it feels tokenistic, as she doesn’t stand a chance.

Catherine Tubb, creative director, Chello

1. I have been working in advertising for the past 20 years and still find it bizarre that the creative department, which should be the most open and inclusive, is often the least diverse. I think unconscious bias plays a huge role in hiring, promoting and ensuring there is equal pay. Too much emphasis is placed on finding people that fit into an existing culture rather than embracing people who challenge the status quo.

2. Advertising, and in particular the creative department, need diversity and inclusion to survive. Our industry thrives on fresh perspectives to produce the most interesting work. I think it’s up to all of us to support each other as we all face challenges at each point of our career. When I was a junior designer working in London 20 years ago, I found out I was being paid significantly less than the two male junior designers (about £7k). We had all graduated art school at the same time but they had both had gap years sitting on beaches in Australia and Thailand respectively, whereas I had worked for a full year at the company before they joined. I raised this with the creative director and was subsequently offered £200 to show how much the company ‘appreciated’ me. I refused the cash and it took another female art director to listen and advocate on my behalf before the company accepted that I should be paid equally. I’m still thankful to that art director for her support and advocacy.

3. I think it’s an opportunity to take stock and figure out what needs to be done, otherwise it’s just lip service. We need to level the playing field and support equality for both men and women in advertising to get everyone on side. Looking at parental leave policies and making them equal for both parents regardless of gender would be a game changer. Parental leave is something most employers shy away from being vocal about but time out of the industry has a huge impact on new parents. Controversially, I think quotas in hiring policies work. If your organisation is too skewed in one direction then you need to open up to more diverse candidates and hire the best talent from that pool to achieve balance. I believe this will help more diverse minority groups to be able to succeed in advertising. The creative department is one of the only places that doesn’t require a university degree – just an outstanding portfolio. So it should be a lot easier for people to get a foot in the door – whatever their background. AWARD school and Western Sydney AD school are both fantastic springboards for young creatives wanting to enter the industry to get a portfolio together and go for it.

Amanda Wheeler, chief client partner, Leo Burnett Australia

1. Whilst I’m not a creative, I work in a creative agency and have spent my advertising career on the business management side of agency life, where 70% of roles are held by women. However, throughout my long career, I have felt self-conscious about being a woman and the limitations, assumptions and frustrations that has carried. On the positive side, I now feel there has been a dramatic shift in contemporary advertising and look proudly at an industry where women are leading across a diverse range of roles – with the last bastion of creative also starting to crumble. There is a growing focus on ensuring female creatives are entering the pipeline with the aim of fast-tracking the closing of the gender gap as agencies increasingly commit to gender equality in this space. But we should also remember that this has all been gained on the back of some battles where women were often the casualties.

2. I hope that is what myself and my peers, male and female, are working to achieve. That we are consciously making decisions that lead to inclusion, that we are talking about it, evangelising it and practicing it. We are in an industry where our bread and butter is inspiring people, it should be our second nature to ensure we apply that some focus to our people.

3. It’s not tokenistic at all. And in the early days of my career, we were often made to feel self-conscious about the day, as it was seen as a day for radical feminism – where it was simply just about equality. Today, it’s so great to see the day built into our agency practice as a moment for both men and women to celebrate how far we have travelled but also to be conscious that there is still a job to be done. The day helps us have a conversation above the daily grind, have some reflection and articulate and own the challenges that remain. It takes experience, education and opportunity to become a creative leader and that takes time. The important thing is that we create experiences, provide education and open up opportunities for young talent, so they can succeed. One day alone won’t see more women become creative leaders, that needs to become our practice every day.

Sally Muul, senior creative producer, Now We Collide

1. Firstly, I prefer heels and floral dresses to black t-shirts and sneakers – so it’s easy to feel like I got lost on my way to work and I ended up in the wrong room. But I’ve discovered that having a completely different experience has its advantages. When I did stand-up comedy a million years ago, I was surrounded by 20 year old dudes in skinny jeans, so standing up on stage in a pretty dress telling dirty jokes meant I got attention and it became my secret weapon. It allowed me to use my point of view as my point of power and I’ve remembered to use that as I’ve moved in and up in the advertising creative space. Having gone through AWARD school last year, my group was almost 50/50 between male and female. When we presented our ideas each week, my ultimate goal was to surprise and delight. I wanted to add humour, make it as relatable as possible and also turn heads. I think being female helped me sell Supercheap Auto in a way that no one else did (being the huge cheesy romantic I am, it involved a man marrying the love of his life… his car). It didn’t get on the wall but my tutors loved it and so did I. I’ve been lucky to land in an agency that has always encouraged me to be 100% myself and not overlook me for what I’m not. I offer a different mindmap than my male colleagues and we compliment each other beautifully as a team – it’s a great balance of brains, genders, and backgrounds, so we can come up with better ideas and creative solutions for our clients. Which is what we’re here to do.

2. The UN’s theme this year resonates with me much more: Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress. I’ve been at Now We Collide for 3 ½ years now and I’ve recently been promoted to Senior Creative Producer. I’ve been so fortunate that the business leaders have always supported my development as a producer and have also invested in my professional growth through financial contribution to courses I do outside of work. I got to do a crash course in editing, AWARD school and now I’m being trained on directing, hence accelerating my progress (while cheering me on). Having a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ mentality meant I could offer more to the role, my clients and the company and I wanted my title and package to reflect that. So it was awesome to have that recognition and for my salary to be equal with any of the other Senior Producers in our business (including male senior producers.) BTW, if you’re a creative agency and you’re not ‘inspiring inclusion’ in your company every single day, you’re doing it wrong and you should just go home.

3. While I’ve been lucky in my career to be seen and supported by management, there are still so many huge systematic problems out there and so many brilliant, talented women are undermined, forgotten and not given the recognition they deserve. *Only 29% of staff in the advertising industry are women, and they account for a mere 12% of creative directors. I’m not great at maths but this simply doesn’t add up. So days like IWD may be a little silly (everyday should be IWD right!?) but until we close the pay gap and have more representation of women leadership roles, we need to keep having these conversations so these tokenistic promises can be turned into tangible permanent change. Having platforms to raise awareness about gender issues and have them heard by people who can do something about it is what’s imperative about IWD and all IWD events. What I love seeing is the support of women to other women, who make room next to them on their way up and these networking opportunities. But what I also like is seeing the men who come to these events, not to just show ‘support’, but to actually help amplify women’s voices and advocate for gender equality.

Hannah Melanson, digital creative director, Innocean Australia

1. I imagine it’s much like any woman’s experience in a male-dominated industry – challenging. But it’s also changing. At least partly. While the more overt tropes of sexual harassment and limited opportunities are dwindling, the more insidious ones are still ringing true. And they’re louder than ever. But gender equality isn’t exclusively an industry problem, so why are we trying to tackle it at an industry level? As creatives and advertisers, we have the ability to steer culture, for better or for worse. Maybe it’s time we shifted our focus beyond diversity and inclusion initiatives at an internal level to imagine – and create – more inclusivity elsewhere, too.

2. Inspiring inclusion is great. But why stop there? As women, we need to expect it. Demand it. Know we deserve it. Which, let’s face it, is a tough brief for generations of us who have been brought up to believe the opposite. When infinite possibility becomes our default and in-built confidence replaces inherent and perpetuated doubt, we’ll know we’re really starting to move the needle. And ‘inspiration’ alone – or one day a year – aren’t going to be the things that get us there.

3. At best, IWD is little more than an annual reminder of the dire state of gender equality in advertising – particularly in creative departments – where less than 10% of us ever have the opportunity to hold a senior position. But it can still be a catalyst to continue conversations that should already be happening daily. So, let’s talk about it. We don’t just need the right infrastructure in place to make gender equality in our industry a reality, we need the right paradigms.

Lizzie Wood, senior copywriter, The Monkeys

Profile photo of Lizzie Wood

1. So far, I’ve had a rare creative career where the vast majority of my leaders have been women. I’d love to pretend it hasn’t made a difference. Informal mentoring is such a silent career advancer, and it’s most likely to be available between similar people. I have spent long nights at the pub with my bosses, while my friend at another agency tells me she’s not invited, though her male creative partner is. I text them about funny things I see; that familiarity doesn’t always feel okay to have with a senior male, for either party. They’ve spent a little extra time giving me feedback, telling me stories that become lessons. They’ve pushed me to do more, put me forward for opportunities, held me in the light. Two weeks after one started, she very nonchalantly reviewed the pay roll and gave me a raise – not happy with women being underpaid. All I’ve known is support, friendship, a gentle push. I think this may be what men feel all the time. That’s why you need diversity in leadership, everyone deserves this experience.

3. The notion that IWD itself is tokenistic is pretty short sighted. When I hear this I firstly remind people that it’s International. There are hugely significant inequality issues across the world that this day helps bring to light, ones we aren’t exposed to everyday – underage marriage, genital mutilation, access to education. Maybe that makes it easy to look at issues abroad and think the job is done here – it is not. Here we’re still struggling to address men’s violence against women, unequal domestic labour, equality in leadership; issues that are drastically more unequal for women who aren’t white. We’re still 131 years away from global gender parity. The cupcakes and tribute to your sister on the gram may be tokenistic, but it’s not the day, it’s how we use it. We can’t control what isn’t conscious. So for me, IWD is about having conversations that can change perceptions and behaviour. Talking about issues you’ve heard of or experienced and making these problems known (preferably not in the echo chamber of an opt-in breakfast) is the only way we can break down bias and start questioning ourselves. I’ll start. The other day I saw a female creative’s resume, she had skyrocketed through creative titles at record speed. I was immediately sceptical of her talent. Pretty fucked up of me. I know plenty of men who have done the same and I’ve never second guessed their abilities. Anyone done that before?

Becky Worley, copywriter, and Sian Bedford, designer, Five by Five Global

1. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with female, senior creatives because the numbers just aren’t there. It’s a real shame to lose these perspectives and voices at a senior creative level. In my opinion, you can definitely see how a business lacking female, creative voices impacts its outputs.

2. My initial reaction was a little underwhelmed. The thing that jumped out at me is that equality shouldn’t have to be inspired. It’s something people need to take action on now, and not just feel inspired to. And once again the burden is on women to ‘prove’ that we deserve to be included.

3. As an industry, we should be much more open about the percentage of female creatives in senior positions as well as the wage gap. Being faced with cold, hard numbers on a regular basis can help reinforce that wake up call. Things are heading in the right direction, but more support for co-parents in child raising would be a huge step forward. Giving both parents this benefit means the burden doesn’t have to be on one gender alone, and can start changing perspectives of what milestones in a woman’s life mean she has to sacrifice her career for.


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