‘Women in adland these days have no idea how good they’ve got it’

Some women in advertising may not realise how far the industry has actually come from its filthy Mad Men-esque heyday in the 1990s. In this guest post, senior creative and copywriter Katrina Mercer argues it's time for women to move on and take charge.

The advertising girls’ club. Sounds like an oxymoron – but from what I can tell, there are now plenty of females in advertising; and this is a genius move. We’ve all heard the statement that 80% of household purchases are made by women. So why has it taken so long for our industry to reflect this?

Back when I started as a creative in 2002, there were only a handful of female creatives across Australia, and I can literally name all of them. Rebecca Carasco, Jane Caro, Justine Armour, Ruth Belotti, Jules Webster, Mel Coenen, Carolyn Diamond, Bettina Clark, Sian Binder, Emma Hill, Georgia Arnott, Bec Brideson, Marianne Little, Samira Ansari, Lisa Fedyszyn, Ane Lynau, Laura Hunter, Sarah Machell, Nicole Mandill, Brooke Lucas, Melissa Turkington, Pic Andrews, Jen Barnett, Julia Elton Bott, Rita Hannan, Sandy McGilvray, Natalie Harvey, Denise Hallam, Ingrid Mason and of course, myself.

There was a kind of knowing between us, if we didn’t already work in the same office, we’d see each other at industry functions and there was no need to speak a word of what we’d been going through – we just knew we were all experiencing it. Forget about the glass ceiling, at least when it’s made from glass you can see through to the other side. This was a goddamn cement boulder hanging over our heads, preventing us from seeing where we could go.

Women in the industry these days don’t know how good they’ve got it. Now, this isn’t a Gen X vs Millennial pity party, this is a statement of fact.

This new wave of gender-balanced opportunity has opened the door for a bunch of talented female creatives out there and an exciting group of mixed gender teams – all of which are working their way through the ranks nicely – leaving us with a healthy advertising girls’ club, to rival any Stirling Cooper like men’s club.

And this is super important, in a post Trump-apocalyptic era! This, however, should have been the case all along, but instead, at the turn of the century, we had a filthy Mad Men-esque hangover from the advertising heyday of the 80s and 90s. I commend those like Jane who had to fight so hard to be taken seriously. They have literally paved the way for women like us.

As time goes on, the struggle lessens and the women in creative don’t have such a mismatched fight on their hands. The more women that climb the ranks, the more women will be hired beneath them to pass the diamond-encrusted baton onto.

Having said that, we need to be creators of our own destiny. We need to stop waiting for permission to do the job we know we can do, and give ourselves permission to do it anyway. That’s the thing we can learn from men, they don’t need permission, they just do it. It’s time for us to believe in ourselves and to manifest the roles we want.

It’s time for us to turn the tables and fight back with the talent we know we have… They won’t be able to keep their hands off it!

Katrina Mercer is a creative director and senior copywriter


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