Women in advertising: ‘We’ve gotta break the f*****g rules’

Being a woman in the media is not an easy task, and according to Dentsu Creative’s CEO Kirsty Muddle, “we’ve gotta break the f*****g rules” to improve the industry’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) culture.

Muddle was joined on an all-star panel by Seven West Media’s chief marketing and audience officer, Melissa Hopkins, Special Australia’s senior strategy director Abbie Dubin-Rhodin, and Phoebe Sloane, senior copywriter at Clemenger BBDO, at last week’s Women in Media National Conference.

(L-R): Hopkins, Dubin-Rhodin, Muddle, Sloane and moderator Sunita Gloster

The panelists looked at key issues women face in the media and marketing industry – sexism, harassment, misogyny, lack of inclusion, issues of safety and motherhood penalities.

“These are not myths, but thieves to our industry,” said panel moderator Sunita Gloster. “They destroy culture, they rob productivity, they lose us talent, and quite frankly, they harm the women in our industry.

“Advertising professionals are calling for stronger action in this area, and whilst there is a perception that things are improving, the experiences of sexism and gender discrimination unfortunately remain common.”

Muddle said as creators, this industry has got “more impact on human behaviour than policy”, and we should be using that to our advantage.

“We have an ethical responsibility to make sure what we’re putting out in the world has got a positive impact and people don’t understand what a force it really is,” she said. “Diversity breeds original thinking, and so its got a massive impact on solving some of the biggest problems we have.”

But women are tired of having to problem solve and attempt to change the status quo.

“I’m starting to realise the industry doesn’t necessarily want me to change it,” said Sloane. “And that’s a really hard thing to grapple with. I am split – I’m so fatigued as I am fired up, so jaded as I am optimistic.

“We still have such a long way to go,” she added.

Dubin-Rhodin, who recently returned from maternity leave, agreed.

“I’m very tired, and right as I returned from maternity leave I moved to a new job,” she said.

“But it’s a very family friendly place and that gives me hope – but that is not common. Often, especially if you’re a woman, you will have to make a choice – motherhood or career. And that’s not fair.”

Muddle said: “That’s where we need to break the rules. You shouldn’t have to choose.”

“And this is also why you need female leaders,” Hopkins added.

“We need more women in leadership positions to break the status quo and improve the culture of this industry.”

Hopkins said that the industry should shift the conversation from gender, to talent.

“I know that’s going to take a while, but we need to champion female leaders that are bossing it, but also males that have been behind women getting to where they should be,” she concluded.


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