At FinchFactor, we’re in the business of managing reputations for creative agencies. As such, we get contacted on a regular basis by awards show and event co-ordinators looking for creative directors to be jury members and talking heads. Just a few years ago, we never heard this question but more and more people are asking ‘have you got any women’? So much so that we’re starting to feel a little like we should be sticking a red light in our window.
Women, it seems, are in demand. Now, as a woman in business, I would love to say that it’s because we’re all excelling, achieving and paving the way. However, the real reason is, I’m sorry to say, much less inspiring.
The sad fact of the matter is that there’s a serious lack of oestrogen in senior creative positions. Walk into any project management or production department and the room is positively teeming with senior level women. But upper echelons of the creative side of agencies are still dominated by men. And as more and more events are recognising the need for balance in their line-ups, it’s becoming clear that there’s an industry-wide shortage of female senior creatives.
The Mad Men days may be well and truly behind us but part of the old boys club still lingers on. Now, it would be easy to sit here and blame men for this turn of events but, as it happens, I think that the responsibility lies well and truly at our own feet. In every agency that I’ve ever been in, I see women mothering the men who occupy senior creative roles. When the male creative director fails to turn up to a meeting or is inexcusably late, the female traffic/project/account manager (delete as appropriate) tuts and rolls her eyes like a mildly irritated but ever-doting mother.
But why? Is it some maternal instinct or oedipal complex that women simply can’t shake? We women might think that we’re demonstrating an impressive level of patience but the trouble is that we’re doing ourselves a massive disservice. If the roles were reversed, would men give women such an easy ride? No. Of course they wouldn’t. They don’t, and why should they? An equal playing field is just that – equal.
In order to be taken seriously in the creative industry – or any industry, for that matter – women need to push back. If we act like doting mothers, then we will only ever succeed in stereotypical ‘mothering’ roles. I’m not suggesting that, for women to succeed in certain industries, they have to act like men – far from it. I’m suggesting that women realise their own potential and, above all, value their contribution. After all, we work too hard to be treated like glorified babysitters.
And, as the straight-talking Betty White says: “Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina. Those things take a pounding.” Well, Betty, I couldn’t have put it better myself.