The advertising industry is not alone in its lack of women in leadership roles, and it is making strides to close the gender gap.
Overall, the ad industry employs a 50/50 split of women and men, but that balance shifts dramatically when looking at the C-Suite. Only 3% of women hold creative director positions at ad agencies worldwide, according to SheSays co-founder Laura Jordan Bambach. And when it comes to advertising awards ceremonies, which can serve as a stepping stone to leadership opportunities, these have historically employed an uneven amount of men on jury panels.
Cannes Lion, for example, has a judge panel that is 71% men. The awards behemoth still has work to do, but for the upcoming June 2015 awards, the panel will be made up of 31.5% women, up from 28.5% last year.
But closing the gender gap in ad leadership doesn’t only improve equality -- it may also improve performance. According to a study from Mintigo, large corporations over 1,000 employees yield higher revenue per employee when a female is in the CEO role.
With women bringing in more than half the income in 55% of U.S. households, marketers are perking up and taking note that to reach women, the gender needs to be better represented within industry ranks.
Statistics like these have even spurred conferences, speeches and initiatives.
After a twenty-year career in creative roles in agencies, Kat Gordon saw the need to create conversation around getting more women in creative leadership positions. Gordon founded the 3 Percent Conference, an organization dedicated to eliminating gender inequality in the space. The conference started as one event in 2012 in San Francisco, and has evolved into multiple road shows, an online community, scholarship program, creative award and business blog.
Cindy Gallop, founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and former chair of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, pointed out the gender disparity in a 2013 speech at the Art Directors Club Awards in Miami. The speech inspired the Art Director's Club Executive Director Ignacio Oreamuno to form the “Let’s Make the Industry 50/50 Initiative” to urge ad awards to strive to have judge panels with a 50/50 gender split.
Part of the problem awards shows face is that the judges must go through a rigorous selection process. These judges are picked from creative roles in the top ranks of ad agencies, so choosing an equal-parts-women-and-men judge panel becomes tricky without equal representation in leadership.
Still, awards ceremony Clios has adjusted judge panels to equally consist of both genders, offering a glimpse of hope into what could be.
Recent reports show change may be on the way: Women now hold as much as 11% of creative leadership roles, according to the 3 Percent Conference.
The effects these initiatives have had in the ad world are noticeable. The momentum is moving forward to find more women sitting on awards judge panels -- a move that could help the cause in the industry as a whole.