Gender in Advertising: We’re the Boys’ Club. Who Are You?

Guest Post by: Liz Roberts

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in advertising creative departments. There are many books, articles and studies providing advice for women trying to make it in creative. However, these sources all tell women something different. Be feminine. Be masculine. Be quiet. Stand out. And even with all this contradictory advice, the system is still against women. Negative stereotypes about motherhood, female humor and other feminine qualities abound.

Part of the problem is that women are seen in terms of narrow concepts by both men and other women, rather than as whole, complex people. A woman is more than a mother, a sister, a coworker, a friend. She may be brilliantly creative; she may not be. She may be extremely dedicated to her job or her family or both. She may manage her time efficiently or she may not, and that might just depend on the day.

RobertsMost of the advice given to women by writers and industry professionals can, or should, be summed up with two simple words (albeit cliché): be yourself. In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shared the idea that “feminism wasn’t supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competitions over who is raising children better, organizing more cooperative marriages, or getting less sleep. It was supposed to make us free.” Equality in the workplace and in society in general means having the freedom to live as a whole person without fear.

When women are empowered to be their whole selves, they make better employees. They are not confined to stereotypically feminine behaviors, but they do not have to conform to the “boys’ club” either. Their ideas are fresh and original. They hold themselves and others accountable. They are confident.

Better employees mean better business.

Advertising creative departments have a long way to go, but there is hope. As more women break into senior level positions, women just entering into creative will be able to see how strength, emotion, intelligence, cooperation and other characteristics come together in one outstanding female leader. Then, hopefully, they will be able to assert their true selves and, in turn, provide the unique insights needed to make great ads.

More women in creative means better advertising.


One thought on “Gender in Advertising: We’re the Boys’ Club. Who Are You?

  1. This is very insightful on the equality of women and men in the creative department of an agency and in business overall. This morning we discussed education and how in the classroom women and men are equal, but when they get out into the real world everything changes. Our best example was Scott Walker. He does not have a college degree, but is able to hold a position of power. We questioned whether or not this would be the same if a woman held this rank.

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