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International Womens Day

Five ways to get more female creatives to the top in advertising – Ali Hanan in Creative Review today

If you do a Google Image search for ‘advertising creative director’, this is what comes up:


It’s the ‘face’ of the industry: white, male, in black T-shirts. But does it have to be this way? Here, Ali Hanan, creative director and founder of Creative Equals, offers five practical suggestions for how we can get more women to the top.

Currently, writes Ali Hanan, only 11% of the world’s advertising creative directors are female. A recent study shows 70% of female creatives work in a department with a 75-25% male to female spilt. So as a female creative in your first job, you’re often the token woman in the corner.

And, as you look up, there are few female creative directors to mentor you. In London, only 14% of creative directors are women, which is maybe why 90% of young female creatives say they lack role models, according to the study by the Young Creative Council and Creative Equals, a new initiative to tackle the gender divide. Studies show men tend to mentor junior male talent or ‘people like me’, so male talent is earmarked for leadership roles early on – and with so few female creative mentors, young female talent misses out.

So how do we change as an industry? Here are five key areas we can tackle now.

1. Put female creatives on juries – and on stage

Look at many of the jury panels in the industry. Some you’ll see with a few ‘token’ women judges or in worst-case scenarios no women at all. Creative Equals is calling for all juries and awards speakers to be as balanced as possible and that imagery from the event needs to reflect diversity (to see it at its worst, check the Tumblr Too Many Guys One Girl, which has received some media attention of late). One of the reasons given for not having female judges is so few women are ‘known names’. This creates a double bind. If they’re never seen, they’re never ‘known’.

As ECD of Cheil, Caitlyn Ryan, says: “There is little point being the only different voice or view in the room – it needs to be closer to 50/50. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the most awarded work in our industry is usually sports brands, beer and or male grooming products. Ads that are made by and for young men. Guess who’s judging the work – young men. Perhaps men should start refusing to sit on juries where there is less than at least 30% women.”

International Women’s Day: WACL supports Creative Equals to change the ratio in adland’s creative departments

WACL - Women in Advertising and Communications London - is focused on getting more women into leadership positions and there is a particular need to do so within creative departments. Women make up just 24% of London’s creative departments, which is why just 14% of CD positions are held by women and female ECDs are few and far between. This is one of the biggest changes that needs to happen at scale, which is why WACL is supporting Creative Equals.  

"My agenda as President of WACL is “Speak Up”: to inspire others, to challenge and change and to celebrate and praise.  I wish Creative Equals every success in their bid to make change in this important area and I look forward to celebrating with them the appointment of many more female creative leaders.’

WACL is a club for the most influential women in the UK communications industry. Their members represent many of the most senior women in client organisations, media owners, advertising and media agencies. This year, as part of their agenda, they’re adding their weight to initiatives like SheSays, DAWN, BLOOM, The Girlhood and Future’s Network. We’re proud to be part of their ‘Speak Up’ campaign.

And, we’re speaking up. Let’s make 2016 a year for change for female creative talent and inspire more women to come in, stay and take on those critical leadership roles."

- Lindsey Clay, President of WACL, CEO Thinkbox


Happy International Women’s Day. As Ghandi said: be the change you want to see in the world.