Perhaps, I am a mythical creature.
I run an advertising agency. I am a woman.
At least, that’s what I’d gather from recent Fortune Magazine and Digiday articles. The fact that our agency was founded by a strong woman, and is currently run by strong women, three of them in fact, and boasts a staff that’s 60% women, means that we’re trending on the steep side of some curve.
However, I have only one question: Who cares?
As the female leader of a predominantly female agency, I fail to see the relevance in the numbers. How moving from 3% of creative directors to 11% industry-wide matters. In fact, focusing on stats about gender and ethnicity appear so disingenuous that they are distracting us from the real issue: business.
The business issues I face are not different because I’m a woman. No one asks my male counterparts how they manage running a business and a home. There are no “Most Powerful Men in Business” lists.
I wonder if the myth is self-perpetuating. Are we allowing the “females are under-represented” story line to continue simply for the lack of someone to stand up and call bullshit? Well, bullshit, I say. Women do control two-thirds of household spending. Which is an economic and cultural force that cannot be ignored.
One issue that seems to be at the forefront of this discussion—both in the agency business and in all other industries—is how women can be both a mother and a powerhouse in business. In my agency, there are just as many fathers as there are mothers. In fact, I believe that caregivers—both men and women—should be pushing for an industry as progressive as ours to pioneer new forms of flex time, clearer career road maps for parents, and more reasons to retain the best talent—both male and female—from fleeing the industry for want of a child.
This is not a gender inequality issue. This is a perception issue. We, as women, must stop allowing ourselves to be objectified as unique and strange creatures in the advertising industry, or this will continue to be a numbers game.
Here’s what’s not a game: the industry’s ability to impact client business. So, let’s stop answering the questions that don’t matter, like “Where do you find the time?” and “How do you do it all?” and start focusing on the questions that do matter. Questions like “How did you solve that particular issue for your client?”
Strong, smart women have come before us. Strong, smart women will continue to have an impact. It’s as simple as that. There are more of us than people think. While we are definitely not the first, we can be the ones who make sure this is the last time we have the numbers conversation.
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