International Women’s Day: comments from the ad industry

Today (8 March) is International Women’s Day, and this year’s them is all about pushing for gendar parity. A recent report from the World Economic Forum claims that while the difference in pay between the genders has been a topic of growing importance, real progress seems to be some far off.

The report estimates that it will take 217 years to achieve gender parity across the world.

The marketing and advertising industry have been eager to jump on the occasion as a way to highlight the issues around gender, while also promoting themselves as the same time. There have been some misfires, such as the largely maligned Brewdog’s Pink IPA campaign, and some success such as Union Hand’s release of a Rwandan microlot coffee produced exclusively be women in the region.  

To help celebrate International Women’s Day, here are some comments from across the ad industry.

Monica Majumdar, Strategy Director, Spark Foundry:

“It's so easy to forget and take for granted how far women have come since 1918. On International Women's Day and the centenary of women's right to vote, it's important to remind ourselves how far women have come, the sacrifices that previous women made and that the journey is not over. I am happy to have achieved so much of what my mother wanted for me, much that, due to societal expectations, she herself wasn't able to do.  

“That's why I feel lucky to be in an agency, and industry, with such strong and admirable women in the senior ranks, each embracing their own style of leadership. And all elegantly navigating a balance of family and work that doesn't hinder their progress. The journey to equality now includes not just legislation, but de-stigmatising and normalising the behaviours such as equal parental leave. And empowering women to feel they can ask for the same as men.”

Amy Kean, Head of Strategic Innovation, Global, Starcom:

“I’m much more aware of the role and necessity of diversity in business than I was at the start of my career, and now it’s the thing I care about most. In the last few years women in media (and across every industry) have realized that certain behaviours, rituals and rules that we thought were OK are not OK, so to see this change, and that we’re coming out of the woods, is a wonderful, positive thing. And things are changing, slowly."

Katharine Hansford, Futures Manager, Publicis Media:

“There are still pockets of our industry where women are under-represented. When I went to my first tech trade show 4 years ago, I felt like an outsider amongst swarms of middle-aged men in suits and left the show feeling invisible and deflated. I’ve returned to that same trade show every year since and it’s been encouraging to see increasing numbers of women attend and no longer feeling like I’m overlooked because of my gender.

“There’s still a long way to go before we have true equality – the tech space in particular is still largely dominated by men – but I’ve seen a noticeable change in a short space of time, and I hope the pace of change will continue to accelerate to challenge gender stereotypes.”

Joanna Lyall, Managing Director, Mindshare UK:

“I see two big challenges in getting more women into senior positions. Firstly, let’s take confidence and visible ambition; women are less likely to make choices that are about raising their personal profile. We see less of them on stages, in keynotes and panels and this lack of visibility has significant impact on both them as an individual and those that look to be inspired by them. This comes down to women often holding back and not actively putting themselves forward. It’s therefore the responsibility of employers to develop programmes that prepare women more actively for this being a part of their role that they can learn to love.

“Secondly, the maternity slow down. Managing the transition between going on mat leave and returning is so critical and often overlooked.  The return to work is a time when women can fall into a holding pattern because they are adjusting to managing work and home life and companies must do more to acknowledge this and then help them accelerate. Organisations with a strategy and programme on how to work with both men and women during this time will be more successful.”

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