Like Hires Like: Why Women Should Run Agencies
Originally published in Advertising Week.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re at an agency founded by two women, where the executive leadership team is 50% women, and 60% of 140 employees are women. Add to that, a growing list of clients, an impressive body of work, leaders who value their people, transparency that goes a long way in retaining talent, and this seems too good to be true, right?
Wrong. It’s real. I go there every day.
Don’t beat yourself up for thinking it’s a dream. We all know gender inequality runs rampant in this industry. The 3% Conference was founded because of it. While the number of female creative directors is up to 11%, we’ve got a long way to go.
That’s why I want you to see what I see.
I want to shine a light on how a women-founded agency is thriving, as a counterpoint to all the stories we read that highlight too many white males at the top, the gender wage gap, and sexual harassment (Elephant on Mad Ave.).
Full disclosure, I am global content director of the agency that acquired this agency two years ago, and I sit there on most days. I must admit, it's an odd place to be; I'm there, somewhat related but mostly not. But what this proximity affords me is a front row seat. And every day I see many women with a place at the table. So much so, it’s the norm. It’s not a bubble. It just is. And now that I’ve seen the culture and the work firsthand, I want others to know it too. Because once you see it, you can’t un-see it—and that’s the first step in making this the norm everywhere.
Don’t just take it from me, a fellow female. According to a new Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, “Most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders.” There are countless articles touting the benefits of working for women, who are typically more engaged than their male counterparts. And more engagement leads to a more productive workforce.
It makes business sense. And this is what I see.
I’ve learned a lot simply by watching my surroundings. While Swift doesn’t like to play the “woman” card, in this industry I feel they are a stellar example of what does work—and works well. So I’m playing it for them.
I believe in “if you cannot see it, you cannot be it.” Let’s urge trade publications to feature more women-founded companies, women-focused stories, and demand that juries and speaker panels have equal numbers of men and women. We are 50% of the population, we need 50% representation.
In Cindy Gallop's closing keynote at The 3% Conference last week, she presented a 10-point plan to start your own 'agency'. And she gave shout-outs to women-founded agencies that had started in the past year, like New York-based Joan and Wolf & Wilhelmine. It only then that I truly realized what an anomaly a women-founded agency is—because Swift is not celebrating its first anniversary, but rather its tenth.
I’ve seen the future of advertising. I want you to see it too.