It's not news to say that women and people of color are mostly missing from advertising senior leadership. In fact, it's why the 3% Movement exists in the 1st place. The name comes from a 2008 statistic that only 3% of Creative Directors at top ad agencies were women. The 3% Movement says that the numbers have improved since their founding, and now 29% of CDs are women. But as someone who's been interviewing for roles at the CD-level and above for almost a year, I have yet to interview with a female CD, ECD, GCD, or CCO at any of the 7 agencies I've met with.
It really hit home today: I learned from a dear friend that a Creative Director job she recommended me for went to a man. We'll get to him in a minute.
First, the saga....
I applied for this job in early July 2023, then subsequently participated in 4 rounds of interviews for this role over the next 3 months. Every interview was a smash hit, in which I basically received standing ovations. With tons of experience in the same category as this account and an impressive leadership record, I was apparently at the top of the candidate list. Then at the end of November, more than 4 months after applying, I was told that senior leadership at the agency had changed, and the new person overseeing the hiring for this role had decided to fill it in-house.
A month later, though, the friend who'd recommended me for the role said it was still empty, and I should reach out to this new senior leader. When I did, he seemed excited to talk, and said we'd connect in the new year. So fast forward to mid-January: I message him, no answer. Then I message him again, and again, no answer.
And then I hear the news today that the role has now, indeed, been filled...by a man. A man who's only been in the industry for 11 years, compared to my 20+.
I should be shaking my head. I should be shocked. I should be the tiniest bit surprised. BUT I'M NOT. I'm a woman of a certain age, and this has been the recurring theme of at least the last 5 years of my career.
And do NOT get me started on the rampant ageism in the industry (or toward some of our target audiences, but that's a story for a different day). It's the other dirty little secret hiding in plain sight. I'll admit, I used to think, "What are these olds doing here, trying to sound relevant about a medium they clearly just googled 2 hours ago?" But I also wasn't a hiring manager, passing them up and putting them out to pasture (gently, so as not to break a brittle bone).
C'mon, ad industry! If you only have (still predominantly white) men hiring men hiring men hiring men hiring men hiring men, then you're not only missing out on important voices in the rooms where decisions are made, you're missing a variety of perspectives and experiences and abilities that can make ads more effective, engaging, insightful...hell, even hilarious.
We CAN do better.