Women in Marketing: Past, Present and Future

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    April 30, 2015

Women in Marketing: Past, Present and Future


You may have heard that the POTUS visited Charlotte in April. During an 80-minute, intimate “town hall” session at ImaginOn, the uptown library and theater for children, Obama talked about creating more opportunities for women.

I attended the event, and it got me thinking about women in my industry. I’ve been in this business for a long time, and it’s seen its fair share of changes—many of them positive—since I started out as a young graphic designer. But the president’s talk made me want to take a deeper dive into the data. I wanted to know: what role do women play in marketing, advertising and public relations today?

What I found made me smile – and inspired more questions.

The short answer is that women are making strides, yet we still have room to grow. Consider the following:

  • According to the Advertising Annuals of Communication Arts, 3.6 percent of all creative directors were female in 1984, 1994 and 2004. By 2013, that number had grown to 11.5 percent – a 319 percent increase.
  • Movements like the 3% Conference further illustrate the gains being made by women. Launched in fall 2012, the 3% Conference champions female creative talent and leadership. It’s now a two-day, 400-person event supplemented with multi-city roadshows, online communities, a scholarship fund, creative award and blog.
  • Yet while our industry is flush with female talent, there aren’t a lot of us in leadership positions. Thirty percent of all small businesses are women-owned, but in this industry, that number shrinks to 9 percent. We’re not alone; women are also lagging in industries like construction, transportation/warehousing and finance/insurance.
  • This could be partly due to women leaving the workforce for family and/or other interests outside of their career. One large NY agency says it struggles to place an equal number of women in leadership roles. The agency’s staff is 55 percent women, but the leadership is only 38 percent women.

Why does any of this matter?

The advertising business is a $33 billion industry, and women make most purchasing decisions. Agencies must be able to speak to this critical audience.

At Wray Ward, I feel lucky to work with 70 incredibly talented, creative professionals from both sides of the gender fence. Each one brings a valuable and unique perspective to the work we do to build brands and tell stories. I’ve watched this agency grow and change for 22 years, and I’ve seen many of our industry’s transformations illustrated within our own walls. I remember when it was nearly impossible to find female copywriters; we just hired two. Female developers are still rare compared to their male counterparts, but we recently welcomed one to our digital team. I’m excited to watch all of our staff continue to deliver great results for our clients and grow in their own careers.

Companies in all industries should be committed to continued progress for women. Putting our best foot forward will take a more comprehensive, deliberate effort at collecting data on how we’re doing, but we’ve got the right idea.

Whether or not we think life’s equal or fair, if we believe in something, we should always keep forging ahead. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

Sources: Advertising Annuals of Communication Arts, American Express OPEN, Fast Company, National Association of Women Business Owners, The 3% Conference

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