In the year 2000, there was one female Creative Director in the UK. Not a percentage of Creative Directors, just one. Fast-forward 20 years down the line and only 11% of Creative Directors in the UK are female. Although this is certainly an improvement, the growth of female representation in executive roles continues at a significantly slower pace.
11% means that, while many other industries and career paths have become far more gender-equal, the creative industry is lagging. And, really, we’ve only just begun.
We sat down with our Creative Director, Nikki Poñe, to discuss gender roles in the creative realm and the positive shift we can expect to see in society in the coming years.
Breaking into the agency environment
Having more females employed in the digital marketing world doesn’t start at the bottom. It isn’t necessarily difficult for women to break into the creative digital space, Nikki says. What is difficult and has been for a long time, is the climb up the ladder to more senior positions.
“I don’t think it’s difficult for women to get into digital marketing, but there does seem to be a higher percentage of males in the top tier,” she says. “Climbing to the top of that ladder in the digital marketing realm, though, is harder for women.”
When we asked Nikki why she felt this was the case, she explained that it comes down to archaic gender norms that continue to permeate our modern world. “It’s one of these injustices that come from history, one that will take quite a while to work their way out of society.”
“I think there’s still a lot of people in certain generations that perhaps still will look at a male’s CV and a female’s CV and still have implications like: Is she a mom? Does she have children? Is she going to be emotional? Is she going to be hard to work with? All these very – hopefully – old-school thoughts still exist,” Nikki explains.
The challenges female Creative Directors face
As a result of the fact that old thought patterns and injustices continue to affect the growth of females in senior-level positions, there are several unique challenges that female Creative Directors face. Perhaps the biggest challenge is simply being heard, Nikki says.
“Sitting in a boardroom and throwing out your opinion and have it been taken seriously and having people listen to you, that’s the biggest challenge. Being heard,” she explains.
“Collaboration means opinions. And if your opinion isn’t taken seriously because maybe people think it’s coming from an emotional place as opposed to a business place, that’s a problem. So, having your opinions and your thoughts, whether they’re backed by 20 years of experience or not, having them taken seriously is a real challenge for women in the workplace.”
Then, there are the mental challenges that female Creative Directors face, and just about any female in the business world must deal with: guilt.
Advice for females in the marketing space
When we asked Nikki what advice she has for women in the marketing world, her answer was powerful in its simplicity: Drop the guilt.
“Whether your guilt is coming from the fact that you aren’t getting to work out seven days a week because you’re just exhausted by the end of the day, or because you missed your kid’s soccer game, or because you don’t feel like having a glass of wine with your husband at the end of the day – it’s okay! Drop the guilt,” she says.
“Everyone will survive. You don’t have to be the pivotal point for everyone all the time. If we can just drop the guilt, the amount of mental load we let go of will be exponential.”
Aside from letting go of blame, Nikki’s advice to women in the digital marketing world is to work hard and never stop learning: “In terms of making it in marketing as a female, just be willing to put in the hard work. Be willing to learn. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing. Also, like I have done with PrimePixels, try find a space where your experience and hard work are seen before your gender.”
Not all hope is lost
Even though 11% is not much to brag about, there certainly is hope. “The younger generation, they’re on top of it,” Nikki says.
“They don’t think those things anymore. But, right now, the younger generations aren’t making the decisions yet. When they age and get to that point where they are CEOs, they are on the top tier of companies, they’ve grown up through this industry without that predisposition, then we may start seeing things really change.”
There is much work to be done and we’ve only just begun. The world of digital marketing needs to become more inclusive, societal norms regarding gender equality need to be turned on their heads, and access to executive positions for women needs to become a fairer playing field. However, the fact that there is growth at all is a testament to the fact that times are changing, and the sooner we can get younger generations into decision-making roles, the more inclusive the creative industry will become.