More Than Half of Women in Advertising Have Been Sexually Harassed

4A's Finds One in Three Women Denied Promotion Due to Discrimination

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More than half of women in advertising have experienced sexual harassment at least once, according to a statistic from a 4A's study that follows on the heels of Saatchi & Saatchi Chairman Kevin Roberts' resignation due to controversial comments about gender diversity.

Nancy Hill
Nancy Hill Credit: Courtesy 4A's

The survey looks at emailed responses from 375 female ad professionals, 43% in middle management and 33% in senior management. Men also responded to the survey (180 of them), but for this phase, the association only looked at the women's answers, said 4A's President-CEO Nancy Hill.

Ms. Hill said she was not surprised by the results, but she knows some people will be. "For me, personally, what I wanted to do was make it irrefutable because I think too many people don't think it's as pervasive as it is," she said. "Because of the position I am in, people tell me their stories all their time."

One finding that Ms. Hill said may shock people is the fact that one in three women said they have not received desired assignments or promotions at least a few times because of discrimination and 42% said they have not been included in decision-making because of discrimination.

The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of women agree somewhat and 19% agree totally that there were times they personally experienced discrimination without realizing it at the time. Some 39% said they feel potentially vulnerable to discrimination at work due to their gender, while 15% said they feel very vulnerable.

Ms. Hill, who challenged agency CEOs to improve gender diversity issues during the 4A's annual Transformation conference in March, said her suggestion is for the industry to admit it has a problem so people can take action and create an environment where people feel safe.

She also suggested having resumes submitted in a way where the people hiring can't discern gender or race.

Next month at Advertising Week, the 4A's plans to release consumer research it conducted with SSRS around perceptions of women in advertising. In the fall, the association will also reveal the rest of its findings from the gender diversity survey, along with the answers from male respondents.

Earlier this month, Mr. Roberts announced his resignation from Saatchi after in an incendiary interview with Business Insider in which he said the "fucking debate is all over" about gender diversity in the ad industry.

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