The gender gap: Ad industry still talking French

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Much like the man himself, voters were outspoken when it came to creative legend Neil French's controversial take on why there aren't more prominent women creative directors in the business. Most thought his opinion that women are typically too concerned with family obligations to succeed in the business-and, as a result, are "crap"-was representative of a lingering gender inequity. While no one took up his, uh, unique rhetorical style, some voters did agree that the ad agency business is pretty much all consuming and that it's tough to get ahead while juggling a family.

"There is a gender gap in the business," said Pierre Pilon, executive creative director at Thinksuit, Quebec. "It is not only related to the position of creative director. It is across the board. Very few women make it to the top. It is unfortunate because some of the best creative directors or people in the business are women."

Others opined that gender issues aren't limited to the ad industry. "The gender gap is moving in the wrong direction in many industries," said Diane K. Danielson, CEO of Downtown Women's, a Boston-based social network for businesswomen. "We did a survey of our members last year, and the gender gap dropped to ninth on the list of concerns for women in the office. What was at the top? Working too many hours. Perhaps women are too tired to fight for their rights."

Many thought the debate was old news. "The ad industry has always had a gender and race gap," said Orestes Carter, associate media director of UniWorld Group, New York. "It's amusing how the subject comes up every several years and people act surprised."

Some did come in closer to Mr. French's take.

"The truth is that advertising, and specifically agency work, is damn taxing," said Lisa Seward, media director at Fallon, Minneapolis. "To succeed wildly, one pretty much has to sacrifice much in their personal lives. Those who choose to make those sacrifices are rewarded. If more of the `sacrificers' are men, so be it."

"I am sure that things aren't perfect in terms of the gender gap, but overall there are great opportunities for women in the ad biz," said Barry Silverstein, exec VP-group director at Arnold, New York. "I think we have bigger problems in the business than this one."

What you say: 64% of voters, or 706 responders, think the ad industry still has a serious gender gap, though why there is one is still up for debate. Meanwhile, 36%, or 402 voters, think that women are doing just fine, thank you.

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