"That's the way the program shaped up," said a Four A's spokeswoman.
The situation is typical for an industry in which women account for 56% of the 130,000 workforce but where on average only one in three employees in the creative department is female, according to an informal study by Creativity. The numbers are even thinner in the higher ranks.
"There are some real tight boys clubs" in agency creative departments, said Sally Minard, partner in Lotas Minard Patton McIver, New York, founded by women in 1986.
The women who have slugged it out in the male domain of agency creative departments are out to change that, however.
N.W. Ayer & Partners CEO Mary Lou Quinlan has embarked on a crusade against the under-representation of women. Last month at the American Advertising Federation's Western regional conference in Napa, Calif., in the first of many panels she intends to host nationwide, Ms. Quinlan chastised the locker-room atmosphere common in creative departments-as well as the ads produced in that environment.
"Is advertising listening to women?" she asked.
"Historically, men have had success in selling to women, but the world has changed and women have changed," said Caryn Wiley-Rapoport, president of Wiley & Associates, Westlake Village, Calif. "Women are no longer making purchases to please the men in their lives; women are making and influencing purchases based upon their personal needs and goals-and therein lies the difference."
While mainstream ad agencies might be lagging in the hiring and advancing of women ad professionals, several owned-by-women shops that specialize in marketing to women have sprung up.
One is Ms. Minard's, who noted that her shop is successful at targeting women because "respect for the consumer is No. 1. We talk to women the way we'd like to be talked to."
Her partner, Judy Lotas, added with pride that the 11-year-old shop's positioning has not only helped it gain clients but also has "helped us to lose others."
Amazon Advertising in San Francisco-founded by Lynda Pearson, creative director, and Millie Olson, president-has adopted a woman's slant on the business.
"We're into active listening, and we leave our egos at the door," Ms. Olson, formerly creative director at Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco, said of her shop's feminine management style.
Amazon has produced Harley-Davidson Motor Co. ads directed toward women.
Another new shop, Anda & Scotti, New York, is chagrined by the fact that it gets advice to avoid being labeled as women's marketing specialists.
In Seattle, Voice LLC was started by two women with agency backgrounds who'd worked on a new feminine hygiene product, InSync. In conducting focus groups, they found that women were tired of being portrayed in feminine-hygiene advertising as anonymous females in white leotards. That realization pushed them to explore opening their own shop doing advertising from a more feminine perspective.
"It does seem almost laughable that the job of communication is being left in the hands of white, usually single males between 25 and 35," said Amazon Advertising's Ms. Pearson. "I wouldn't say that communicating was what they were