Chief Creative Officer, McCann Erickson, New York
The number of women in high-ranking positions in creative departments is dismally low. This is a fact. What is debatable is why. Depending on which report you read, Neil French explained that it is because 1) women are "crap"; 2) women don't work hard enough; or 3) the senior-most creative job is "not a joke job." Presumably "joke jobs" are the ones we do with aplomb. Disheartening stuff, from one of the business' most eloquent writers. The real explanation for the shortage of women creative directors is the same explanation for why women aren't adequately represented in high-ranking corporate positions or in politics. Things aren't equal. Change is happening at a snail's pace. Some people would be happy if the world never changed, which is why Nancy Vonk has to be applauded for outing Neil French when he came to such dumb conclusions. I have my hopes pinned on the next generation. My two teenage sons learned early on that women can do anything. They also learned that when they make a big, fat mistake there's only one thing to do. Apologize.
President/Chief Creative Officer, Deutsch/New York
French does have a point that senior level creatives should be 100 percent dedicated to their jobs. However, he has a very narrow view; You can be 100 percent dedicated to your job without 100 percent of your time being spent as a creative director. Some of the best creatives in the industry have passions outside of advertising that inspire their work- whether it be writing music, raising daffodils or raising a family. At the end of the day, it is not a contest to prove who worked the most hours; it is about producing the best work. Maybe I live in a bit of an ivory tower here, but in my 13 years at Deutsch, I haven't encountered any biases. When you put your head down, bust your ass and come up with great ideas, you win. However, I can't ignore that a lot of the rest of the industry hasn't had a similar experience to mine, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
While I think French's statements illuminated a topic that has been sorely overlooked, it was not productive, nor did he offer a solution. The onus is on all of us-educators, creative schools, industry associations, marketers and agencies. We need to encourage talented people from all walks of life to be inspired to work in this industry. Leaders of this industry need to hire and promote individuals based on their talent and abilities, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual preference. Simply, a premium needs to be placed on the best ideas.
It just saddens me that this needs to be said at all. I would like to think that there is an upside to French's commentary. Perhaps it will serve as a positive wakeup call to squash biases that still lurk out there in an industry that should be all about progressive thinking and the fair evaluation of ideas.
Executive Creative Director, BBH/London
I look around this agency and I see lot of women, and a lot of them have children and these women are important-we would be knackered without them. I don't look at them and go, "Oh, look, a creative woman." I just see a talented person. It seems like a bizarrely Victorian conversation to have, it's almost ridiculous. The only legitimate comment to make on the issue of motherhood is that given the pressures that are brought to bear uniquely on women, you wonder how many men would cope as well as some of the many women in big positions who have managed to have children.
Co-Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather/Toronto
Coming out of schools, it's 50/50. Then women disappear, they go out of the business. I've worked in a company that has lots of women, and I've had a male CEO for whom it's never been a big deal to offer flexibility to women-or to men who become parents. I realize that that's a bubble experience-its not the norm by a longshot.
If you get men in power positions with some version of French's bias-he's running on stereotypes-they're approaching women with the preconceived view that they aren't going to be as valuable, they aren't going to do as good a job. You need the total opposite. Creative people have very fragile egos to start with-you get someone in a position of power giving you messages that you're going to fail, then you're going to live down to those expectations.
Creative Director, Anomaly
Why aren't there more female creative directors? Well, why aren't there more female film directors? Or CEOs? Or CMOs? Why aren't there more female senators and congressmen? Ultimately, this is a sexist business category inside a sexist business community, inside a sexist country.
Vice-Chairman/Chief Creative Officer, TBWA France
We always have to deal with this stupid question, "How can you manage private life and business?" Nobody asks this question of men. But men also have children, a wife, a dog, friends, sports and, of course, mistresses-this takes a lot of time, too.When young women ask me for advice, I say, Don't think, just do it. Just do it-do children, do the job, do what you want. You will find the solution. Women are very flexible.