It’s 2018 – and as a woman I’m still made uncomfortable in the workplace due to my gender. A few years ago I was once forced to resign by an employer who sent me an email “accidentally”. He had written the email to a couple of the “okes” in the company about “Golf and Beers” and at the end he signed off with “How are we going to get rid of Abigail?”. Now look, I caused waves, I was an account manager who had spoken out about my account director who literally did nothing – because he was part of the boy’s club. And if you’re not at the table, your opinion doesn’t matter, and if you’re causing problems, your days are numbered. In the end, I was able to handle the situation efficiently, which allowed me to pay for the Veuve at my wedding and my honeymoon.
The “boys club” in agencies is still a thing, and unfortunately, it’s not something that’s going to change immediately, but things are shifting. It has taken 10 years in the UK for a 29% increase in the number of women at director level. I’m not sure what the figures are domestically but I doubt they look as rosey.
The major issue with the boys club in agencies is that they’re driving away talent. In the past, to succeed as a woman in the workplace, you had to deliver work faster and better than men. And in generations past, when uncomfortable situations arose, you were told that you were being emotional. But now women are not afraid to speak out against gender inequality and sexual harassment in the workplace, and in some cases take offenders to court for discrimination during and after pregnancy.
Traditional agencies are less capable of changing their perspectives on women in the workplace, and in my opinion, men over the age of 40 find the new rules especially hard to adjust to. The minute you become pregnant that glass ceiling becomes more of an acknowledged concrete ceiling, rather than an unacknowledged one.
There are some incredibly talented female creatives and business women out there and when they hear whispers of the boy’s clubs at traditional agencies, they steer clear.
I can attest to the fact that women should never work in these environments. It may be great experience for a year or two, straight out of university, but when you want to actually start living your life, and I’m not talking about marriage and babies, I’m talking about having time to go to gym, to go on a date, to date someone, to go on holiday, and more importantly, to have a weekend. Let’s be frank, how many of you have weekends where you’re stressed about Monday and the sound, or mention, of Carte Blanche makes you want to hurl?
The dogmatic approach to women in traditional agencies, whilst the growth of women in business increases steadily, is the reason traditional agencies are losing out on some shit-hot talented women and hindering their ability to grow.