In August, after it was announced John Campbell had joined Radio New Zealand and would take up a drivetime position and replace Mary Wilson, many New Zealanders began celebrating his return with gleeful posts on social media. But Rachel Smalley took an opposing view and wrote an opinion piece drawing attention to the fact that we were introducing “yet another white male broadcaster to prime time, at the expense of a strong, capable, experienced female interviewer”.
Despite the fact Wilson was actually becoming Campbell’s boss, Smalley went on to name the hosts of New Zealand’s main primetime radio shows—all male, apart from RNZ’s Susie Ferguson who she named “the lone female voice in prime time”—and argued that a male perspective on issues such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, funding cuts to Women’s Refuge, and the gender pay gap is very different to that of woman’s.
The column created plenty of discussion, and a similar argument could be made about the world of advertising, for it, in many ways, shapes how we see the world from a young age and also has a distinct lack of gender diversity.
Globally, the statistics of leading women in agencies are so low that at one stage only three percent of creative directors were female, according to the 2004 Communications Arts Advertising Annual. In response, US-based Kat Gordon started the Three Percent Conference, which is held annually and builds a case for more female leaders in advertising, particularly on the creative side.
But, things are gradually changing and now 11 percent of creative directors are female, and while the number is still low, it is moving upwards.
In New Zealand, at least, there are now many women in leadership roles within agencies. OMD chief executive Kath Watson says she has witnessed this change first-hand.
“It was male-dominated,” she says. “When I started the girls were in media and they were the secretaries. I worked in Colenso in the early days and they were all boys, all of them … None of the creative department were women. But it has changed a lot and many of the young people coming through are women.”
CAANZ chief executive Paul head agrees.
“In my life as a client going back over 20 years I have definitely seen a change within demographics in the industry and that’s a good thing,” he says.
“It’s far less male-dominated than it used to be. My sense is that there has been a change, but that is probably not so much to do with this industry, I think it’s part of a broader societal change.”
Head says when you walk through agencies these days there tends to be a reasonably even gender mix. “We [CAANZ] haven’t done an industry demographic survey, but my anecdotal position is that the gender mix is around 50/50 within areas of the industry … If you look at some of the leading agencies, you’ve got people like Nicky Bell, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, you’ve got Livia Esterhazy, managing director at Clemenger BBDO, Kath Watson, CEO of OMD, the largest media agency in the country, you’ve got Louise Bond running Spark PHD.”
But when looking at the executive board of CAANZ, which is made up of elected chief executive officers of a number of member agencies, there are only three females to eight males.
In response, Head says members are elected by their peers. “There’s strong representation from strong women around the table.”