Where are all the women? By @larrygrange

Laurens Grainger

By Laurens Grainger


Where are all the women?


There’s quite a few things that I’m known to be quite bad for: losing things around the house, eating too many sweets, falling in love with spreadsheets.

But the worst of the lot?  I don’t call my Mum enough.  So I made sure to call her this week.

As well as giving me an update on Grandma and the dog, she also asked me about how it’s been going at the school:

  • What are the lecturers like?
  • What are we learning?
  • What are the other students like?

She also asked me what the gender split was like amongst the students.  I told her.  She was a little surprised.

Within this year’s intake, there’s twice as many male students as there are females.  I won’t lie, I hadn’t really given it a second thought before she asked.

It’s just 34 students.  A small sample size, right?

But when you look into it, that figure’s not far off what the figure is like within the industry itself.

IPA’s 2013 agency census showed that whereas over 60% of people in the account management and new business departments were female, only 25% of copywriters and art directors were.  (If you’re wondering, that figure matches the figure for female lecturers we’ve had so far this year at the SCA.)

So where are all the women? And why does it matter? Couldn’t we just plod along and never bother to question it?

Well, my Mum would never let me do that.

She retired last year, but before that she had spent a career in the world of art academia.  A world that had long been dominated by judgemental 50 year old men with grey, wispy beards and prescription glasses.

As a woman – then a mother – she had the odds stacked up against her, yet despite this she ended up a success.

This happened not only because she was incredibly smart, but also because she worked incredibly hard.  She worked so hard in fact, she ended becoming the boss of many of the guys who’d dismissed her beforehand.

Although the challenges of being in that type of environment must have formed her in many ways, it’s a shame she was so outnumbered in the first place.


The fact is, I don’t really have a clue why there are so few females in creative jobs.  But when you read that 85% of consumer spend is from females, yet only 15% of ECDs are females – you know something’s up.

That being said, increasing the numbers of women within the creative departments shouldn’t be done just to make the numbers look good.  It should also be done because it’s been proven that diversity leads to more ideas, which inevitably leads to better output.

There’s also the point that if women are discouraged from working within creative departments, then agencies may be missing out on some amazingly talented people. 


The good thing is that (from my experience) there does seem to be an increase in awareness of the issue.

I know that Marc – the school’s dean – feels strongly about it and made a point on day one that we should be clued up about the issues of it within the history of the industry.

Changes seem to be happening outside of the school too.  A number of junior creatives that I’ve spoken to have told me that agencies are now actively looking for more mixed or all-female teams.  This can only be a good thing.  I hope the trend continues.

Anyway, I’m not a woman and I’m totally aware that I haven’t covered nearly half of the underlying problems here, but I just felt like putting some of my thoughts down.  Hopefully it gets you thinking too…

If you fancy reading more into it, here’s some articles to get you started.

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