Chicks In High Places: Where Are All The Female ECDs?

Chicks In High Places: Where Are All The Female ECDs?

There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be more chicks running creative departments, says Rachael Egan, executive creative director of 31ST:SECOND.

Hannah Furness
Posted by Hannah Furness

A few months back, we sent some of our creatives and suits along to Semi Permanent where they attended an all-female panel discussion presented by AWARD on the topic of ‘The Creativity Gap’.

They were surprised to find out that their ECD (me) is a rarity in the industry.

It certainly instigated a lively conversation in our creative department and hopefully has prompted the same in many other studios. In fact, it has provided an interesting topic of discussion of late amongst friends and family.

According to the Communications Council’s 2013 Salary Survey, only 23.7% of females hold roles in creative departments, of which only 13.5% have progressed to the role of creative director or executive creative director. To be fair, it’s not likely that I would be included in this specific result since, technically speaking, we are a brand activation agency, not advertising, however the numbers are still very interesting.

The results were based on Australia’s advertising workforce which interestingly showed an even gender split. Perhaps this has something to do with the traditionally strong female presence in account service roles – a result most certainly reflected at 31ST:SECOND. However, in our creative department, we are evenly split in regards to gender, with the workload at the top being shared by Dave, our creative director and myself.

As far as I can tell, there’s a stack of reasons why only a small percentage of females hold the top creative roles in our industry. Over the past few weeks, this topic has certainly got me thinking about all the chicks I know who are more than happy with their business card titles of head of design, senior art director, art director or senior designer.

I can assure you these women are damn good at their jobs and quite frankly don’t want the role of ECD or CD.

The fact is, there are more important things in life than a larger pay packet and bigger responsibilities. For these ladies, job satisfaction and a healthy work-life balance are most likely to be at the top of their list.

Many people still think that advertising is a bit of a boys club. However, from my perspective, that’s not really the case these days. Several colleagues I spoke to would prefer to stay in a more hands-on role – being involved in the actual creative development process rather than just managing staff or dealing with the big egos. Others made a conscious decision to enjoy a more balanced lifestyle by taking on a less stressful role and more flexible working hours. In addition, most of them are now mums, so “family-life” is definitely a strong influence over any “work-life” decision making. Being a founding director of our company, I decided from the start to remain as hands-on as possible and have since been fortunate enough to maintain a culture of flexibility and creative input.

The bigger issue is about achieving a gender balance in creative departments, no matter what the level.

Our core business is Shopper Activation and it’s no secret that women make up the vast majority of our audience as decision makers and family budget managers. So, even though our male creatives know how to bring out their inner female, it does make sense for there to be a more balanced creative workforce, because as Doris Day told us all those years ago, even the Magic of Aladdin couldn’t do as much as a Woman’s Touch!

Hopefully ‘The Creativity Gap’ discussion has inspired more young women to join the team and I’m hoping it opens more doors (and minds) so they can reach the top.

Of course, it’s also up to us business owners to understand the value of a balanced creative team and recognise the importance of hiring the right person for the job. The less there are females currently working in creative, then the fewer there will be that are striving for top creative roles, and the continued low number of females at ECD and CD levels.

Anyone with the talent and drive to reach a top creative role should have the opportunity to reach their goal, but it’s whether they also want the responsibilities and obligations that come with it. Money isn’t everything and career goals are different for everyone. Kudos to those females who have taken on the top jobs, and the same to those who have chosen some other role that’s right for them.

Either way, let’s hope we continue to see more chicks in high places.

By Rachael Egan, executive creative director of 31ST:SECOND