“We Need To Stop Calling Gender Diversity A Female Problem”: Bec Brideson

“We Need To Stop Calling Gender Diversity A Female Problem”: Bec Brideson

Marketing guru Bec Brideson has weighed in on the findings of a controversial study involving two of Australia’s leading ad agencies, questioning the industry’s reaction.

Huntley Mitchell
Posted by Huntley Mitchell

While working on his PhD thesis during 2013 and 2014, researcher Paul Priday spent six months inside the Sydney agencies of M&C Saatchi and McCann, as well as Ogilvy in Shanghai and McCann’s Delhi agency, according to Mumbrella.

During that time, Priday interviewed seven men and three women at McCann Sydney, and 13 men and eight women at M&C Saatchi in Sydney.

Accoring to Mumbrella, the thesis was submitted in June 2016, and found that female creatives struggle to get work presented to clients or entered into awards, while women in account service roles are exploited into working long hours.

Priday concluded the thesis with this: “Despite change being the lifeblood of the advertising industry, gender relations continue to protect the status of men through the organised subordination of women.”

Speaking to B&T, Brideson said Priday’s findings are similar to those by US researcher Megan Averell, as well as The 3% Movement’s study titled Elephant on Maddison Avenue.

“Both of those studies concur with what Paul Priday’s findings are, basically, that it’s a monoculture, that it’s systemic and that it needs to change,” she said.

“This is a conversation that we’ve been having for so long – how can there even be outrage from the findings? All the comments that happened under Mumbrella’s article were pretty obvious. There were the disenfranchised males who said ‘This is not fair, we’re being picked on’, and then there were the women who said ‘This happens and we need support to change things’.”

“There were also a lot of people of both genders saying that because it hasn’t happened to them, they don’t see it has happened. Just because you haven’t been murdered doesn’t mean murders don’t happen.”

Brideson admitted she has struggled to be taken seriously in the industry for forming her own agency.

“Everyone assumed that my agency was not legitimate or was a ‘female sensitivity’,” she told B&T.

“If I compare myself to my male peers who also went out and started agencies, they have had the privilege of the boys network from the start like offers to be bought by the big players, and that hasn’t been forthcoming to me.

“I often wonder if I was a man, would things have been different? The reason I don’t publicly say that is because people will say it’s an excuse or a victim-like statement, and when you look at these sorts of reports, it ratifies the fact that it is harder when you’re female competing against a largely male-dominated monoculture.”

Brideson said it is vital for agencies to have emotional intelligence, but very often their creative departments and cultures are not places where the emotional intelligence of women is given due credit, and feminine leadership qualities are not well recognised.

“With the core consumer being women – and as the most dominant consumer economy being female, agencies need an overhaul of their strategic approach – and the men in agencies can easily relearn new ways and acquire different skills to equip them with how to have relevance and resonance with modern women,” she said.

Brideson said the dominant party of the industry – males – need to agree that things must change and take action.

“I think we need to stop calling it a female problem and expecting that women studying and talking about this issue is going to change it,” she said.