March 8th is International Women’s Day.
This day will draw different reactions from people, some derisive, some defensive, some despairing. After all why in 2017 do we need this day at all? Shouldn’t it be akin to having a day for Premier League footballers or Oxbridge graduates?
But the sad fact is that the 49.6% of our planet’s population that identify as female are still struggling with inequality. In some parts of the world that inequality is brutal, restrictive and abusive. It is condoned by society and unchallenged by the laws of the land. Here in the UK we are luckier in that, at least on the surface, all of our rights to be equal are protected. So what’s the problem?
The fact is for generations of women, outperforming men in education and raised with the message that we are equal and can achieve anything we want, gender discrimination is still an insidious part of today’s workplace. The default assumption is still that to succeed women need to modify their behavior, their personality and their expectations.
But the murky world of gender prescribed behavior is a lose-lose situation for men and women because people are just not that simple. Why should a man who is gentle and sensitive lose out on recognition any more than a woman who is assertive and dominant? Unfortunately we just can’t help ourselves from applying different standards to men and women.
There are some institutions that have acknowledged this bias (a rare achievement in itself) and actually tried and succeeded in trying to eliminate it. One well-known example is in orchestras.
The introduction of a screen to hide the gender of candidates in auditions saw the rate of women advancing to the final stage increased by a whopping 50%. I hope one day we’ll find a way to apply this same level playing field for both men and women when it comes to the workplace.
How are we doing?
So how do those of us working in digital fare when it comes to gender equality? After all digital is an offshoot of the advertising industry famous for its male-dominated workforce. The good news is that working in digital is offering women more opportunities than ever to share their ideas and be rewarded for their contribution. Although the industry is still dominated by men in C-level positions women are taking visible leadership roles especially in previously male dominated Creative and Tech departments.
When I became an Associate Creative Director at Realise I found the statistic that just 11.5% of Creative Directors are female. At Realise I am one of four in our Creative management team making our percentage 25%. I hope one day I’ll be able to add to an increase in that overall 11.5% and also help other women I work with do the same.