"I've asked other women in the industry, 'We're lacking in creative women, what is the barrier?'" said Merlee Jayme, chairman and chief creative officer, DM9 Jayme Syfu. "One woman said, 'I'm engaged, should I continue in this career?'. One even cried and asked, 'I'm pressured to have a baby, should I carry on?'. They look at a career in advertising as a demanding one, and at odds with having a family."
Being a mother and a high-powered advertising executive, agreed Suzanne Powers, CSO of McCann Worldgroup, "is a tonne of juggle."
"You hear so many little stories like these," said Josy Paul, chairman and CCO of BBDO India, who also appeared on the panel chaired by BBC presenter Lucy Hockings. "A CD leaves because her colleagues have told her that if she wants a relationship, she needs to break up because it's not going to work. Perception, whether true or not, is affecting the issue."
Some advice the panellists had for women and for agencies looking to help women develop in their careers:
- Jayme: Let go of the guilt. You deserve what you've worked for.
- Powers: Be proud of what you do. Don't play it down. The passion you have for what you do, when you bring home, creates a different kind of child.
- Paul: Perhaps women should be compensated for the work they do at home too, so it's better appreciated.
- Paul: Don't just talk about these ideas, put it in a brand campaign.
- Jayme: You need a good team at work and one at home.
- Powers: It's alright to be human at work. Don't overcompensate. Don't make it a case of "Pay no attention to the twins I just had. I can keep going!"
- Paul: Create an environment that is more embracing if you want to maximise the potential of women.
- Powers: We are not doing enough policy-wise. But attitudinally we've made a start. It's important to support men having babies as much as the women.
Campaign's view: While the topic was warmly and sincerely discussed, the conversation still revolved around "women helping women" rather than "society helping society help women".