Female Representation among Advertising's Creative Elite:
A Content Analysis of the Communication Arts Advertising Annual
Abstract

This study examined issues of the Communication Arts Advertising Annual in 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014 to assess women's inclusion among award winners, which represent the upper echelons of the advertising industry's creative ranks. Findings showed that women have token status, as they represented 7% of all creative award winners in 1984, 11% in 1994, 6% in 2004, and 11% in 2014. Creative women in advertising have not made much progress toward equity in the past 30 years. This has implications for the ads that get made, the culture of the agency creative department, and the career prospects of advertising students. This also demonstrates a continuing disconnect between female consumers and the agency personnel developing the advertising targeting them.

Keywords

advertising agencies, Communication Arts, content analysis, female creatives, female representation, gender equity, women

A Brief Introduction from the Authors
Video 1

A Brief Introduction from the Authors

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Fig. 1. Mad Men's fictional Peggy Olson, a composite of every woman in 1960s advertising, overcame brutal sexism and paternalism in her rise from secretary to copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. In season five, she exits with hard-won confidence to become copy chief at another agency and join the creative elite.
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Fig. 1.

Mad Men's fictional Peggy Olson, a composite of every woman in 1960s advertising, overcame brutal sexism and paternalism in her rise from secretary to copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. In season five, she exits with hard-won confidence to become copy chief at another agency and join the creative elite.1

Much has changed in the decades since the Mad Men era of the 1950s and 1960s—except the power dynamics in advertising agencies. Women's roles in the marketplace and in the workforce are larger than ever before. Women make up 50.7 percent of the American population, comprise 47.4 percent of the civilian labor force, and earn 57.3 percent of all bachelor's degrees.2 Women "command 85% of what the Bureau of Economic Analysis values as $7 trillion in total personal consumption expenditures."3 With this changing role of women in the marketplace, advertising messages are increasingly targeted toward women.

Table 1. Female Representation in Creative Halls of Fame *Two females were inducted in this year.
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Table 1.

Female Representation in Creative Halls of Fame

*Two females were inducted in this year.

While there is comparable representation of men and women throughout the advertising industry (50.6 percent male averaged across positions), 73 percent of US advertising creatives listed in the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies are men.4 An examination of advertising halls of fame shows that women are scarce among advertising's creative elite. Table 1 shows that women represent only 11 percent of One Club Hall of Famers, 12 percent of those in the Art Directors Club, and 8.6 percent of AAF Hall of Fame members. Each of these organizations represent and celebrate the ad industry, and, as such, they signal the characteristics that are valued within the industry.

With men making up 70 percent of advertising creative departments, do female consumers feel that they are effectively reached by the advertisements they see? Hardly. A market research company, Greenfield Online found in a study that "91 percent of women think advertisers don't understand them, and more women than men (58 percent versus 42 percent) are annoyed by how advertisers portray their gender."5 In 1997, Andrea Scotti, head of New York advertising agency Scotti, said, "Women are progressing a lot faster than the business we operate in. It's time for the [advertising] world to catch up."6 Eighteen years after Scotti's statement, the industry still has plenty of catching up to do. Regardless of their ethnicity, 89 percent of ad professionals agreed that diversity in the industry needs improvement.7

Thus, the underrepresentation of creative women in advertising is an ethical and cultural issue, as well as business concern. Advertising creative work must forge a powerful connection with its audience in order for brands to be effective with an audience that is predominantly female and increasingly diverse.8 Understanding and empathizing with diverse consumers requires a deep understanding of their psyche, behaviors, and culture—something unlikely to be found in a creative department composed primarily of homogenous, 20-something males.9 For this reason, many marketers, among them General Mills and Hewlett Packard, are putting pressure on advertising agencies to increase the diversity of their staff.10

The topic of the underrepresentation of female creatives has received increasing attention in academic literature in the past decade.11 The academic research has not gone unrecognized by industry. The 3% Conference, an organization founded in 2012 by creative director Kat Gordon to support more female creative leadership in advertising agencies, cites academic research as the source of and impetus for the conference.12 The 3% Conference held its fifth annual conference in 2016, and it has grown into a movement, holding boot camps and mini conferences across the country throughout the year. Further, the Art Director's Club (ADC) started the "Let's Make the Industry 50/50 Initiative" in 2013 to "effect drastic and measurable change as it pertains to the roles and participation of women within the creative industries."13 As a part of the initiative, ADC recruited and achieved an equal female-male ratio on its 94th Annual Awards jury. In 2015, the Cannes Lions International Awards introduced a new award category, Glass: The Lion for Change, specifically to celebrate creative work "which sets out to positively impact ingrained gender inequality, imbalance, or injustice."14

Fig. 2. The Let's Make the Industry 50/50 Initiative Focuses on Increasing the Roles and Participation of Women in the Creative Industries.
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Fig. 2.

The Let's Make the Industry 50/50 Initiative Focuses on Increasing the Roles and Participation of Women in the Creative Industries.15

Fig. 3. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Introduced the Glass Lion, in Conjunction with Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Foundation.
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Fig. 3.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Introduced the Glass Lion, in Conjunction with Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Foundation.16

Advertising awards show juries have been criticized for being predominantly male, and thus biased toward a masculine sensibility, in turn giving male creatives better odds at winning.17 This is critically important because awards shows represent more than acknowledgement of the creative work itself, but result in widespread industry recognition for the winning creatives—awards are industry currency that translate into raises, promotions, and lucrative job offers.18

Mallia and Jang recently reported a sizeable increase in media attention to the status of women in advertising over the past two decades, as evidenced by a variety of indicators.19 The first of these was both a surge and sustained increase in news coverage of the topic in trade and popular presses.20 This began with incendiary sexist remarks made by a global advertising executive at a 2005 industry conference that rocketed around the world, assisted by social media and online news organizations. The second factor, as noted earlier, was the surge in scholarly research that informed and created synergy with industry advocates.21 The third factor was the catalyst provided by serendipity—such as the widespread popularity of AMC's acclaimed Mad Men television series, showing the world the rampant sexism of 1960s advertising, Jane Maas' well-timed Mad Women book that capitalized on it, and the numerous women in other industries giving voice to the subject of female leadership in general through books talking about the status of women, such as executive Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013) and comedian Tina Fey's Bossypants (2011). Indicator number four was activism demonstrated by the birth and rapid expansion of numerous industry organizations to advance the status of women working in the digital and creative industries such as SheSays, The 3% Movement, Girls Who Code, and Ipsos' The Girls' Lounge.22 The last factor Mallia and Jang noted is the advance of social media in the past 15 years, which has enabled women to share issues and opinions globally as never before possible in history—more quickly and easily.

Fig. 4. The 3% Movement Seeks to Increase the Number of Women and People of Color Who Are Creative Directors
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Fig. 4.

The 3% Movement Seeks to Increase the Number of Women and People of Color Who Are Creative Directors23

Thus, the number of people acknowledging and talking about the issue of women's underrepresentation in advertising has increased in recent years. But has the status of women in advertising actually changed—or is lip service and talk obscuring a persistent underrepresentation in leadership? There is no consensus. A 2016 Forbes article opened with this sentence: "A chorus of, ironically, highly successful female executives rose to bemoan gender equality in the ad industry's annual meeting last week."24 Thus, it is important to examine a trend line over several decades, in order to compare the number of women in leadership before broader coverage of the issue (such as The 3% Conference), and after that movement. It is especially important to investigate the presence of women among the industry's elite, as it represents a key indicator of advertising women's ability to surmount the challenges of a sexist workplace culture and unconscious bias, and gain the status essential to rise to leadership. As noted above, the industry recognition gained by winning creative accolades, and the resulting coverage connecting one's name to peer-reviewed work, is a critical factor in achieving creative career success.25

This study examines whether the increased acknowledgement of gender inequities in advertising, and efforts aimed at improving this gap, have started to affect the number of men and women who are acknowledged for their exemplary work. To examine the number of men and women represented in advertising's creative elite, a content analysis of the Communication Arts Advertising Annual in the years 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014 was conducted. Communication Arts is the leading trade journal for the visual arts.26 Creative individuals and agencies submit entries to Communication Arts, which forms a nine-person panel of advertising creative directors to judge the work. The Balance, a website that focuses on career and financial advice, ranks it fourth among the top 10 advertising awards shows, resulting in "mammoth bragging rights."27 While other industry awards such as The Clios or Cannes Lions are perhaps better known to outsiders, having one's work published in the Communication Arts Advertising Annual is more prestigious within the creative community. Along with The One Show and the D&AD awards, Communication Arts is one of the most highly selective, and thus highly regarded, industry honors for creative work.

Fig. 5. Communication Arts' 1984 Advertising Annual Cover
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Fig. 5.

Communication Arts' 1984 Advertising Annual Cover28

Fig. 6. Communication Arts' 1994 Advertising Annual Cover
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Fig. 6.

Communication Arts' 1994 Advertising Annual Cover29

Fig. 7. Communication Arts' 2004 Advertising Annual Cover
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Fig. 7.

Communication Arts' 2004 Advertising Annual Cover30

Fig. 8. Communication Arts' 2014 Advertising Annual Cover
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Fig. 8.

Communication Arts' 2014 Advertising Annual Cover31

The goal of this content analysis was to offer evidence of women's representation among the creative elite against a historical backdrop of decades past and to determine whether women's presence in awards annuals has improved over the last four decades. Since neither the industry nor the US Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers data on creative job titles, this study provides a valuable proxy for assessing gender and career growth in advertising. This study establishes a trend line for female representation in advertising's creative elite over several decades as well as benchmarks for women's representation to inform women, the advertising industry, and marketers about the status of women. This analysis makes the important assumption that there is a critical connection between creative people and the creative product, and that team diversity enhances creativity.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The Underrepresentation of Women in Creative Departments

Overall, women represent 50.6 percent of those employed in the US advertising business.32 But as with many other industries, women dominate the lower rungs of advertising organizations.33 And while overall industry employment statistics hide the curious anomaly of the creative department, it is no secret that females and people of color are still underrepresented in advertising agency creative departments in 2017.

The advertising industry occupies a unique place in the United States labor market, where despite affirmative action, litigation, and numerous trade group efforts, decades have shown little change in diversity, whether for ethnic and racial minorities or for women. As economist Marc Bendick, Jr. noted in expert testimony given to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012, "As employment discrimination has sharply diminished across the overall American labor market over recent decades, systemic barriers to equal opportunity in this $31 billion a year industry have remained largely intact."34

The dearth of female creative leaders is no longer viewed as a "pipeline" issue but a retention issue. Advertising programs have been graduating a female majority for many years, and portfolio school classes typically have 50/50 gender ratios. Thus, talented women have been entering the field for decades.35 Yet, while female creatives enter the industry in relatively equal numbers to men, numerous factors impede women from sustaining long-term careers with growth toward creative leadership positions. Many creative women disappear from agency creative departments at the mid-career mark, the very time when leaps to leadership are typically made.36

The adage "You can't be what you can't see," concisely summarizes the devastating impact of token status on individuals' perceived career prospects. Minorities cite the lack of racial and ethnic diversity as a very important reason for leaving the industry, at percentages significantly greater than Whites.37 The huge challenge of minority status likewise impacts the careers of female creatives.38 On a global level, men outnumber women in advertising agency creative management six-to-one.39 In other words, just 14.6% of the world's advertising creative directors are women.

In the United States, women appear to have made some progress, at least among the large agencies represented in the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies (Red Book), which is the leading advertising agency database. Less than a decade ago, just 35 women were listed in among 249 creative executives in US agencies, or 14 percent.40 A more recent examination of Red Book data revealed 25.2 percent of creative directors listed in the United States were women.41 Numerically, that is a positive sign for women's representation. Yet these measures demonstrate that the percentage of creative women remains below the proportional representation of 35 percent that is considered the tipping point where a minority group can begin to impact the culture of an organization, according to research by Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter.42

The vast majority of women who do rise to leadership in advertising agencies do not come from the creative department, but more often from account management or media paths—departments and positions where female representation is much more equitable.43 As such, the question of why there is so much gender inequity in creative departments demands particular attention.

Some of the gendered socialization issues that broadly affect all professional women naturally play a role in the advertising creative department, such as female reticence to self-advocate and negotiate as well as masculine communication behaviors interrupting women in meetings.44 Unconscious bias, or social stereotypes about certain groups that occur outside of our conscious awareness, is increasingly recognized to hinder diversity efforts. In addition, research specific to advertising and creative work points to a breadth of persistent, systemic, contributing factors such as industry and agency culture and norms, including inflexible work practices and embedded hiring practices.45

The advertising business is well known for long hours and punishing demands, which have worsened with increasing financial pressures, and the digital, always-on demands of a client service business. In addition, the creative department represents a unique micro-culture within ad agency culture.46 The masculine "locker room" atmosphere of the creative department was identified decades ago,47 and has been widely discussed in both scholarly and trade literature as a key contributor to the underrepresentation of women in creative departments.48 This "boys' club" incorporates its own codes, along with demands for presenteeism (expectations of being in the office for all or most working hours); a notorious lack of work-life balance, where working nights and weekends is considered a "badge" of commitment; and prejudice against working parents, primarily mothers.49 For example, creatives who leave on or near official closing hours are viewed with disdain and hear remarks like, "Oh, working half a day?" Even creative men in advertising report not taking all their allowed parental leave, for fear of being considered "not dedicated" or facing repercussions in their job or status.50 Many creative women leave advertising agencies opting to freelance, in search of better work-life balance. One can argue that with the existing system of long hours and prejudice against mothers, the system forces such a decision; therefore, it cannot be considered a personal choice.51 Such systemic issues have been observed in advertising agency creative departments in nearly every country around the globe—from the US to the United Kingdom, to Spain, Sweden, Australia, and Latin America.52

Many, if not most, creative women who have risen to leadership (creative directors and above) report that they succeeded by conforming to the codes established by that masculine culture—such as adopting the male "voice" in their creative work, acting and sounding like "one of the boys," and being career-primary—either remaining childless, having a stay-at-home spouse and/or an around-the-clock nanny.53 One former chief creative officer reported taking the opposite tack and capitalizing on feminine wiles.54 Some creative women with significant personal capital negotiated individual "sweetheart deals" that permitted them to make creative careers work for them, such as the agency Co-Creative Director positions specifically created at Ogilvy Toronto for Nancy Kestin and Janet Vonk, or part-time or flexiplace (flexible workspace) days afforded to others.55 The rarity and necessity for individual accommodations like these underscores the female-unfriendly norms of the typical agency creative department.

There are some exceptions where agency culture supersedes this embedded industry dynamic, or where agency leadership is making a concerted effort to overcome it. These can be seen among the agencies that sponsored, brought large groups to attend, or were over-represented in speaker participation at The 3% Conference, such as DDB, DigitasLBi, Mullen, Possible, and Wongdoody, just to name a few.56

Adding statistical support to the ethical argument for the status of women constitutes more than just rhetorical evidence. It contributes to the growing body of research validating Kanter's theory of tokenism, which holds that underrepresentation itself is a barrier to career growth within an organization.57 Minority status has negatively impacted the careers of both women and racial and ethnic groups despite numerous industry minority recruitment and advocacy programs—long-standing programs like the AAF's Most Promising Multicultural Program and the 4A's Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), as well as more recent entrees like "Where/Here are all the Black People" sponsored by the One Club for Art and Copy.58

Being female shapes a career in ways that men do not experience. Women confront inequities in male-dominated fields such as lack of access to social networks, a shortage of mentors, and difficulty negotiating organizational politics.59 In gendered organizations, behaviors associated with women are devalued, and work norms favor traditionally male characteristics, such as competitiveness and spending long hours in the office as a signifier of dedication. Being female creates differential perceptions of an employee's performance.60 In advertising, creative women are disproportionately assigned to "feminine" brands, like tampons and baby food, categories far less likely to garner industry awards and recognition, which in turn undermines their long-term career prospects.61

One underlying issue that few industry representatives acknowledge is the role of unconscious bias, or bias that occurs outside of one's conscious awareness, which has been observed in creative fields even among individuals who overtly state that they are without bias. Lower evaluations are given to females when gender is evident than in blind experimental situations—even by those who truly believe their judgment is unbiased—as was demonstrated in the Goldin and Rouse study of orchestra auditions in conditions where the gender of the musician was known and invisible.62 The number of women selected for the orchestra increased dramatically once blind auditions were put in place. If even well-intentioned creative directors unconsciously view the work of men and women differently, creative women must overcome an inherent disadvantage to succeed—contrary to the oft-cited industry claim, "It's all about the work."63

Considering the many years that advertising women have struggled to achieve parity with men, it is important to evaluate every factor that potentially impacts career success or failure and to investigate and measure all possible indicators of change. Thus, this study examined the recognition of female contributors in Communication Arts, one of the most prominent yardsticks for creative work in the advertising industry, and that, in turn, provides a means for evaluating the success of creative women in advertising. A decades-long lack of creative department diversity data has allowed many advertising agencies to hide persistent gender problems. You cannot fix what you do not count—hence, the necessity for the content analysis of Communication Arts' inclusion of female creative elites.

METHOD

Communication Arts is "the largest creative magazine in the world," established in 1959, with a current paid circulation of 63,043 copies, sizeable pass-along readership, and an estimated reach of nearly 190,000, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.64 It is known for its five annual juried competitions, published as annuals. In addition to its advertising annual, these include graphic design, interactive media, photography, and illustration. The Communication Arts Advertising Annual was selected for analysis based on widespread industry recognition of its curation and selectivity, each year culling roughly 5,000 worldwide entries to choose 150 to 200, an acceptance rate of roughly 3 to 4 percent. The annual stays on people's shelves for years, thus the work is lauded and remembered over time—further enhancing the prestige from inclusion in this publication.65

For this study, issues from 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014 were examined. The first was selected as it followed the firm establishment of women in the advertising industry and the second wave of feminism that occurred in the 1970s. The subsequent issues were selected at ten-year intervals in order to eliminate any bias. While one year per ten does not provide a completely representative sample of the decade, including every ad from the four issues, or 873 ads in all, is not trivial, and represents a comprehensive amount of creative work that is considered among the best produced worldwide during that 30-year period.

A Content Analysis

A content analysis was carried out to answer the following research questions: What is the percentage of females in Communication Arts credited in the positions of art director, copywriter, and creative director? Did women's creative presence in Communication Arts differ over the four decades represented by 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014?

Four issues of the Communication Arts Advertising Annual were examined. A total of 873 ads were coded: 2014 (n=136 ads), 2004 (n=192 ads), 1994 (n=288 ads) and 1984 (n=257 ads). A code-sheet was developed to ensure consistency and accuracy in analysis. The code sheet included the year of the award, the advertising agency and its city, the award title, and the gender of all creative personnel, including copywriters, art directors, and creative directors.

To determine the gender of the creative personnel, common names for men and women were coded as such. Therefore, individuals named Tom, David, and Walter were coded as men, while individuals named Susan, Diane, and MaryAnn were coded as women. For ambiguous names such as Pat, Terry, Chris, Jody, Kyle and Max, and for names the coder was unfamiliar with, LinkedIn and Google were used to find information or a profile that would reveal the creative's gender. A small number individuals who could not be found online were left out of the analysis.

FINDINGS

First, this project sought to learn the overall proportions of male and female creatives credited in Communication Arts Advertising Annual (see Table 2). In total, there were 3,210 creatives credited throughout the four issues examined. Of those creatives, there were 911 art directors, 87 percent of whom were male. Of the 974 copywriters credited in this analysis, 90 percent were male. Ninety-six percent of the 1082 creative directors credited were male. Finally, 93 percent of the 243 executive creative directors analyzed were male. This suggests that the representation in Communication Arts of advertising creatives is overwhelmingly male. Across all positions and years analyzed, 91 percent were male.

Table 2. Overall Gender Representation of Creatives *ECD: Executive Creative Director; CCO: Chief Creative Officer
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Table 2.

Overall Gender Representation of Creatives

*ECD: Executive Creative Director; CCO: Chief Creative Officer

Cross-tabulations were run to determine whether the presence of females in creative positions increased over time throughout the four issues examined. Females represented seven percent of award winners in 1984, 11 percent of creatives in Communication Arts in 1994, 6 percent in 2004, and 11 percent in 2014 (see Table 3.1). Thus, it seems while women's presence has varied between 6 and 11 percent over the years examined, it has not increased since 1994.

Table 3.1. All Creatives Gender Representation by Year
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Table 3.1.

All Creatives Gender Representation by Year

Table 3.2. Art Director Gender Representation by Year
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Table 3.2.

Art Director Gender Representation by Year

Additional cross-tabulations determined that females' representation as art directors and as copywriters also has not improved since 1994. For example, Table 3.2 shows that in 1994, 17 percent of art directors were women, while in 2014, 16 percent of art directors were women. Similarly, Table 3.3 highlights that 12 percent of copywriters were women both in 1994 and in 2014.

Table 3.3. Copywriter Gender Representation by Year
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Table 3.3.

Copywriter Gender Representation by Year

The cross-tabulations reported in Table 3.4 highlight that more women are being promoted to the ranks of creative director and executive creative director in 2014 than held the position in any previous decade. Only two percent of creative directors were women in 1984, while nine percent of creative directors were women in 2014.

Table 3.4. Creative Director/Executive Creative Director Gender Representation by Year
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Table 3.4.

Creative Director/Executive Creative Director Gender Representation by Year

Discussion

The findings from this study reveal that while rhetoric about the importance of women in creative roles has increased, their actual presence among creative elites has not increased since 1994. This occurs despite large-scale efforts such as the Art Director's Club 50/50 Initiative, The 3% Conference movement and increased research on female representation over the past decade. The results suggest there is still much work to do for women to reach equity within creative departments.

One promising finding from this research is the increase in female creative directors. Though nine percent is hardly a majority, there has been a marked increase of female creative directors since the low two percent in 1984. Part of the credit for this increase may be due to The 3% Conference, which champions female creative leadership.

Nearly everyone in the advertising industry can name two handfuls of women who have achieved success in advertising: ranging from those in ad history books like early copywriter Helen Lansdowne Resor and Shirley Polykoff, to the Doyle Dane Bernbach legend Phyllis Robinson, or a few who founded their own agencies, like Mary Wells Lawrence and Linda Kaplan Thaler. Calling out and celebrating a few exceptions belies the growing body of evidence that research is finally providing—the numbers and percentages that remained hidden due to lack of industry and government reporting. Not having sufficient numbers has continued to allow the industry to conceal this issue, unlike race, which is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and thus remains an industry issue as significant as the one studied here for gender.

Fig. 9. Helen Lansdowne Resor Was a Copywriter and Vice President at J. Walter Thompson in the Early 1900s, One of the Creative Women in Leadership in Advertising.
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Fig. 9.

Helen Lansdowne Resor Was a Copywriter and Vice President at J. Walter Thompson in the Early 1900s, One of the Creative Women in Leadership in Advertising.66

Fig. 10. Shirley Polykoff Was an Advertising Executive Renowned for Her Clairol Tagline "Does She…Or Doesn't She?" Which Exploded the Hair Color Category, and Increased Clairol's Market Share to 50%.
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Fig. 10.

Shirley Polykoff Was an Advertising Executive Renowned for Her Clairol Tagline "Does She…Or Doesn't She?" Which Exploded the Hair Color Category, and Increased Clairol's Market Share to 50%.67

Fig. 11. Phyllis Robinson Was Doyle Dane Bernbach's First Chief Copywriter Who Inspired Many Women to Become Creative Leaders.
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Fig. 11.

Phyllis Robinson Was Doyle Dane Bernbach's First Chief Copywriter Who Inspired Many Women to Become Creative Leaders.68

Fig. 12. After Working for Doyle Dane Bernbach, Mary Wells Lawrence Opened Her Own Creative Agency, Wells Rich Greene, in 1966.
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Fig. 12.

After Working for Doyle Dane Bernbach, Mary Wells Lawrence Opened Her Own Creative Agency, Wells Rich Greene, in 1966.69

Fig. 13. Linda Kaplan Thaler Is the Founder of Kaplan Thaler, Later Publicis Kaplan Thaler. She Is Known for Creating the Aflac Duck and "Kodak Moments," Among Other Campaigns, and the "I Don't Wanna Grow Up, I'm a Toys 'R' Us Kid" Jingle.
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Fig. 13.

Linda Kaplan Thaler Is the Founder of Kaplan Thaler, Later Publicis Kaplan Thaler. She Is Known for Creating the Aflac Duck and "Kodak Moments," Among Other Campaigns, and the "I Don't Wanna Grow Up, I'm a Toys 'R' Us Kid" Jingle.70

While the overall numbers of female creatives are not improved by this measure, the increase in female creative directors is significant. Having 9 percent of creative directors be women in 2014 is triple the 2004 number. Perhaps this is an indicator that more talented women are sustaining creative careers long enough to reach creative management, and that they are finding ways to work and succeed that eluded earlier generations of copywriters and art directors.

Limitations and Future Research

This study has several limitations. First, the selection of Communication Arts for the sample is inherently limiting. However, it was deemed a better measure of those across creative positions than the D&AD or Art Directors awards, which tend to focus more on design or art direction and less on copywriting. Larger award shows such as Cannes Lions and Clios were purposefully excluded in an effort to identify the presence of women in advertising's most prestigious ranks. Creatives whose work has been credited in the Communication Arts Advertising Annual are clearly not representative of all female creatives within the industry, but this inspection still provides information on the number of elite female creatives. One single annual features a curated snapshot of what the industry's most respected elites judge to be the best of the best. This is a stricter standard.

Content analysis is a useful technique because it can provide valuable historical insights over time, as was the case in this study.71 It is also useful for analyzing macro-level trends or structures with minimum costs. The findings of content analyses are limited, because they are more descriptive than explanatory and may not answer the "why" question. But a content analysis such as this can help us sharpen the focus of an ongoing search for answers about trend lines over the past three decades and whether women are gaining ground among the industry's elite.

An examination of The One Show awards, Clios, and Cannes Lions would make for a useful follow-up study investigating the impact of recent overt efforts, such as those from Cannes and the ADC, to achieve 50/50 gender representation on award show juries. This provides an opportunity to examine how the gender of juries may impact the work selected, especially if a content analysis compared characteristics of the winning work against those of the finalist pool in addition to the gender of its authors. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the gender makeup of award show juries has an impact on the decision making and outcome of those juries.72

Future research could include other measures, such as survey data collected over a longitudinal time frame. Additional research examining the circumstances behind the success of current female creative directors could help provide a roadmap for younger women, and offer specific recommendations to women and the industry for enhancing opportunities and career growth for women and other minority groups. A number of qualitative studies interviewing female creatives has been done, but more research is needed to assess the potential impact of recent activism and update the body of research in this area. More research into creative processes and practices could help identify the unique systemic barriers that make the creative department such an anomaly among other departments—even in advertising agencies with women at the helm.

Eighty-five percent of the nation's $7 trillion in consumer expenditures is controlled by women, and statistics suggest that 91 percent of women do not feel they are adequately addressed by advertisements.73 Based on women's underrepresentation in the creative department and in leadership positions within the advertising agency, that is hardly surprising.74 Agencies who are best able to tap into this highly lucrative market will certainly secure a top place in the advertising landscape for years to come. When the industry tells the world that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract top talent, and advertising now competes with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Facebook in recruiting staff,75 the business cannot afford to ignore or alienate 51% of the candidates who have a precious resource like creative talent.

Yet, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and advertising continue to be dominated by men, and cling persistently to a sexist, masculine culture. A number of high profile lawsuits and the spate of sexual harassment allegations that dominated the news cycles throughout the fall of 2017 offer ample evidence of this.

While this study cannot indicate any direct impact or effect owing to the under-representation of women, there is ample evidence that women do leadership differently. If women continue to fall short of proportional representation in creative ranks, the number essential to affect a shift in organizational culture, it is unlikely that cultural codes of the creative department will ever change. It is also unlikely that creative work will fare better than it does in resonating with the very consumers on which advertising's very existence depends. With the growing awareness of the gender issue, recognizing they "can't be what they can't see," the best and brightest college graduates—young women—will find careers elsewhere.

Karen L. Mallia

Karen L. Mallia is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. A former agency creative director/copywriter, her research interests lie at the intersection of creative leadership, creativity, gender, and creative work. Her research has been published in Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Advertising and Society Review, Journal of Advertising Education, Employee Relations: The International Journal and Advertising Age.

Kasey Windels

Kasey Windels is an associate professor of digital advertising in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Her research focuses on the advertising agency, with emphasis on organizational creativity, environmental influences on creativity, and the underrepresentation of women in creative advertising. Her work has been published in journals such as Creativity Research Journal, the International Journal of Advertising, and the Journal of Advertising Research.

Footnotes

1. "Peggy Olson: 'Mad Men's' Ultimate Survivor and MVP," Decider.com, posted by Meghan O'Keefe, May 13, 2015, https://decider.com/2015/05/13/peggy-olson-mad-mens-ultimate-survivor/.

2. "FFF: Hispanic Heritage Month 2015," United States Census Bureau, 2015, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2015/cb15-ff18.html.; "Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctor's Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Sex of Student and Discipline Division: 2011–12," National Center for Education Statistics, accessed February 11, 2014, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_318.30.asp.

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30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. Endicott and Morrison, "Growing Agencies Eye 4%–6% Raises."

33. Grow and Deng, "Sex Segregation in Advertising Creative Departments."

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35. Mallia, "Rare Birds."

36. Ibid.

37. Watson, "Impact Study 2011."

38. Kasey Windels, "What's in a Number? Minority Status and Implications for Creative Professionals," Creativity Research Journal 23, no. 4 (October 2011): 321–29, doi:10.1080/10400419.2011.621820.

39. Grow and Deng, "Sex Segregation in Advertising Creative Departments."

40. Fred Beard, Unpublished research, statistics obtained via personal correspondence, August 19, 2008.

41. Grow and Deng, "Sex Segregation in Advertising Creative Departments."

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43. Mallia, "New Century, Same Story"; Mallia, "Rare Birds."

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45. Broyles and Grow, "Creative Women in Advertising Agencies,"; Gregory, "Inside the Locker Room"; Grow and Deng, "Sex Segregation in Advertising Creative Departments"; Grow and Broyles, "Unspoken Rules of the Creative Game"; Mallia, "New Century, Same Story"; Mallia, "Rare Birds"; Mallia and Windels, "Will Changing Media Change the World?"; Nixon, Advertising Cultures; Pueyo Ayhan, "Sex Structure of Occupations in the Advertising Industry"; Windels and Lee, "The Construction of Gender and Creativity in Advertising Creative Departments"; Windels, Lee, and Yeh, "Does the Creative Boys' Club Begin in the Classroom?"; Windels and Mallia, "How Being Female Impacts Learning and Career Growth in Advertising Creative Departments."

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47. Gregory, "Inside the Locker Room"; Nixon, Advertising Cultures.

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50. Mallia, "Rare Birds."

51. Mallia, "The Creative Career Dilemma."

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