The literal embodiment of Fearless Girl, Greta Thunberg, was named TIME Magazine’s 2019 person of the year. You can imagine the impact this will have on 16-year-old girls around the world. An entire generation growing up with young female leaders on the cover of influential magazines while Lizzo blasts messages of self-love in their ears. Just as digital natives will never know a world without the internet, 'Female Leadership Natives' will never know a world without powerful women at the top.
The year 2020 will be the year we start to experience the impact of this leadership in an unprecedented way - and both women and men will benefit.
In 2019 we saw the change alive in our own industry. Women in advertising got more recognition and took more leadership positions than ever before. Colleen DeCourcy from Wieden and Kennedy was named Adweek Creative Leader of the Decade. Karen Costello was named CCO of the Martin Agency and most recently Grey New York announced Justine Armour will be womaning the helm as CCO. And there are many, many more.
More female leaders means a new 2020 vision: one that is less myopic and more inclusive than we’ve previously experienced. Today’s female leaders know they don’t have to embody stereotypical male characteristics to be respected as leaders. They will lead in their own way. Perhaps with compassion, with violet red lips, or by making decisions their predecessors didn’t think possible. Their leadership will impact every part of the business on both a macro and micro level.
While previous generations had to imagine a world with visible female leaders, this generation has the benefit of seeing them in positions of power. What impact will women in leadership positions have on agency culture and the creative product? Here are some of the potential positive changes that will come in the new year with more women in the C-suite.
More young women will be promoted and given opportunities based on potential, not proof – a benefit men have long enjoyed. We will see a new generation of bold young leaders enter the industry that don’t have reverence for the status quo.
Diverse Team Staffing
Team staffing will become more reflective of the consumer targets. Women know first-hand the impact of bias in the business and the importance of diversity in the creative department. The 3% conference reported that 29% of creative directors are now women, a vast increase in female representation in just a few short years. The work itself is bound to be more effective and impactful when created by voices that more accurately reflect the human beings they are speaking to.
Discussion Around Microaggressions
We now have a better understanding of subtle power dynamics and a vocabulary to point them out. Having women at the top is an overt and subconscious indication that these dynamics are changing. There could be fewer micro-aggressions in conference rooms because people will feel empowered to call them out. At the very least, there are now more leaders to support these discussions.
There could also be an increase in male allies which will help shift conversations and create balance. Perhaps this will lead to more men knowing when and how to apologise and fewer women feeling the need to over-apologise. We might even have fewer reasons to apologise in the first place with little tolerance for misbehaviour.
What would conference calls be like if we didn’t have to interrupt to get a word in? What if we started asking questions and listening rather than perpetuating noiseful environments with words far outweighing ideas? With more women leaders the qualities we typically attribute to leadership will shift to include increased receptivity and other, more thoughtful approaches.
Perhaps the biggest shared benefit of women in power is the impact on the creative. In 2019, Megan Rapinoe was named Sport’s Illustrated Sportsperson of the year. Rapinoe is known for her bold leadership skills and unapologetic sense of self. Having more women at the helm will welcome more the of Gen Z mentality of unapologetic identity. Less apologetic ideas and humanity will lead to more honest and less watered-down creative work.
We will see work that’s powerful, human, dynamic and funny. Work that is different from what we’ve been seeing for the past 100 or so years. The industry is in dire need of a switch up and some fresh thinking. What could be more creative than having new kinds of leaders inspiring us to create new kinds of work? With these women in charge, we are going to get just that.
Do we still need more women at the top? Yes. Will there continue to be more women in creative leadership positions? Absolutely. As long as women like me see themselves in their leaders, we will feel more emboldened to move forward and fill those future positions ourselves.
All of us win when women lead. So, cheers to a new and clear vision for 2020. It’s going to be a good one.
Bevan Mahaney is creative director at Grey Westview more - The Influencers