The Rise of the Vagina
By Mandie van der Merwe
Ogilvy once said that what really decides consumers to buy or not to
buy is the content of the advertising, not its form. I'd like to think
that the same philosophy applies to the people in our industry. We
thrive - as marketers, strategists, creatives, whatever - because of
the content of our abilities, not the body it comes in. Unfortunately,
through personal experiences and reading our industry blogs, I have a
growing suspicion that being a woman is becoming so much more valuable
to businesses and organisations that we are somewhat at ease with
ignoring the content of the woman herself.
friend (I'll call her Sara for the sake of her privacy) is a creative
director at an agency in New York. Sara was recently contacted on
LinkedIn by a young, female, Australian art director who was looking for
a job. Sara contacted me to find out if I knew this art director and
she forwarded me her email. When I read it ... let's just say knickers
were in knots. The email only mentioned one lonesome reason for making
contact - this young art director wanted to reach out to "power-women"
in the NY industry - a breed of advertising personnel she believed was
missing in Australia.
I was upset by the email;
I found it belittling. My friend is exceptional at her job. Her
portfolio is outstanding. Her thinking, her leadership, her
organisational skill are all excellent. She works at one of the biggest
and best agencies in New York. And yet, none of these things were
mentioned. This young, impressionable art director didn't think that the
content of the person or the agency was worth noting as a reason for
making contact. The only thing mentioned was that they were both women.
Think about that carefully. The only thing this person considered
important enough to mention in her first email (to a person she
obviously wants to woo and who has the power to hire her), was that she
was a woman and she was looking for other women. That's outrageous.
any industry blog today and there'll be some sort of article about
gender equality and equal opportunity. There are discussions on every
award panel about representation. You hear the murmurings in agencies
about "too many men in the meeting". It's all true. In Australia, there
are more male ECDs, CDs, MDs, CEOs (and all other senior abbreviations
imaginable) than female. That there is a shortage of senior women in our
industry is undeniable and there is an immense amount of pressure on
our industry to fix it. Quickly. For whatever reason, we believe that we
don't have time for a gradual transition into gender equality. And
perhaps that's part of the problem; there is a theory that it takes as
long to reverse discrimination as it took to perpetrate it. If that's
the case, it will take decades before we experience true gender equality
in our industry. Of course we can hurry that process along (as we are
all trying to do). But we must be vigilant. There is a thin line between
equal opportunity for women and gender nepotism.
are smart and deserving women who are finally getting their chance in
our industry. It's about time! There are excellent women who deserve the
accolades they've received - accolades that perhaps a decade or two ago
would have been given to a less-deserving man. But we must make sure
that we don't develop a 'girl-power mentality' - the rise of the vagina
is not here because we have a vagina, it's here because we have value.
We should be careful not to undermine and devalue the awe-inspiring
achievements and the work that women in advertising have done and are
doing. There may not be enough women yet. But there will be as long as
we focus more on the content of people. Let's not create a girl's club. I
think we are better than that (and besides, look what's happening to
the advertising boys club).