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Why Helping Women Climb the Ladder Isn’t a Gender Issue—It’s Good Business Why Helping Women Climb the Ladder Isn’t a Gender Issue—It’s Good Business

Why Helping Women Climb the Ladder Isn’t a Gender Issue—It’s Good Business

April 3, 2013

Lean in. Speak up. Don’t opt out. Everyone’s talking about what women should be doing to get ahead at work. Why the sudden interest? Has corporate America finally got the message it should be doing right by us? I’d like to think so. But I suspect there’s more to it.

There’s no disputing that in business, nothing trumps the bottom line. So my theory is that as long as our economy struggles, anything that could possibly make the numbers rise is open to discussion. Even helping women get their due.
 
I work in advertising, one of the chief offenders when it comes to gender inequality. Did you know that only 3 percent of all creative directors are women? Yet women influence 85 percent of consumer spending decisions. What gives? If understanding how to market to women is critical, why aren’t more women in charge of the way we’re marketed to?
 
As a creative director and writer who has brought glory on my employers and rung up sales for my clients, being marginalized really pisses me off. But I’m a realist. I know that ad agency upper management doesn’t give a flying fandango about my feelings. You know what they do care about, though? Keeping clients.
 
If I were a client right now and saw that all of my agency’s creative directors were men, I’d be taking my business elsewhere to an agency that demands more women in its higher ranks and can give me a better creative product. Wake up ad agencies. For your clients, helping women climb the ladder isn’t a gender issue; it’s a business issue.
 
So it’s no wonder that Lean In and related conversations are getting so much play. In a way, we have the crappy economy to thank for the fact that Sheryl Sandberg remains in the spotlight. And that Kat Gordon’s brainchild, The 3% Conference, took off like a rocket.
 
The event—the only conference for women creative directors—sold out the very first time it was held in 2012. This year, 3% (which I help organize) will double in size and scope. On October 16-17, hundreds of women CDs, creative women (and men), recruiters, ad agency heads, and marketers will descend on San Francisco to continue building the business case for more women creative directors.
 
Who’ll be listening? Not just women creatives but all career women dealing with the types of issues we the 3 percent face in the workplace today. Lack of mentorship, lack of support for motherhood, lack of awareness that femaleness is an asset to connecting to the consumer marketplace, lack of celebration of female work due to gender bias of award juries, lack of women negotiating their first agency salary and every one thereafter.
 
The The 3% Conference will bring these issues and more to light and we’ll fight them with a simple two-word phrase: “how to.” On the main stage and in breakout sessions and workshops, we’ll inspire and teach women and men in advertising how to address these issues in new ways. And we’ll offer something that has been sorely lacking for female creatives: a sense of community.
 
Speaking of community, if you’re a woman trying to get ahead, I’d like to hear your take on all of this—whether you’re in advertising or not. And if you’re a woman creative, please know that you have a special place in my heart. So leave a comment below. And don’t hesitate to connect with me and to The 3% Conference, where we’ll keep building the case for why "leaning in" is good for women—and for business.
 
Image via (cc) flickr user JodiWomack
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