I just heard an echo in the universe that made me stand very still. Within hours, one of my Facebook posts had been shared 83 times.
It wasn’t a video or a photo, and it didn’t star kittens or Kardashians.
It was a thought that read simply:
"The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet."
These words express better than any what I predict 2015 holds for women in advertising. This is the year women have full permission to look the ad industry in the eye and unblinkingly demand it do better. And fast.
I’m talking about calling out everything, ranging from all-male creative departments to wage disparity to things we do mindlessly like STILL have Miss America types handing out the hardware at award shows.
This is twenty fucking fifteen, people, and the changing tapestry of America is jaw-dropping. More women in the workforce than men. Non-white babies being the majority of births. New definitions of marriage and family. Yet the ad world putters along like a time capsule of "Mad Men" whiteness, maleness and sameness. The height of all irony is that we -- the very same folks who eye-roll at clients for failing to be courageous -- don’t have the guts to reimagine a more humane work environment and more inclusive talent pool.
But you know who does?
We’re 52% of the population (hardly a special-interest group or a curiosity) and remarkably helpful when it comes to understanding how to motivate an overwhelmingly female marketplace. Yet we work in an industry that still refers to "women’s accounts" as mops and makeup. An industry that recruits equal numbers of women and men from portfolio schools, then hemorrhages the women at or around the ACD level.
Why have things reached a fever pitch for change at this precise point in history?
Two words: social media.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are the accelerants that have reignited this age-old conversation around gender diversity. What once got lip service for an hour on a conference panel is now an around-the-clock conversation that’s powerful and public.
So how will women use social media to create a better ad world in 2015?
Calling out unconscious bias: Cindy Gallop’s closing keynote at The 3% Conference encouraged women to do something simple: "Say what you think." This rally cry mobilizes hundreds of ad women to speak up, creating ripples that beget more honest discussion. I myself recently wrote a rant against the destructive catch-all phrase: "Doesn’t matter who does the creative, as long as they’re good."
Showcasing work: Goodby Silverstein’s Margaret Johnson talks about her a-ha moment when a recruiter saw her amazing body of work and asked where she’d been hiding her talent for so long. Margaret began her own blog, started speaking at conferences and otherwise made a larger digital footprint for herself. 2015 will continue to see women not waiting to be discovered, but turning pixels into promotions.
Recognizing manbassadors: High-profile men in the ad world like Michael Roth of IPG and Nils Leonard of Grey are speaking out on behalf of female creative leadership and backing up their words with policies that support diverse talent. Women will deliver link love to these leaders in 2015, broadcasting to female talent where they should want to work… and where to steer clear.
Demanding more than "pinkwashing." The rise in "Female Empowerment Advertising" has had its 15 minutes. Buh-bye. Now ad women will raise the bar and create messages where respect for women is table stakes in the game and storytelling can be infused with what life looks like through the female lens. The "give a shit" meter of female consumers is at an all-time low for being skinny/hairless/poreless and brands will have to craft narratives never seen before.
Ad women are gonna be fearsome this year. I can’t wait to watch.
Kat Gordon is founder of the 3% Conference.