How bad is sexism in adland? Survey aims to find out.

Driven by the JWT discrimination case, 3% Movement launches "Elephant on Madison Avenue" study

In the wake of the J. Walter Thompson discrimination suit, the 3% Movement today is launching a survey called "Elephant on Madison Avenue" to find out just how prevalent sexual harassment and gender bias is in the advertising industry.

The survey is being conducted in partnership with Michele Madansky, a researcher who examined sexism and gender bias in Silicon Valley following a high-profile discrimination case in the tech industry in her study  "Elephant in the Valley."

"There’s been considerable dispute recently about how prevalent sexism and bias are in advertising," said Kat Gordon, founder of The 3% Movement, in a release. "With the very public lawsuit against JWT, and with holding company CEOs at odds about how entrenched the issue is, the time felt right to give women a mechanism to share real feedback from their own experiences."

Gender bias and sexual harassment in advertising has been an industry-wide topic of discussion in recent months, after JWT was hit with a high-profile discrimination suit. In March, Erin Johnson, chief communications officer of JWT, filed a suit against the agency and former chief executive Gustavo Martinez.

The "Madison Avenue" survey is modeled after the Silicon Valley study, which was inspired by a high-profile discrimination trial in the tech industry. Ellen Pao, a lawyer and former CEO of venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufied & Byers, filed a discrimination suit against her former employer and lost the case in a jury trial last year.   

Although some questions have been modified to make it more relevant to the advertising industry, the "Madison Avenue" study will comprise many of the same questions in order to provide a side-by-side comparison of the tech and ad industries. The 50-question anonymous survey was launched today on

"At a time when the retention of women is a critical business issue, we are eager to move beyond impressions and opinions to real data about the experience of being a woman in advertising. We aren’t out to shame or name agencies. We’re out to give women a safe way to report back from inside the walls of their workplaces," said Lisen Stromberg, chief operating officer at the 3% Movement. "The Elephant on Madison Avenue survey will give much-needed insight into what women face day-to-day and offer benchmarks for how we can move forward together."

The results of the study will be revealed at the 5th annual 3% Conference Nov. 3-4 in New York.

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