Claims women are unfairly getting jobs to fill quota persist

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Are We There Yet?
Courtney Berry
Managing Director
Barbarian

Tell us about one thing that's happened recently that leads you to believe that there's still a problem.

While the fight for equality, diversity and inclusion has been at the forefront of the industry over the past few years, claims around women unfairly getting promotions and positions simply to fill a quota, have come with it. These theories fuel a sense of imposter syndrome, where women (myself included) deal with insecurities and self-doubt around their work performance and value, leading them to believe that they’re not measuring up to their male counterparts.

And to exacerbate this self-doubt, there are cultural and systemic biases that women have mental battles with daily. I was talking to a woman the other day who told me she seriously debated whether or not she should wear her wedding ring to a job interview because she thought it might cost her the job.

Have conversations with other women in the industry, and you will find so many other stories and questions, including women who question whether they truly deserve their promotions, or to be in their current role. And all-female teams who are fed up with being referred to as ‘the girls.’

Or pitch teams being all men until a female is recruited for the meeting only to ‘balance out the room.’ These are just a few examples that show that a problem still exists, and it takes much more than just talking about it in order to fix it.


How about something that proves we're making progress?

For a long time, women have been taking matters into their own hands by self-organizing and creating groups and movements such as She Says and Time’s Up. But recently, agencies are creating the infrastructure and backing to help level the playing field.

Recently, VB&P announced the beta launch of their app Fellow, which aims to provide "the tools needed to meet relatable mentors, rise within their agency walls, and elevate their careers beyond them."

At Barbarian, we’ve invested in our own gender equality group, Foundation, which began as a passion project among a small group of women. Since then, it has grown into a fully-backed entity that provides mentorship, access to trainings and related events, and an open, inspiring community to help our future female leaders.

It’s a massive step in the right direction now that agencies are putting action (and money) behind their words.


What else needs to be done to get there? 

There are many great resources to help women navigate our industry and their career trajectory. But for the most part everything is still grassroots and not implemented at scale and as the norm.

We’ll know we’ve gotten there when specific genders don’t need ‘resources’ in order to all be on the same level. When that happens, women won’t have to utilize so much energy on dealing with imposter syndrome and whether or not to wear their wedding ring, and can focus on the value they bring to an agency and their clients.

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