Where are all the female creative directors?

My agency does not have a single female creative director in Cincinnati, and that needs to change, writes an ECD at Possible

I wish I didn’t have to write this. Creative is creative, talent is talent — I believe that to my core and have built my life’s work around it.

But something needs to change.

I want to show the female members of my creative team that they can reach the highest echelons of our industry.

I want to prove that my agency supports diversity, in thought and idea and action.

I want to make sure that my two daughters have a role model both in their mom — and in me — by ensuring that the working world they will enter into 20 years from now is one grounded in true equality.

All of which is why I would love to hire a female for our open creative director role. A position that will lead digital creative for one of the largest CPG companies in the US.

My "why" is driven first by a business need: women make 70-80% of all household purchasing decisions (including, yep — CPG). Yet only 11.5% of creative directors in the U.S. are female. While I would love to sift through a digital pile of 50/50 male and female portfolios to make a blind, "work-first" choice — I can’t. Because I can’t find enough women to ensure parity from the start of the search.

Know that I’m not in this search alone — I have the best recruiting talent in the business looking for skilled creative leaders to join our ranks. But time and time again I am told, "There just aren’t any female candidates."

Of course, relocation is an easy challenge factor, as we’re casting a wide, national net for this search (though, as a recent New York transplant, I can tell you that moving away is not as bad as you’ve been told it is). Flexible schedules, benefits, salary, brands — they all factor into accepting a new job. But if those factors were the only ones holding us back from an equally-gendered candidate pool, there would be a national decline in talent. And there’s only a national decline in one gender of that talent. And nope, guys, it’s not ours.

As it has so truthfully been said, "You cannot be what you cannot see." Right now in our industry, women rarely see other women succeeding in leadership positions. Women often have to choose between work and home, and many leave the industry at the associate creative director level, not progressing further due to lack of support at their agencies and from the industry as a whole. This leaves the advertising world, specifically the creators of ads, bereft of the very gender that buys (most) everything we sell.

At my agency, we have a new Women + Leadership initative, sparked by our ongoing sponsorship of the 3% Conference. Intended to inspire a dialogue amongst our employees and foster an open forum where they can continue the conversation to create change, I’m confident that this initiative will lead to progress and increased diversity — both gender and overall — across our agency. But for now, I’m embarrassed to report this stat: here in our Cincinnati office, our percentage of female CDs isn’t the industry average of 11.5%, nor is it the 2012 average and conference moniker of 3% — it’s 0%. We have zero female CDs. It’s unconscionable. It’s ridiculous. And it needs to change.

We do crazy things in this business every day — because if we’re not scaring ourselves, then we’re doing it wrong. So, I’m looking for a creative director. And, for a better future for us all, I’m inviting female candidates to apply.

Adam Kahn is executive creative director at Possible in Cincinnati.

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