Balance for Better Creative

Balance for better creative

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. Sadly, we’re still a way away from achieving gender balance amongst Creative Directors in PR. 2017’s ‘Creativity in PR’ study from Holmes Report and Now Go Create showed a decline in the proportion of female Creative Directors despite there being a jump in the number of CDs in PR agencies overall. Of course, this imbalance extends beyond gender as a quick Google Images search for ‘Creative Director’ offers up predominantly white men.

So how can we address this imbalance? To start, by investing in attracting diverse female creative talent and nurturing it. Here are a few pieces of advice I wish I’d known when I was starting out.


1.  You don’t have to be shouty to be creative

Too often we conflate confidence with creative talent. The old brainstorm model favours those who shout loudest which is why new techniques such as brainwriting (writing down ideas in silence at the start of a creative session) are great levellers for the more introverted. Confidence is an important skill for a Creative Director but so is being collaborative and knowing when to be quiet!

2. Choose your agency carefully

Lots of agencies talk about gender equality which is great, but do they have policies in place to walk the walk? Look out for equal gender balance at a senior level (Fever’s board is 66% female), pay parity (our median gender pay gap is -10.2%) and a flexible working policy which enables women – like me – to have a career and family.

3. Stay culturally connected

The ideas that travel furthest are the ones that tap into cultural conversations. My own cultural life might have changed with children but staying on top of what’s going on is still important. Luckily my flexible working pattern allows me to build ways to access culture into my daily routine and our agency-wide Culture Club gives all staff the funds and time to soak up the latest art exhibitions, creative talks and immersive theatre shows – all valuable stimuli for idea generation. Push yourself beyond your natural interests – as research shows that diverse cultural experiences create a greater awareness of the underlying connections between ideas.

4. Be confident as you are 

As a woman in a role still dominated by men and weighed down by some unhelpful stereotypes I found it took a few years to settle into my own style of working. I was once told to ‘be more Don Draper’ – well-meaning advice but words that reinforced my sense that unless I behaved like a peacock or Scotch swigging lone wolf I wasn’t a ‘proper’ Creative Director. Equally just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to nurture or organise (not so long ago I was asked to book the taxis for a meeting full of men) – more unhelpful binary notions of gendered behaviour we shouldn’t be hemmed in by.

5. Find a mentor

The lack of female role models is a big barrier in attracting more women into a creative career in PR which is why we set up the first Creative Mentoring Project with PR Week and the PRCA this year. I’m proud to say we have eight brilliant female CD’s as mentors in the project, more than half of the mentees are women and we plan to recruit even more for next year’s project. It’s a good start but the next step is to get into schools, art schools and colleges to show women there’s a clear creative path for them in PR.

By this time next year, I hope to see that 30% rise, a more diverse bunch of ‘Creative Directors’ on Google Images and a greater number of women picking up awards for brilliant campaigns like Viva La Vulva. And this won’t just be better for gender balance’s sake, it will be better for business’ sake as there’s a direct correlation between greater diversity in senior teams and greater profitability. Which means balance is not only better for women it’s better for everyone.

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