Laura Jor­dan Bam­bach calls for ac­tion against the con­tin­u­ing in­equal­i­ties be­tween men and women in the cre­ative in­dus­tries

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Laura Jor­dan Bam­bach calls for ac­tion against the con­tin­u­ing in­equal­i­ties be­tween men and women in the cre­ative in­dus­tries


david Cameron has vowed to elim­i­nate the gen­der pay gap in the UK. The gov­ern­ment is bring­ing for­ward rules to make firms with more than 250 work­ers re­veal their av­er­age pay per gen­der, af­ter only five of 270 busi­nesses cur­rently signed up to 2014’s pay dis­clo­sure scheme ‘Think Act Re­port’ re­ported pub­licly on their pay gap.

Within the advertising in­dus­try the IPA is cham­pi­oning a sim­i­lar shar­ing of agency wage fig­ures as a way of draw­ing at­ten­tion to the di­rect and in­di­rect dis­crim­i­na­tion, which means that the gen­der pay gap is still an is­sue.

Al­most 50 years ago, the Da­gen­ham ma­chin­ists led a strike that sparked the Equal Pay Act in 1970. But women still earn less than men in Bri­tain. The gen­der pay gap stands at 19.1 per cent (2014). We are above the EU av­er­age of 16 per cent. Whereas other ar­eas of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity for women have opened up, the pay gap has re­mained largely un­changed over the last 20 years – a clear and dra­matic ex­am­ple of the eco­nomic in­equal­ity and par­al­lel power im­bal­ance that women face.

In the cre­ative in­dus­tries in the UK the gap is 12 per cent. Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of Na­tional Sta­tis­tics, a man who earns £32k in our in­dus­try is paid £3k more than a woman do­ing the same job. This di­rect dis­crim­i­na­tion is con­trary to the Equal Pay Act, and mea­sures such as those be­ing pro­posed will help flush this out; but the gen­der equal­ity con­ver­sa­tion is a com­pli­cated one, with many con­tribut­ing fac­tors. There is a lot of con­tra­dic­tory re­search, and ed­i­to­rial, as to its causes and im­por­tance. Even its ex­is­tence.

And we have an even big­ger prob­lem in cre­ative busi­nesses (par­tic­u­larly in de­sign, tech and advertising cre­ative) – one of the most un­bal­anced ra­tios of men to women of any in­dus­try. For ex­am­ple only 8 per cent of cre­ative di­rec­tors in the UK are women. And it’s not just at the top. Though stu­dents of art, de­sign, advertising and re­lated cour­ses are roughly 50/50, that drops im­me­di­ately in the work­place to around 60/40. And con­tin­ues to fall steadily. We are one of the least di­verse in­dus­tries across gen­der, race, class and dis­abil­ity. There’s been a lot of de­bate, par­tic­u­larly online, over whose ‘fault’ this is. We hear that women ‘choose’ to work part-time or take less de­mand­ing roles, that bi­ol­ogy takes over and they are over­come by the de­sire to have chil­dren; that if women aren’t paid as much it’s be­cause they aren’t as good – be­cause our in­dus­try is of course based com­pletely on merit.

The blame game goes on. But in­stead of throw­ing blame, we should be look­ing at what we can all do within our own stu­dios and agen­cies to erad­i­cate not just the pay gap, but the gen­der im­bal­ance. At Mr Pres­i­dent, we know that hav­ing a bal­anced work­force makes great busi­ness sense. A di­ver­sity of ex­pe­ri­ences within the agency means more in­ter­est­ing ideas, and bet­ter prob­lem solv­ing. We have a good bal­ance of men and women across the board, be­cause we’ve shaped our agency around treat­ing all of our staff like grown-ups.

We be­lieve in the im­por­tance of do­ing things out­side of work, whether that’s writ­ing a blog, tak­ing time to fol­low your pas­sion for sports or your kids. And we treat all our par­ents in the same way, through things like equal ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity pay (not just al­lowances for time). Ev­ery­one at Mr Pres­i­dent was hired be­cause of their great work; we be­lieve they’ll do it even bet­ter if they have a life.

We pay all our in­terns from day one. We have small, se­nior, col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­ject teams and a flat struc­ture. Ev­ery­one is em­pow­ered to make de­ci­sions and share ideas. The lack of hi­er­ar­chy means fewer egos and less ex­plo­sive ag­gres­sion. We men­tor and de­velop our women (and men) so they grow in con­fi­dence. We have a com­mit­ment to never stereo­type in our own work – and to use each piece of work to change the dial a lit­tle. It means that we stay open and aware of both the client’s and our own be­hav­ior.

I’m proud to be part of a busi­ness that’s do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to make a change. Are you with us?

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