Older unemployed creative women, it's not you - Jobs Bulletin

By Candide McDonald | 13 August 2015
The ad used as the image is a real Australian ad. It would never get published today - thank heavens .

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This article has taken me six months to write. Why? I’m an older woman ex-advertising creative and I’m not by nature a 'Joan of Arc'. It is also very hard to write about something that frustrated you for a long time, without whining or carping. I don’t want to do that.

In my first ever job interview as a junior copywriter I was asked: “Why would you want to be the only woman in my creative department?”

In my last ever interview as a senior creative, I was told by a headhunter: “I could get you into an agency, but you’d be stuck down the back doing the worst hack stuff and you’d be miserable.”

I’m not going to rant about what I achieved in between these two jibes. Assume I did pretty well, considering. When my agency career smashed into a wall, I found a new adventure off to one side. I write about advertising. I bloody love advertising. Thinking about it, writing about it, delving into the whys and wherefores of it…Yes, it really is that good, to me. And no, you can’t have my job.

But I have to woman up. Because, and if you’re old enough to be unemployable you’ll get this reference, 'It’s Time'. The once sporadic little eruptions of, “we should have some women creatives in the industry,” have been getting bigger and closer together over the last two years. And in the last two months, data has not been a friend to the adland myth that a primary target market for most brands is 25-39 years old. Baby boomers got the money, so boomers got the power, and boomers are getting bigger.

Women are responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases and 50% of purchases in, what blokes call, male purchases - cars (65%), consumer electronics (55%), computers (66%), healthcare (80%), home improvement goods (50%), and sports apparel (80%). [Bloomberg 2015]

Boomers hold 70% of US disposable income [Forresters Research] and 40% of Australia’s wealth. 80.4% are on Facebook, 86% research products online and 73% shop online. They are the biggest online audience group (32%) [Neilson Australian Online Landscape Review]

Now, let’s look at jobs. In 2013, the following news  - from a study by The US 3% Conference Founder, Kat Gordon -was pitched to women as if it were a remarkable achievement. “The percentage of female creative directors in the Communication Arts 2013 Advertising Annual reached 11.5% form 3.6% in 2008. That’s a 319% increase.”

Please forgive me for pointing out that an increase of 8% in five years is a small step for womankind.

What about age? There are no numbers, that I could find, for older women creative directors. But I did come across some numbers from a 2011 study by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising UK that made me shudder: “When it comes to age, just 5.3% of those working in the ad industry are aged 50 or over, and just 13.5% are between 41 and 49. The advertising industry is dominated by the young, with almost half aged 30 or younger and 35.7% between 31 and 40. The average age of an employee in 2010 across all agencies who are members of the IPA was 33.7, the same as in 2009…”

Champions of women creatives are beginning to emerge. One of them is a man. Nils Leonard is chairman and chief creative officer of Grey London. Here is the beginning of an opinion piece he wrote in October called "Why the Perfect Modern Creative is Fierce, Fearless and Female."

"The perfect modern creative is a woman.
Because we have enough men, and men like it the way it is right now.
She will seek change.
And her finest qualities will be frustration and discontent…”

A champion of older creatives? I couldn’t find any brave enough to go public. And while job ads specify “digital native” rather than digitally savvy, and “fresh, new talent” rather than fresh-thinking talent, that’s not going to change.

So, I guess the champion of older creatives will have to be me…and a few people who know about what Australia needs:

“The [Intergenerational Report] warns there is a risk to GDP and income growth unless the Government can grapple with these demographic changes…It will suggest those not in the workforce, in particular older Australians and women, need to be encouraged to get employment, re-enter the workforce, or prolong their careers.”

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