Often the reasons discussed around the lack of women in senior creative roles in ad agencies comes back to flexible working.
It was a big part of the discussion in the roundtable discussion AdNews hosted in February ahead of our special print edition The Gender Issue and, is a constant pain point for both employees and employers.
A complex web of factors is at play, and it doesn’t just come down to making women’s hours more flexible. It’s about making flexible working available – and acceptable - for everyone.
One ad land due thinks they have a solution to it. An it’s speed dating (sort of). The CEOs of two job -sharing startups are about to come together to launch Australia’s first job-sharing networking event for art directors.
The theory behind the event is that two heads are better than one, and if the industry can embrace and encourage more job sharing (where to part time employees fill one full time role) everybody wins. It brings more flexibility and more creative minds into the process. Plus, in theory it should make it easier for those women that want to stay in the industry, but also dedicate time to family, to do so.
Job sharing is not easy. It takes an enormous amount of organisation, collaboration and communication to ensure that things don’t fall between he cracks and that one party doesn’t end up carrying a burden. The chemistry needs to be right between those people but the benefits can be endless.
Simone McLaughlin, Jobs Shared CEO and former advertising account director and Rachel Mence, CEO of ShareMyJob, believe the event (and the subsequent job-sharing opportunities it hopes will emerge) will “solve the advertising industry’s gender imbalance and flexibility problems”.
Now that is a big call, but it’s a tangible step to solving what is a big problem. The Melbourne event (details below) will bring together around 20 Melbourne art directors interested in part-time opportunities in the advertising industry.
“Job sharing seems like a natural fit for advertising, yet is rarely used as a way to offer staff flexibility,” the pair say.
The venture aims to provide information on how to make it work, and then offers a speed dating-style networking session so that the creatives can meet potential job-share partners and then go beyond “the first date”.
“Creativity is not gendered and neither should be the opportunity to work within Advertising … Diversity is important in any profession, but especially in an industry built on creativity, influencing what we believe and how we behave in relation to the services we use and products we consume,” they add citing a stat that claims 43% of female creatives who have left agencies do so to find a better work like balance.
“Unfortunately advertising has failed to adapt to changing workplace behaviour and its lack of flexible work practices has started to impact its ability to retain staff, especially its top female talent, and is now showing signs of struggling to attract top graduates into the industry,” they say.
“Part time positions simply do not exist in ad agencies, in part, due to increasingly tight deadlines; but by not providing the flexibility required to accommodate those who do more than just work, the industry will struggle to attract and retain not just women, but the best millennial talent, who’ll seek opportunities for creativity elsewhere.”
With technology, and always-on connectivity, working away from the office shouldn’t be a problem. The technology is there to allow us to work remotely and be more fluid in our working pattern, but it doesn’t seem to pan out that way in agencies.
Much of the discussion at the AdNews Gender Diversity roundtable earlier this year was around the culture and attitude towards flexible working – rather than the capability to actually make it happen. Jules Hall, CEO of The Hallway, explained that it has made a flexible/part time creative role work by simply being very clear with clients what the circumstances are, demonstrating that it can be done with an open dialogue and making sure everyone knows where they stand.
Deadlines and client demands can make it difficult to see how part time positions could work, but effort has to be made to make it a reality not a pipe dream. Often, the only thing that holds back progress in this kind of thing is the assumption it won’t work. It might be difficult, and it takes commitment from both staff and management to make it work but the stark reality is that if more flexibility doesn’t emerge, the industry will lose a lot of good people – male and female.
So if job-sharing can bring more creative minds, less burnout, more productivity and dedication from staff, and tackle the drop out of senior women - it can’t hurt.