Doing it for the girls – Marking International Women’s Day 2013

March 5, 2013

Advertising, media or marketing – no matter what you call it, is largely perceived as a female industry. Although despite the high number of women working within the industry you might be surprised to learn that less than 10% of agency bosses in Ireland are female. While women do often and deservedly so make it to a senior level there is still a significant imbalance at the very top level, and when women do make it to the top they often face scrutiny. Take Marissa Mayer for example, President and CEO of Yahoo! currently making headlines for her decision to end remote working at Yahoo! She is facing an endless stream of criticism for her decision despite the fact that many at the company had acknowledged it is a real issue. In a memo flagged “proprietary and confidential — do not forward” Mayer (or rather HR Director Jackie Reses) stated;

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” the memo said. “That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

meaning that from June employees with existing work-at-home arrangements will be expected to report to the office. People have hit back calling the move arbitrary, out of touch and unfair to parents. It’s worth noting that Mayer herself is a new mother and these offices where people will have to now go include perks such as on site fitness centres and free meals. I feel for Mayer because I firmly believe that had the decision come from a male CEO the backlash wouldn’t have been so severe, so personal and I certainly wouldn’t be talking about it now. As a women Mayer is expected to be understanding and compassionate not making tough decisions which may rock the boat and do the job which was recruited to do.

I think Marissa is to be commended; she has made it to a top level position against the odds. In the results of a study carried out by iReach on behalf of Microsoft Ireland it has been revealed that gender discrimination is still seen as the biggest barrier to workplace promotion among women. The results which have been launched to coincide with Microsoft Ireland’s Fuel your Success event and International Women’s Day (March 8th) revealed that 71% of females compared with just 52% of males feel that there are barriers to promotion in the workplace, the main barriers as identified are gender discrimination among management, demands from home and a lack of support for working mothers. Interestingly the impact of family life on work is regarded as a factor by both genders, 32% of all surveyed cited family commitments as a reason for not taking a promotion. When we look at these figures it’s also important to look at how important is promotion, it’s very easy to assume that making it to the top is the key measure of success but is that really the case?

Seemingly not, according to research carried out by Accenture in order to feel successful in the workplace Irish women want a work life balance. 58% of professional females in Ireland believe that they can have it all, in terms of a successful career and family, compared with 64% of Irish men. So are these women selling themselves short, why don’t more of believe that we too, like the boys, can have it all? In contrast with the report from Microsoft Ireland a more significant 52% of global respondents (compared to the previous figure of 32% Irish respondents) said they would turn down a job due to concerns over how it would impact on family life. So why are other nationalities more concerned about work/life balance that the Irish? Is it that we view success differently? To be honest I don’t really know the answer to that one, but the infographic below might be able to answer some of your questions regarding Irish working women.Working Women Infographic

Despite the imbalances and differences that still exist there has been remarkable progress. Over Christmas I read a book called ‘Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the 60’s and Beyond’ from the ad genius that is Jane Mass. Mass was a creative director at Ogilvy and Mather and Wells Rich Greene, and President at Earle Palmer Brown, she was also Advertising Woman of the Year and is the only female behind the iconic I ❤ NY campaign. Her book reveals what it was like to be a woman in advertising in the Mad Men era of the 1960’s, Her book highlights that there were clear rules for women in advertising, and that she broke rule number one; no working mothers but she lived with plenty of others. One in particular that struck a chord with me was that women could only work on products where it was deemed they had something to contribute. i.e. soaps and toilet cleaners but they couldn’t work on cars because the notion was that they couldn’t drive properly. Finance and alcohol were completely out of bounds; if these rules still existed today simply put I would be out of a job!



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