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The challenge of successfully hiring female creatives – how recruitment can better support diversity

It is a universally-acknowledged fact that men far outnumber women in creative roles

Ali Hanan, who founded Creative Equals – the creative industry’s gender diversity kitemark – spoke to four of the best agency recruiters to get their views on the journey to success for female creatives.

Diversity is currently a buzz phrase in advertising, with the lack of gender equality in creative departments a pressing issue. It is a universally-acknowledged fact that men far outnumber women in creative roles, which clearly presents problems with creativity and with the ability of teams to answer client briefs.

Tom Knox, IPA president, opines that an increase in the number of female creatives would be an all-round good thing – not least since 85% of purchasing decisions are made by women.

Research conducted by the IPA highlighted the low female representation in creative departments, with less than one-quarter of positions held by women. Despite equal numbers of men and women leaving advertising colleges, the gender split widens still further with increased seniority – a mere 14% of London creative directors are female, compared with 11% in the US.

Four top recruiters from some of adland’s most well-regarded agencies gave their thoughts on recruitment in the industry and the issue of gender imbalance and share the one action they believe would make a difference.

Ashley Shack, creative recruiter, Wieden+Kennedy

Shack described how Wieden+Kennedy has launched a number of workplace initiatives intended to benefit all staff, including internal meetings taking place only between 10am and 4pm and a veto on emails being sent between 7pm and 8am.

If Shack could change one thing, it would be for female creatives to increase their visibility to recruiters, such as by putting their work on their websites, giving talks and being on juries.

Carlo Callegari, recruitment director, BBH

Senior female creatives can have a hand in altering the gender imbalance, according to Callegari. This can be achieved through proactive showcasing of their work and increased visibility on networks such as LinkedIn.

The one thing Callegari would change would be the creation of an industry-wide recruitment mandate taking care to use gender-neutral terms and imagery to encourage response from women.

Christina Mazurowski, senior recruiter, R/GA London

One in six creative directors at R/GA is female and the agency took an active stance in looking to recruit women for the roles. Mazurowski described how she needed to look overseas for senior female creatives due to there being so few in London.

Given the opportunity to change one thing, Mazurowski would like to see women hired based on their potential rather than on their achievements to date.

Mary Hurlock-Murphy, director of international talent acquisition and mobility, DigitasLBi

When recruiting for creative roles, Hurlock-Murphy says that DigitasLBi always ensures there is female representation on interview panels so that examples of work are seen by both male and female eyes. Female candidates also feel more at ease with both men and women interviewers.

Asked what one thing she would change, Hurlock-Murphy said she wants to see candidates tagging their online work better so that searches for ‘female creative director’, for example, yield better results on search engines.

Creative Equals is championing a five-point charter for change to encourage recruiters to take the actions the industry is calling for.

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