MONDAY 5 OCT 2015 2:24 PM


It should come as no shock to most communicators that there is a gender gap in the industry. The stats are compelling; 70% of graphic design students are women, but only 3% of creative directors are women, women earn less over the course of their careers, senior comms roles are more often filled by men than women. It goes on. Yet Deloitte research has also proved that companies with a more diverse workforce – in terms of gender, race, sexuality, etc. – perform better than those without.

Promoting diverse hiring practices, flexible working and collaborative cultures is in the best interests of women in the creative industries. To help make a difference in that process of change and see more women taking leadership roles is the new Kerning the Gap group, founded by Good’s London MD Natalie Maher.

Maher spoke at the inaugural event last week about the importance of role models, of sharing experiences and of taking action. “This is an industry-wide issue and it’s going to take an industry-wide solution,” she says. Kerning the Gap is intended to go beyond talking about the problems and seek practical solutions that can be implemented across the industry.

Also speaking at the event was former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather UK Cheryl Giovannoni. She addressed the issues facing women in the workplace and stressed that existing solutions, like family leave, don’t go far enough to making a difference. It’s up to women in the industry to push for the change they want to see, she says.

“It is so critical that we fix this issue for all sorts of business reasons,” she says. “The moment in time is right now. There is so much irrefutable evidence that gender balance leads to success.” She says women need mentors and role models – and those don’t have to be other women – to help them see the potentials for career advancement. “I do believe men want to help,” Giovannoni adds. “They probably don’t know how.”

Other issues raised include attitudes toward having children, the perception of ‘business-like’ qualities and the changing nature of the modern workplace.

She quotes Kate Heddleston, a software engineer who said, “Women in tech are the canary in the coal mine. Normally when the canary in the coal mine starts dying you know the environment is toxic and you should get the hell out. Instead, the tech industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can't breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary. Lean in!’ When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.”

“How do we create the conditions for success?” Giovannoni asks.