Gender Issues: Maddening firsthand encounters with sexism

October 09, 2013  |  Comments

“Sit next to the client and rub his left thigh”

The upcoming issue of Marketing (available this week) is our Gender Issue, which taps new research to explore how consumer stereotypes are breaking down between the sexes and what marketers need to know to hit their targets. With all the talk of gender marketing, we decided it was an opportune time to take stock of gender issues in the marketing industry itself as well. Writer Carly Lewis reached out and engaged some of the leading women in advertising, and each day this week we will post their responses to some important questions. The picture that emerges is one that suggests that while progress has been on the gender equity front, there is a lot more needed. Tell us what you think.

Monday: Today’s most urgent issues around gender in the ad world
Tuesday: Making progress. What’s changed the most in the industry?
Today: Tales from the front: Maddening firsthand encounters with sexism
Thursday: Where to from here? What are the remedies?
Friday: Listen up. Important advice from leaders in the ad business

Any maddeningly memorable firsthand encounters with sexism in the industry?

Lauren Richards, principal at Pollin8
Breaking into boys clubs has been a challenge I’ve had, as well as many of my female peers.

Karen Howe, senior vice-president, creative director at One
Early in my career I was told by my creative director that I could not work on a beer account because “women don’t understand beer.” In the late ’90s, when I first become a CD, I was told the same thing by a client. Ironically I went on to found a family microbrewery, and that beer client got fired from his job.

Jill King, president at One Advertising
When I think back to my early days in the business, I am reminded of a pitch I was invited into when I was 25. I studied the product like it was my life’s calling and walked into the rehearsal fully prepared to dazzle with my insights. The president of the agency let me know that my role in said pitch was to “sit next to the client and rub his left thigh.” Also, once I had a senior client ask me to bring my baking to a meeting at his office during Christmas season. I was completely stunned.

Jill Nykoliation, president of Juniper Park
I worked somewhere that was rumoured to have a top 10 list that ranked the women on their looks. Can you imagine?

Nancy Vonk, co-founder of Swim
Not long ago, one young woman that I met in a job interview told me about a copywriter who told her women shouldn’t pursue copywriting or art direction, because they’d find the workload too challenging when they have kids. I asked how old he was, assuming he had to be nearing 100. No, he was in his late 30s.

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