Tomorrow at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, IPG and the Interpublic Women’s Leadership Network will sponsor a panel titled, “Beyond Mad Men: Toward Gender Diversity in Creative Roles.”
First, the Interpublic Women’s Leadership Network sounds like an oxymoron, especially considering the conversation ignited by Tiffany Rolfe’s perspective at Advertising Age. Many believe that women are inadequately represented in the top positions on Madison Avenue—although a bunch of female executives seem to dispute the charges, while others offer a variety of reasons for the alleged dearth of lady leaders. Regardless, it’s interesting to note that IPG has an organized club for women. Are there also Interpublic Leadership Networks for Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, LGBT, etc.?
Another peculiar point about the Interpublic Women’s Leadership Network involves the fact that Draftfcb is a major player in the IPG stable. After all, Draftfcb shits out some of the most sexist and offensive advertising imaginable for clients such as Coors, Miller Lite, Taco Bell and KFC. Wonder what the WLN members think of the contradictions posed here.
According to the IPG press release, the event “will mark the first time in the Cannes Festival’s 58-year history that this topic has been formally addressed.” Which means that the subject of women in the creative department trumps overall diversity in terms of sparking the enthusiasm of Cannes attendees. Heaven forbid anyone might have the courage to design a panel simply titled, “Beyond Mad Men: Toward Diversity in Creative Roles.” Unfortunately, such an effort might require inviting minorities to the festivities and giving them a leading role. It’s much more pleasant—and visually appealing—to confine the discussion to gender.
Here’s a particularly annoying excerpt from the IPG press release:
“When you look at the U.S. and European markets, women make up about 50% of the advertising industry workforce,” commented Michael Roth, Chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group. “But recent studies in those markets show that in the U.S. only 38% of the executive ranks in our industry are women, and in the UK, management is only 22% female, confirming a gender gap. And if you look within creative departments, you see an even greater imbalance. Industry-wide, we see an opportunity to be more competitive with recruiting and promoting talented woman into the most senior roles in our creative disciplines.
“Globally, women make up the fastest growing demographic in emerging markets, so it makes business sense that the people who are asked to develop ‘the big idea’ to reach these consumers are also representative of those consumers.
“We hope this first-of-its-kind program at Cannes can help begin a dialogue with a goal of identifying ways for the industry to improve. The importance of increasing gender diversity in the most senior ranks at IPG is a priority for me personally and all our employees who participate in the Women’s Leadership Network at IPG,” he continued.
Um, it looks as if IPG took the standard diversity statement and swapped “minorities” with “women.” Plus, the gender inequities don’t come close to matching the discrimination that non-Whites have faced for decades. Perhaps IPG doesn’t see an opportunity to be more competitive with recruiting and promoting talented minorities into the most senior roles in our creative disciplines.
The panel will star celebrities including Martha Stewart and Soledad O’Brien. Are these gals qualified to speak on gender problems within the advertising industry? For that matter, is anyone at IPG capable of addressing the issue without exposing cultural cluelessness and overall ignorance? Where’s Neil French when you really need him?
Expect the panel to ultimately inspire a female creative scholarship program. Because, by golly, girls aren’t even aware of the opportunities available on Madison Avenue.