The conversation strays on to the subject of women in the industry. The agency Hegarty founded now has a good record of supporting and promoting women, with senior executives including Mel Exon, Rosie Arnold and Caroline Pay.
“You’ve got to do as much as you can to encourage women as we do at BBH. We do everything that we possibly can,” Hegarty says. But he is adamant about one thing: “There is no glass ceiling in our industry.”
Although Hegarty says it is a predominantly white, middle-class, masculine industry and suffers because of it, he is “constantly bemused” by why that is: “It didn’t set out to be that. It’s the most egalitarian industry in the world. We don’t care who you are. Are you good? Are you entrepreneurial? Have you got an interesting mind? Come on in.”
As Hegarty sees it, the biggest problem is women taking career breaks to have children, then struggling to rejoin an industry that has moved on: “It’s very, very hard and I sympathise with that enormously. Of course we should be doing everything we can to help. But the thing about a creative career is that, if you are not doing it every day, you are not getting better every day. It’s like a sports person. If you are 24 years old and a tennis player, you can’t take a year off; you’ve lost the momentum. You can’t accuse our hugely competitive industry of being competitive.”
But surely he thinks it’s unfair for women to have to take the hit on their careers to bring up children?
Hegarty says: “What are you going to do about it? On average, men live a shorter amount of time than women. That’s really unfair. I think we should make that an issue. Maybe that’s the price I’ve paid for doing the work I’ve done, and building the companies I’ve built, and providing for my family: I don’t live as long.”
It’s hard to tell whether he is being mischievous or deadly serious. But he continues: “We have to talk about this. In life, you can’t have it all and you have to make choices. Be aware of those choices. Life has sacrifice in it. My parents’ generation went to war so I could go to school. You have to accept what you are and the decisions you make.”
Hegarty admits adland is predominately White and male—and he feigns concern that the field suffers from the exclusivity—yet he’s unable to figure out why diversity remains a dream deferred and denied. Plus, the idiot essentially serves up a polite version of the Neil French perspective on women in advertising. Finally, Hegarty has the audacity to proclaim, “[Advertising’s] the most egalitarian industry in the world. We don’t care who you are. Are you good? Are you entrepreneurial? Have you got an interesting mind? Come on in.” But don’t “come on in” if you’re a minority—just drop off a resume and maybe Hegarty will get back to you at his discriminatory discretion. Or maybe not.