A few weeks ago we hosted an event for grassroots professional group Minneapolis MadWomen — a group formed by women from agencies of all kinds from all around the city.
We pitched the MadWomen group on creating a survey that would inform discussion topics at the event. We also wanted to have some data that could spark conversation – at our company and at others around town. This isn’t a scientific survey, but it’s been very useful to us as a conversation-starter here at ZJ and we hope it will be all across town.
All companies have work to do in this area, but there are few immediate implications for agency leadership:
1. If you want to see change in gender balance, say so. And do something tangible. To me the most shocking stat was this one: “[Only] 7% believe men in leadership positions are actively trying to address gender imbalances at work.” This is isn’t even a hard one to address: if you are concerned about it - let the people you work with know that. And if you are doing something about it, then let them know what you are doing.
2. Recognize that biases exist. There is an overwhelming sense among these respondents that there is a prejudice against women in the industry. Especially in certain departments, creative in particular. At Zeus Jones we make lots of important decisions collectively as a whole company, yet there are still certain biases that creep in. Saying that they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.
3. Make sure people feel valued for the right reasons. The biggest theme throughout the MadWomen events is work/life balance. There is a sense that agencies value people who put in the most hours vs. who has the best ideas. Women with families feel disadvantaged because they can seldom compete based on time-spent. If what your company sells is ideas, not hours, you need to make sure you aren’t judging performance or commitment on hours spent in the office.
4. Encourage mentorship. In an industry with fewer women leaders, there are fewer people to mentor up-and-comers. There is nothing more useful to younger people than being able to visualize your future career through a mentor who can also help you get there. If you are an agency leader of any gender - figure out how you can shine a light on the people who will inspire everyone to push further. If you are a woman in leadership in this industry - please look for opportunities to mentor others. And if you are seeking a mentor and can’t find one at your place of work, that’s what professional organizations like MadWomen are for.
The data in this chart has been hugely useful to Zeus Jones as we wrestle with our own gender balance and our own definitions of leadership. It’s helped us realize we’re doing a lot of things right but still have some big leaps to take. It’s sparked conversation among the partners and also caused some internal grassroots groups to form and present us with questions and challenges.
We hope this graphic will start similar conversations and spur action all over town: