Last week I was invited to a Podge lunch in Manchester. As an invitation-only event, Podge lunches are a 23-year-old institution for the great and good in our industry. As the event was held so close to today's date, this year's theme celebrated International Women's Day and presented us with what I would describe as a Lily Savage riot of neon leopard skin. Not to my taste this time.
Podge's don't normally have a speaker but an exception was made on this occasion for Ali Hanan, CEO of Creative Equals, who shared some of the incredibly disappointing statistics about the level of female representation amongst creative teams, including the fact that just 13% of Creative Directors are women.
Interestingly, the 'top table' on the day had 11 women and just 1 lone man sitting together. At an event which was championing women, I assumed this might have been the most powerful women in the room. I might not have been wrong, but it turned out that this was a deliberate part of the seating plan to prove a point.
After Ali had finished speaking she asked the token man to stand up - it was Jonathan Sands OBE from Elmwood - and asked him how it had made him feel being the minority on the table. His honest response had women nodding around the room in recognition. He said that his initial excitement to sit at a table with interesting looking women turned to intimidation and the feeling that he wouldn't be able to contribute to the conversation. He said it was something he'd never experienced before and that in that moment, he 'got it'.
Having been to countless agency principal events and dinners where I have felt just like Jonathan, it was refreshing to hear that the feeling was not about gender but instead about the unbalanced circumstance in which we both found ourselves.
I am incredibly proud that Salad's team is pretty much a 50/50 male and female split, albeit not in the creative department. Although, anyone who knows me knows I have been raving and shouting about the need for more female creative talent - which ultimately must come from a place of confidence. We know that at undergraduate level, the bias might even be slightly skewed in favour of females and yet as young creative woman graduate, the numbers decrease at an alarming rate from there. Don't even get me started on agency MD's or principles, that's another blog altogether and perhaps one for next International Women's Day.
I'd like to end by saying that I think in general, the agency world is pretty forward thinking. We are inclusive people, open-minded to our ever-evolving industry and must be relatively enlightened to stay ahead of the game; but we all (myself included) need to do more to address gender and ethnic diversity within our businesses in an active way. Businesses are more capable, stable and balanced - not to mention produce better work - when they are made equal. So I'm going to use this day to take another good, hard look at the team I'm building here and the business I want to create for the future.
This International Women's Day, I want to take time to celebrate the achievements of the women we're lucky to have here at Salad and to continue to support them and give them the resources they need to grow and flourish.