Gender equity still lacking in creative industries

According to the Global Gender Gap Report July 2022 (World Economic Forum) the global gender gap will take 132 years to reach full parity at the current rate of progress.

That means that not only will women alive today never experience parity, its very unlikely their daughters and granddaughters will either.

Employment and business leadership are just one part of the overall equality piece, but vital to the overall picture. As an owner of a creative business led by women, I am continually dismayed by the lack of improvement in my own industry.

Last year the Design Council reported that only 22% of the UK’s creative and design workforce is female, despite the fact women currently account for around 60% of students enrolled in university arts and design courses. Only 17% of the UK's Creative Directors are women and even fewer are running their own creative businesses.

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Creative leadership can do more

I believe a lot of the disparity is caused by the ongoing and ingrained culture of the traditional creative agency. A culture that equates long hours with success, promotes competition not collaboration between creatives and does little to help working parents cope with the pressures of bringing up children or help women through the difficulties of the menopause. As an industry we are not known for our caring qualities, putting client satisfaction well above employee welfare and happiness.

It's no coincidence that recruiting and retaining talent was a number one concern for design businesses in 2022 (DBA’s annual report). And I am certain that women make up a large proportion of people dropping out of our industry from their early thirties onwards.

As an industry we like to think of ourselves as forward thinking and on-trend, but in reality we are lagging behind, stuck in our ways and repeating the same old, same old working patterns.

The Collaborators was founded by two women and has been run by women ever since. Working late is not seen as a good thing and the doors are not open at the weekend. Everyone knows that taking time out to look after your children on a strike or sick day, or to care for an elderly relative is not seen as a weakness or slacking from work. Children are often sat on laps (Dads’ laps included) in our daily Zoom meetings and working from the office is voluntary and something most of us look forward to doing a couple of times a week. We also have an incredibly low turnover of staff, with no women leaving the business in the last five years.

I truly believe that promoting a more female values-led, caring culture goes a long way to helping gender equity in the workplace, both directly and indirectly. And It’s time the creative industry put people happiness and gender equity higher up their priority list when planning their next year’s budgets.