Female Owned: Not Many Agencies Can Say That

March 14, 2024

Last week, AdNews and Mumbrella invited me to comment on gender equality in the workplace for their International Women’s Day features.

Their questions: Have we reached equality in the workplace? What’s it like being a female in a typically male sector? What does this year's IWD theme, Inspire Inclusion, mean to you? And, while many see IWD as tokenistic, in your words, how can we use it to actually create change in the creative industry and boost more women into senior roles?

Here’s what I had to say. Some might agree with me, some might not. But if you feel the same and think we should be doing more about it, let’s chat.

Have we reached equality in the workplace? That’s a hard no from me. While I think International Women’s Day and all it stands for is great, the inequality issue our industry is grappling with right now extends far beyond just gender.

Now, it could be because gender inequality isn’t an issue in our business - I’m super proud that Hopeful Monsters is one of the only creative agencies in Australia to be solely-owned and led by a woman - and of course I’m sensitive to those whom it does impact, but to me, the inequality that exists across so many areas of our industry - ethnicity, social mobility, age etc.-  is as big a problem.

How, after all this time, are we (i.e. the industry) still so far behind?

I appreciate I’m in a fortunate position where I get to call the shots so our equality stats stack up - our leadership team is 50% men, 50% women (the same goes for the wider agency), our gender pay gap is 2% (and that’s favourable towards women), our parental leave policy is fair to both genders, but this should be the norm, not the exception.

Surely it’s about treating each individual as just that - an individual. Who cares about their gender, race or age for that matter? It’s about making a commitment to equality and putting your money where your mouth is.

When I think back to some of the conferences and talks I attended last year, the lack of diversity was scary. Many of us are talking in our own homogenous bubbles. Our industry has a huge diversity issue that needs fixing. Putting more middle-class white women in senior roles with other middle class white men isn’t going to fix the problem.

At Hopeful Monsters we know that diverse backgrounds lead to diverse thinking, which leads to diverse, culturally impactful work. Interesting ideas come from the diverse lives we have lived.

Fixing the gender pay gap, ensuring a fair balance of women in leadership positions, flexibility for working mums… they’re all important and every step is progress, but as an industry there’s so much more we can do to ensure more equal representation from a gender point of view and beyond.

So if you feel like me and are up for driving actual change, let’s grab a coffee, a beer, a wine or a walk and start doing something about it.

Words by Katie Barclay.