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Wednesday, 14 May 2008



I went to the IPA Strategy fast strategy day the other week. No females in the competition panels... which someone brought up and a few people had a chuckle

A few good speakers though including bridget from AMV who was great

Maybe females dont need to validate their ego


Bridget speaks well, but I want to see more women out there who are as sharp as a tack, creatively driven and on top of all things digital. In short, inspiring. Hard to find, sadly.

I don't know why Amelia. I'm not sure that it comes down to women not being as good at managing and promoting their own brand, if they're keen to do that. I'm not sure some of the men who do well think that consciously about it, but perhaps I'm wrong.

While it would be harsh to say that men are better at public speaking than women, there may be something in the charisma/humour and bonding between men. But that is sad if that's the case.

The only other thing I can think of is whether some male bloggers are more aggressive or determined in their view than women, and thus you get a clearer sense of what they stand for or believe in, which makes it easier to see them as a 'character' or someone who's opinion is worth hearing.

But what do I know, I post pictures of cat tattoos...


Too busy shoe shopping?

Simon Gregory

Although Russell Davies' Interesting2008 conference currently has 6 women speakers out of 18ish lined up...


Simon, you're right. Russell's "Interesting" is pretty balanced in terms of gender as are the PSFK events.

Funny, its the less traditional ad events that seem to be more open minded and broad minded

Deborah Khan

Excellent questions Amelia. I can't pretend to have any smart, sharp as a tack style responses. I wrote about this last year-
Most illuminating of all is that my embryonic blog has not been updated for months.
I love blogging, the've rejuvenatd my reading, broadened my perspective... All the cliches.

The reality is, as my brand has extended, something has to give. Less work, more blogging. It's a paradox.

For me, the issue around discomfort with showboating your self as a brand is cruical. I hate it. Many women I connect with professionally prefer the interface and more complex, nuanced methods of sharing ideas. They work out if they like each other then start to change the world.

Ridiculous but I also do feel the relentless attention that great blogs appear to have and need is just too much. Limiting behaviour but true.
Your post has forced me to re-consider my own position. I promise I will get back on the horse. In fact, I hear it neighing.

My poor blog doesn't even have an up to date client list. Barmy when you consider that Dare, Ogilvy etc are my bread and butter. So I'm surrounded by the movers and shakers but my response is to not play.

Presenting- ummm. I'm good, I think. In fact, I did a gig @ Interesting last year. Daunting but thrilling. It's hard to not aspire to a a more male bells and whistles, gag cracking multi media high status show. Or to become overwhelmed by the anxiety of getting it right, copious notes in hand because we are being judged. There are choices. Women just need a bit of encouragement.

More pertinent to me are the complex pragmatic challenges for all women in key creative roles. The roles that demand your intellectual and emotional engagment simply become untenable when children, domesticity and relationships dominate.I know, I tried. Hats off to those who do.

Twas ever thus.I'm not alluding to that damned Cyril Connolly quote but witness the reality of women remaining the domestic drivers in the majority of cases. In the theatre, my ex world, it is heartening to see more women in key artistic director roles but they remain elusive.

So what are we going to do about it?

Meanwhile I'll check the children, empty the washer and paint my nails. Or whatever multi tasking hell we women are meant to adore.


I don't think it's necessarily just a gender issue. In the UK we are simply well behind the States in terms of both blogging and a 'commentary culture'. In the states, female bloggers are extremely high profile and cross both high and pop culture - from the huffington post to the gofugyourself girls. That said, I was recently incensed that a campaign profile of UK advertising bloggers hadn't bothered to locate a single female blogger to talk to (er hi!) but then Campaign's hardly a cutting edge publication is it?



Anne-Fey, you're right about the US UK difference. Think about the brilliant Danah Boyd who is the guru on youth/social networking etc.
Or Mia Kim, the super smart brains behind PopGadget

Hmmmm - could well be a cultural thing. Having spent 6 years working out in the States, I did get the impression that women were far more work assertive than over here and far more of them were running companies and departments than here.

You've got me thinking...

Also, I thought that Deb's comment that women generally "become overwhelmed by the anxiety of getting it right, copious notes in hand because we are being judged" was probably right. Most men just seem to have thicker skins than we do. If they do care about being judged, the y show it less publicly than women do!

Deborah Khan

Agree with the cultural point.
My comment should have read "feel as if they are being judged"
Subtle but important difference. Sorry.

Reflecting on training people in presentation skills for the last 10 years, in my experience women are defintely more inhibited by their perception of how they sound, appear and what they dont know.

belinda parmar

Surprisingly, according to the Future Foundation, women are more likely to have a personal blog than men. However, like everyone above, I often wonder where have not only all the female bloggers gone, but also where have all the women in strategy gone.

A new book, The Sexual Paradox by Susan Pinker, states that the reason that most women in the their early 30s choose to opt out of the career game is that women are

"wired to resist the demands at the top of those fields. Women care more about intrinsic rewards, more service orientated and are wired for empathy."

As a thirty something woman in advertising, I find the so called 'rewards' of being management are not appealing. I am not prepared to become aggressive, arrogant and leave my integrity at the door. And as Deborah writes above, with children, the choices become clearer as so much more meaning is derived from being with the children than from the corporate environment.

Love to discuss more. I am sure we can do something positive as a group to change things for future generations.


You're not alone.


A friend of mine emailed this to me and wants to go. Ironically, I'm thinking: I'm not geeky enough for THESE girls.

We'll see.


Geek Girl Dinner are great - really smart. Looked into them when I was doing the xmas Spectator piece on Gadgets for Girls. Let me know if you do go along to the dinner. I may well drop them a quick email about this discussion as well.
This was the article in case you are interested:

On a side note, I wanted to ask if anyone has had any dealings with WACL??


There are less women talking and judging at these events because they're not getting asked. Why? Because there are less women in senior positions to ask - definitely. But sadly I suspect a bigger issue is that women tend to be less entertaining (and less ballsy in making their point on award panels?). Don't get me wrong, I've seen great female speakers.

But I think it comes down to confidence. A great talk is delivered confidently and often has a bit of comedy in it. Men tend to be more confident and there are definitely more male comedians. But that doesn't mean we can't do it too.

I totally agree with Deborah, the lack of confidence is related to the fear of being judged. We second guess ourselves, we over-analyse. I remember being told as a child that as a woman I should always go with my first answer in multiple choice exams, because we questions ourselves so often we end up getting it wrong.

I wonder if that fear of being judged is because as women we know how harsh that judgement can be? Isn't gossip largely judgement? Perhaps men are just more ignorant of the judgement.


Although I do blog about planning and digital and I really enjoy it I find the advertising blogging culture can be a bit depressing. I think there is a lot of back-slapping and posturing that I don't find so much in the community encompassing the other blog that I write. If you have had a drink with the right people you can assume their attention on your blog and vice versa, essentially it's online networking. I agree with Deborah - women are more concerned to get to know and like a person and that translates to a reticence to bounce from blog to blog making sharp comments. I think men are more relaxed with debate and confrontation and also with self-promotion. On the conference side I don't think men are better speakers than women, but because they have blog networks they're the people you think about when you want a speaker. You can't invite someone you don't know to speak, however good they are! So how to solve this? Discussions like this are a good start, read and comment on each other's blogs. Ensure we publicise our RSS feeds, push ourselves onto directories and have opinions. Simple but time consuming.

The one thing I can confirm is that I don't let blogging get in the way of shoe shopping - I have write my posts in one window while runnning my Office search for 9 inch blue sparkly stillettos in the other. ah the beauty of Firefox.

Claire Cater

Golly well what can I add to all the comments with which I agree..
There is no doubt we women are different from men – thank goodness I say..
On the whole – we ladies tend to prefer face to face interaction coupled with some emotional connection when it comes to exploring our precious points of view….
And yes – we fear getting it wrong – being judged or laughed at more than boys
Our get it right anxiety does get in the way…
Men are happy to stand tall with 30% of what they need to know – yet we women quiver at the thought of being caught out in position of a mere 70% of the facts
Last week I watched as several men stand proud by the pool with their bulging bellies and moobs..the absence of a six pack didn’t worry them one bit…while the more voluptuous ladies wore their sarongs and gazed enviously at the perfect size tens…
Confidence….can you buy it online?
However, we do have the benefit of exploring our points of view in the safe haven of our sister hood – something few men really have – so blogging is in my view often a replacement – a reaching out – not simply to express but to engage…..they do it virtually and we do it for real…is one way of looking at it…
As for public speaking – I agree with all the above…but have seen some outstanding females…I’m fortunate enough to be involved with Women of The Year (the real one that’s been around 53 years!)….I have spent three hours laughing and crying in the company of some of the best. And yes – I like to do it myself…

So - the question for me is this…will lack of regular blogging be like not doing my pelvic floor exercises…will my brand become week or ever worse suffer a prolapse? Only time will tell. Is it worth the risk?
So I guess like those handy exercises…you can blog almost anywhere without anyone realising…so let’s do it and tell your friends when you’re having an emotionally engaging moment…
Alternatively we might all be wearing ‘virtual Tenna’ in years to come..


Having attended a number of girl geek dinners in recent years, I would echo the views expressed here. I have met a number of very smart attendees and speakers. But the one thing they had in common was that they all cringed at (and some actively voiced their condemnation of) those other attendees/speakers who bemoaned how hard done by women in technology were.

Their view was one that I'm sure is shared by the commenters above - namely that they hadn't wasted their time bemoaning the inequality, they had just gone out and proven by dint of their actions and abilities that they were worth listening to.

I recall that all the female speakers at Interesting 2007 were terrific and some exceptional, I recall that one particular female speaker at a girl geek dinner last year was simply outstanding. I'd listen to any of them (and danah) again.

But I also recall my reaction at Nesta's huge conference last month when an audience member used the scarce opportunity of a question from the floor to quite literally whine about the lack of female speakers rather than make a relevant incisive comment and by doing so demonstrate her talents and maybe get invited to speak somewhere. The same with bloggers I would argue.

Now that may seem over-optimistic, but I also recall a seminar about "troubled teens" that was notable for the lack of teens on the stage. One teen in the audience (female as it happens) made that point in passing and then went on to take the opportunity to demonstrate her passion and knowledge of the subject at hand. No prizes for guessing who was the most sought-after person at the subsequent reception.


I didn’t realise to what extent adland was male dominated until I dipped my toes in seven weeks ago. I think the WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London) speaker dinner says it all for me. Instead of inviting a powerful woman to speak at the event, they rolled out Max Clifford to talk about sex, drugs and rock & roll…all very male-centric. If WACL can’t even get a female on board for that kind of event, what are the odds the industry will for conferences or awards?


I think part of the reason for the paucity of women promoting themselves on the circuit is a specific cultural expectation in the UK. It's just not accepted to talk about how "difficult" things are or to be seen to be actively combatting it - in the way American women so assertively do!

The other difference in the UK is that public speaking is not univerally taught in schools - it seems to be the privilege of those who've who have been to private school or have been part of the debating society at university. In the States you start holding court at 6 years old with 'Show and Tell.' So early on you learn how to stand up, hold the attention of an audience, and work your charisma.

In the end, I think it is about promoting intiatives like SheSays, WACL and Geek Girl Dinners with no apology. If we shy away from it because it seems too 'right on' then well... what can we expect?

Camilla Honey

I couldn’t agree more – twice I have come across this situation.

I was running a 2 day conference for a big international marketing organisation – 50 MDs and Chairman – and was horrified and slightly unnerved, to find 47 males faces, and 3 women in the audience.

Similarly, running a Masterclass at the AAR there were 25 places for MDs over 2 sessions. On both occasions 3 women came.

I think women are great speakers, and good self promoters and natural ones too – see WACL. I honestly believe it is the simple issue of childcare. Women who are of the age to have the clout and be good at speaking, are also having children. And for right or wrong, it is usually the woman who stays at home. I am lucky enough to have role reversal in our house, and have a husband who is happier in the kitchen and this is becoming an increasing trend so let’s hope ….


Did I miss it or did no one else mention children? Could it be the 30s/40s crunch? I had much more time (not to mention energy) for non-core work related activities prior to having a kid. Lots of this stuff takes place in precious kid-time - evenings, weekends - or requires time away, ie. travel. I just can't fit it in any more. Or put other things first. Boring, but true. And not heresy, I don;t think. Meels, I am in awe of your productivity and accomplishments. Keep up the good work.


Just to add to my post earlier up, I went to Click 08 (a Creative Review conference) last week which was a great conference, but had only one female speaker who was there as part of their young talent section.

I took the opportunity in feedback to mention a couple of girls in planning and creative direction that I would like to hear speak. I think often it's as much that we don't promote other women or maybe more that we don't give specific names.

So we now just have to wait a year to see if that bore any fruit!

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