Friday, 7 March 2014

Women in Advertising.

I am a woman.

For anyone who has met me, I hope this doesn't come as a shock. But I find myself thinking more and more what it actually means.

Not biologically (got that one down thanks), but more in terms of how we as women are defined by those around us, particularly at work.

Before I found permanent, gainful employment in advertising, I pretty much worked every low wage, low expectation job you can imagine. These jobs were always stepping stones, money for clothes, money for travelling, money for uni. At the time I never really stopped and thought about the way I was treated, woman or not.

But looking back, it was pretty grim. Chefs pushing up against you in the fridges, leering business men, a boss who put the pretty girls out front, and the kind of hilarious 'banter' Bernard Manning would be ashamed of.

Hardly unique. And the fact that I shrugged it off, knowing I was just passing through on my way to bigger and better things, is now shameful when I consider how many women have no choice but to work in those jobs, with those men. 

Compared to that, women in advertising appear to be having a great time. And most of the time, I genuinely think we are.

Often presented as a fairly forward thinking, liberal outlet of the media industry I think it is widely presumed we've totally nailed ('scuse the pun) this whole sexism malarkey. But a quick glance around any Creative Department or Boardroom should really make us think again.

My colleagues at Inferno posted this article today to celebrate International Women's Day. Turns out we don't have that much to celebrate.

"75% of Copywriters and Art Directors in IPA member agencies are male. 86% of the Digital Creatives are male. 97% of all Creative Directors are male. 50% of consumers are women. Something’s not quite right. Compared to about 36% of women in all creative media jobs, advertising agencies’ creative departments (and senior roles) are still quite heavily a man’s world."
All of which poses the big question. Why? 

Personally, I don't believe there is any great conspiracy. And I don't believe that advertising is inherently misogynistic. But I am occasionally surprised by the views of the men I work with.

Take a conversation we had a the pub the other day. Talk turned to the art of successfully selling in big ideas to a risk averse client. About halfway through the discussion, a male colleague suddenly said,

"Don't you think clients in senior, executive roles are more likely to respect the opinion of their male counterparts?"

Excuse me? Do I think what?

That our highly capable, hugely experienced senior female employees would somehow not be taken seriously because they have boobs?

Or that we have a group of clients who are all living in 1950, patiently waiting for Don Draper to come and take them through the work like a real man. With whiskey.

Or simply that said male colleague was projecting his own views onto the situation and consequently respects me a little less because I am a girl?

Surely not?

I refuse to believe any of the above. Mainly because if he is right, and any of the above do apply, my job just got a little more depressing.

In truth, I think the gender bias in agencies is more to do with the impracticalities of our jobs than the attitudes of those around us. I honestly do not believe that I am less valued than my male colleagues.  If anything I think the increase of women in creative jobs has improved the work that comes out of them. It means we are better able to  reflect the real world, because our work place does too. A fact backed up by multiple studies, including this one, suggest that more women in senior roles is actually better for your bottom line.

But there are things we could try:

1. We need better ways for ladies to have babies

We want to have them, and we want to work. Flexible working hours, home offices and less competitive hour bating ("I've done 60 hours and it's ONLY tuesday...") would really help us out.

2. Mix it up

As agencies, we have a chance to change the mould. Doing a new campaign for a cleaning/home/food product? Try putting a man in it, rather than the ubiquitous chino wearing mum. We tell ourselves we have the power to persuade people, so why not put it to better use? Women, let's bloody represent. 

3. Promote more women

I am lucky to work in a place with lots of great senior female role models. And it really makes a difference. Having inspirational, creative women around the place is a good thing for everyone.

4. Be bossy/nagging/shrewish

To be successful in advertising, particularly in creative, you need to be bullish. You need to be able to push an idea forward and once it is bought, you need to be able to look after it. When men do this it's called being assertive, confident and managerial. When girls do it we are bossy, loud ball breakers. Until we can change the vernacular, I suggest we just get on with it. Someone calls you opinionated? Give yourself a pat on the pack. You've successfully made sure they heard. If anyone has a problem with it, it's their own lack of confidence talking.

"Women who do do well are often those with younger brothers. They're used to annoying young men and simply rise above them. For me, however, the answer is not about toughness as much as it is about technique." 
5. When you get it, don't complain

This one is for us girls. At some point we have to take responsibility for our own choices too. There is no such thing as having it all, so if you do find some sort of a balance, appreciate it. You can't make every lunch, every trip, or every meeting if you also need to be at home. No one ever promised it would all be fun. Don't moan, get on with it, and prove why you deserve a place amongst the big boys. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Modern girls.

The modern girl’s manual.

1. Claim your successes, however small. They are your reward and others will be quick to take them.

2. Dreams stay just that. Make them realities and live in them.

3. The Shine you can buy and dress up in will fade and tarnish. The real stuff comes from inside and can’t be dimmed. Be happy and kind and people will stay close in order to feel happy too.

4. Love your body. Put your hands on your tummy and remember the whole universe turns in there. 

5. Remember nobody looks stupid when they’re having fun*.

6. No fairy tale ever ended “they lived averagely ever after”. This is your story, make it a page turner. 

7. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s like filming your favourite band in concert. You’ll only see half the picture and you’ll miss all the best bits.

8. Love abundantly, laugh inelegantly, travel extensively and remember, don’t be the kid that gets stuck at the top of the slide. If in doubt say yes and figure it out afterwards.

9. Courage is contagious. Be a little bit brave, every day. 

{Written by me, on being asked to write a grownup girl guide manual for the 21st century woman. Sure.}

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Decorating. (how to get through it)


I have given up booze for October. A decision formed in part to raise money for a wonderful charity and to give my poor abused liver a chance to recover (in three weeks it will be completely new!) but ironically mostly because I was a bit drunk when I saw the poster and thought it would be a good idea.

It's been ok so far. Not life changing or epiphanic - just ok.

But I have noticed one thing.  I suddenly seem to have so much more time. Sunday mornings people... WHO KNEW?

In an attempt to actually do something useful with these extra hours, we've finally started decorating again.

To be honest we've been a little lazy in the last few months. Doing up our bedroom turned into such a  long, expensive, cold and hugely frustrating 2 months, I think we'd became a bit decor phobic.

But, in the cold, cruelly sober light of day it turns out there is only so long you can put up with mouldy walls, smelly carpets and tragic curtains.

So as we dust off the brushes and brush off the dust sheets, here are the three most important things I have learnt so far.

1. Meet halfway.

Some people  call this 'compromising'. They are the women who loudly proclaim every decision is 'a team effort' while their poor, belittled boyfriend sits quietly picking the fluff off the jumper she bought for him.

In real life, agreeing on a colour scheme is more akin to brokering a peace deal. My advice? Pick your battles wisely, plan ahead and know your enemy (love of your life).

Most important of all, once the deal is done... STICK TO IT. Literally. No last revisions, impromptu purchases or finishing touches, unless you're willing to deal with their last minute addition of a 60 inch widescreen TV or signed photo of their favourite football team.

2. It's not like the movies.

So you've got a plan, and you've started painting. It's fun for about five minutes and then you realise that your arms hurt, you're already sweaty and everyone else you know is at the pub.

It's normally now that you realise the outfit (men's shirt, leggings, hair scarf) you thought was adorably reminiscent of a 90's movie decorating montage, now makes you look like paint covered tranny.

Your vision of charming paint fights and high fives is disintegrating as quickly as your sense of humour.

At this point I recommend the following; headphones, minimal chat and a tacit agreement never to take photos of one another mid project.

3. You will cry.

Whatever the project, there comes a point (normally in the middle of the night when you're high on silk gloss fumes) where you both look at each other and question everything you have done so far.

The walls are patchy, the lighting's weird, you hate the colour and everything is all shit.

This will happen and it is important you're ready for it. The trick is just to KEEP GOING. Everything is worse when you're tired and fed up, and when all is said and done, you'll never notice the odd mistake.

Also wine. Wine helps.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Lime pickle {part 1}

It's Monday and it's cold and I had to use my whole reserve of getupandgo to make it out of bed this morning. 

As in all times of utter despondency I am comforting myself with the thought of food. Lime pickle to be specific. I absolutely love the stuff and have it with almost anything, which it turns out, is kind of an expensive habit.

So tonight I am going to have a crack at making it myself. There are tons of recipes online, but this one appealed the most. Mainly for the word quick. 

Photos and taste report to follow.


500 grams of chillies (About half and half mixed red and green)
1 kg limes
200 grams chopped fresh ginger
15 chopped garlic cloves
6 chopped fresh curry leaves
4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp mustard seed
2 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
3 cups vegetable oil (If you have mustard oil, use 2 cups vegetable oil and 1 cup mustard oil)
5 Tbsp vegetable oil

Make sure you have sterilised jars and lids prepared for bottling. They must be thoroughly dried

1.  Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan until hot.
2. Sauté the limes turning them over until their skins are a golden brown.
3. Dry the limes and cut them into about 6 thick slices and then half the slices.
4. Put 2 Tbsp of oil into a blender, add the chillis, chopped curry leaves, chopped garlic, chopped ginger and curry leaves. Blend to a paste
5. Heat the remaining oil in a pan until hot. Add mustard and fenugreek. Heat the seeds until they pop open.
6. Add the paste, stir and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
7. Add the turmeric, pieces of lime and vinegar and stir until thoroughly mixed.
8. Using a slotted ladle or spoon, put the limes into jars, and pour the remaining fluid over the limes ensuring they are just covered.
9. Stir to remove any air bubbles and seal jars.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Children of the Stars

When we look out into space,
we are looking into our own origins.
Because we are truly, children of the stars.
And written into every atom,
every molecule of our bodies
is the entire history of the universe.
From the Big Bang to the present day,
our story is the story of the universe.
Every piece of everyone,
of everything you love,
of everything you hate,
of the thing you hold most precious,
was assembled by the forces of nature
in the first few minutes of the life of the universe.
Transformed in the hearts of stars,
or created in their fiery deaths.
And when you die those pieces will be returned to the universe,
in an endless cycle of death and rebirth.
What a wonderful thing it is, to be a part of that universe.

And what a story.
What a majestic story.

It's been a year since you left. We miss you lots. xx

{Words by Brian Cox. Picture from here}

Wilton's Music Hall

Last night I finally made it to Wilton's Music Hall, to watch a stage version of The Great Gatsby. To be honest the play was a little hit and miss, but the venue more than made up for it.

Hidden down a very unassuming alley about 10 minutes walk from Tower Hill*, it's the oldest music hall in Europe and very atmospheric with it.

They've just finished renovating the main hall and it is spine-tingling good. Plus you can have a drink in the beautiful Mahogany Bar, which has been a watering hole since 1725. Famous amongst sailors, it was claimed that most had not heard of St Pauls, but all knew exactly how to find their way to the ornate Mahogany bar.

Today they serve really tasty food and a seriously nice glass of red, so well worth a poke around even if you don't fancy a show.

Apparently you can also rent the whole place for private hire too....

*Speaking of which, does that view (Tower of London, Shard, the river..) EVER not look awesome?

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wisdomosity (and jesus)

"Looking out of the window at the infinite sky, I prayed out loud...

'Dear Baby Jesus, I am sorry for my sins, even though I do not know what they are, which seems a bit unfair if they are going to be held against me. But that is your way. And I am not questioning your wisdomosity. In future, however would it be possible for my life to be not so entirely crap?"

{The inimitable genius of Georgia Nicholson}