It was only just under one hundred years ago, in 1918, that women over 30 were first allowed to vote, but only if they “occupied premises of a yearly value of not less than £5”.
It was another ten years until there was equality in voting for men and women over the age of 21 and women have, to a certain extent, been playing catch-up ever since.
The world of media and advertising was well reflected in the series Madmen, which highlighted that only 50 years ago, women in business held roles such as secretaries and telephone operators and stayed in those jobs only until they got married. The world has changed a lot since then.
An observation made about our industry is that there are fewer women in senior roles than men. This is true to a certain extent, but it is changing. Research from Fortune 500 shows that the number of women holding executive officer positions has been rising steadily year-on-year and reached 14.6 per cent in 2013 with women in board positions at 16.9 per cent.
Early on in my career, I was asked to join a group called Women In Direct Marketing which I declined - I didn’t feel the need to belong to a group to prove my ability as a woman to succeed. Direct marketing was then, and still is now, a rare skills-set (regardless of gender), which is surprising in a world that is more data- and digital-focused than ever before from a business, media and marketing perspective.
Why are there fewer women in senior roles than men? The phrase, “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” is true. Men and women are different. Intelligence is not the issue, we behave differently and are motivated by different things. But the correct balance of men and women at senior level delivers a better performance, based on research that the 30 per cent Club has conducted.
One of the reasons I hold executive and non-executive roles with companies is because they understand the need for a senior female perspective within their business. Research published by Forbes argues that women are seen as better leaders than men by those around them. Forbes also highlights that there are other studies indicating that companies that have a higher representation of women in management ranks are more profitable and have higher employee productivity.
Forbes argues that women don't achieve senior positions for two reasons. Firstly, women don't self-promote and the second argument is that men still mostly hire other men. Personally, I don't agree with either of those statements and, if you look at our industry, senior women prevail - Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Lindsay Pattison, CEO, Maxus UK, and CSO, Maxus Worldwide; Jess Burley, CEO of MSIX; Pippa Glucklich, co-CEO of Starcom Mediavest Group; Karen Blackett, CEO, Mediacom UK; Tracy De Grosse, managing director, Carat; Jackie Newcombe, managing director, IPC Media. The list is endless.
So, do I think there is a disproportionate number of women in senior roles within our industry? No, I don’t, as the above highlights. The fact that Julia Porter (Guardian’s news and media director) is now chair of the DMA further substantiates this, supported by Shaun Bailey as deputy chair, showing that a balanced male and female team delivers!