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Continued: It's a man's world at the top of the advertising ladder

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 26, 2014 - 10:12 AM

“I personally get offended if I see too many soccer moms in one ad,” Yemma said. “That’s not who we are. I want to be relevant to the audience.”

Historical, biological issues

Neil White, CEO of the Minneapolis BBDO office, is on the same page. “Creativity comes from diversity. Different people with different views leads to better ideas. The majority of products we sell are targeted to women. It makes sense that our [agency] population mirrors the people we sell to.”

The lack of women in creative leadership roles in the ad world is the result of a combination of historical and biological issues.

The AMC TV series “Mad Men” illustrates how male-dominated the advertising industry was through much of the 20th century and how difficult it was for women to get an opportunity and the experience to lead creative campaigns.

But the other issue that will always exist is that of motherhood. Work weeks of 70 hours, frequent travel and long periods away from home are common for creative directors who oversee production and execution of the finished advertising product.

“It’s a teeth grinder,” said University of Minnesota advertising instructor Jennifer Johnson of the stress of the job. “But I was a single woman [then], and I just had to board my dogs and take my bills with me. But you have to love it in order to show up as your best self every day. Maybe women are falling out of love with that.”

Sandra Heinen, an independent creative recruiter based in Minnesota, agrees. “It’s still a man’s world at the top of the advertising ladder,” she said.

But, Heinen said, the male-dominated decisionmakers she works with look for the best and the brightest among both men and women these days.

“I think women are at the center of the issue. In some cases they take themselves out of the game. Childbearing years coincide with peak career-building ones,” Heinen said, noting that many ranking women creatives go to work independently as freelancers.

A family-friendly workplace

Christine Fruechte is chief executive of Colle+McVoy and makes it a priority to keep the agency as family-friendly as possible.

“It goes back to culture and whether you value the inclusion of diversity,” she said in an interview. “Fifty percent of the leaders at Colle+McVoy have been women over the last decade.”

Fruechte said her agency offers flexible hours to accommodate the family needs of women as well as male staff members and provides yoga and Pilates classes as stress relievers for everyone.

When Alison Beattie gave birth to her son 18 months ago and returned to work in the creative department of Fallon, she said she felt torn by the demands of motherhood and of work, where she is a lead user experience designer — a job that helps improve the interaction between brands and consumers.

“It was a very difficult transition that I hadn’t expected or planned for,” Beattie recalled. “I had always done everything and that all came to a head and I couldn’t function.”

But Beattie quickly discovered she wasn’t alone with those feelings. She helped organize a support group called Mpls MadWomen and 50 of them braved a February blizzard to compare notes and talk about work-home balance, mentoring and job satisfaction. Men attended too.

Today, Mpls MadWomen is a LinkedIn group with over 560 members.

  • related content

  • Dawn Yemma is a rarity in the advertising world. She is a woman creative director — at BBDO Proximity in Minneapolis — in a male-dominated field.

  • As Mono’s creative co-chairwoman, Paula Biondich oversees an ad from its beginning stages to the end, the consumer’s living room.

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