Saatchi & Saatchi’s chief creative Kate Stanners on changing advertising’s gender bias

8 March 2017

Kate Stanners is chairwoman and global chief creative officer at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, overseeing the agency’s entire creative output for major clients from Proctor and Gamble to HSBC. Here she writes for It’s Nice That on the gender bias in the advertising sector and the women and campaigns already making a difference.

As a woman starting out in the advertising industry, I never considered the implications of my gender and what that meant in what was an inherently macho industry. And even though I’ve encountered a few incidences of overt sexism, it never actually stopped me from pursuing my next move. However, the more responsibility I’ve been given, the more my thinking has shifted, and the more of a holistic approach I’ve wanted to take. These days I pull people up on a lack of diversity in their work and it’s something that I feel passionately about. When figures from the IPA show women in creative departments count for just 26.8%, you can’t really sit back.

What’s encouraging is that the diversity debate seems to be hitting the headlines more and more, and as a result the lack of equal representation in creative industries is finally starting to be acknowledged and addressed, albeit slowly.

When I was a young creative, I was lucky to have role models like Barbara Nokes and Suzy Henry. Pioneers have always existed, the issue has always just been about numbers. So, this International Women’s Day I want to call out some women who are consciously trying to change our bias towards gender.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance the impact these powerful women, amongst others, have had: Kat Gordon, Laura Jordan Bambach, Ale Lariu, Jude Kelly, Madonna Badger and of course Cindy Gallop. These women have created some of the most ground-breaking initiatives for women in recent years including: The 3% conference, She Says, Women of the World, See it, Be it and Make Love not Porn all of which continue to make a real difference to women’s lives in the advertising industry. Whether it’s promoting the equality message, destroying stereotypes or creating forums for women and support networks with mentoring opportunities. These are the women who have already made a difference for our children and our children’s children – they speak out and say what needs to be said.

Diversifying ourselves as an industry is paramount – and one of the first steps needs to be in recognising and valuing what women bring to the table. At Saatchi, we have found that by having women in the creative department responsible for creative placement, it has really helped to encourage more women.

We have some great female talent in the Saatchi network. Franki Goodwin from our London office and Delna Sethna, CCO of L&K Saatchi & Saatchi in India are two such women. Franki took home nine Cannes Lions last year for the campaign Sea Hero Quest for Deutsche Telekom. Working a four-day week she manages to also run a successful film company on the side and Delna is creating waves with the recent Pampers #Ittakes2 campaign which is encouraging fathers to be more involved in raising infants in a market with a notoriously imbalanced view of women and their role in society. Additionally, Vicki Maguire the ECD at Grey, Rosie Arnold at AMV BBDO, Judy John – an incredible woman whose agency Leo Burnett in Toronto is consistently number one creatively and Susan Credle, who used to be at Leo’s but is now the Global Chief Creative Officer at FCB. That’s what we live to see.

Societal cultural change, brought about by advertising, sometimes happens at a molecular level and other times it’s a bang you can’t ignore. In recent years, #ThisGirlCan and #LikeAGirl provided that poignant ‘ah ha’ moment which made no apologies for its blatant message. But we should also pay homage to the groundwork laid by brands such as Dove, who pioneered body acceptance way before this new wave of campaigns came along and You’re faster than you think by Nike, an advert in 2008, which showed a group of young female tennis players who stun their hunky tennis coach by their skills (represented by Serena Williams). Without this foundation we wouldn’t have the new breed of adverts of today such as Redraw The Balance for Inspiring The Future nor the new Spanish Audi advert The doll that chose to drive. In dealing with taboos, they’ve made us inch further towards equality.

Advertising doesn’t just reflect culture – it actually moulds it. Therefore as advertisers we have a role to try and make a positive difference within the wider world. But, in order to do this, we need to make sure we are changing attitudes and structures from within so we can make the biggest impact externally. We all need to do our bit for greater gender parity.


Audi: The doll that chose to drive


Pampers: It Takes Two


Inspiring the Future: Redraw the balance


Sport England: This Girl Can


Deutsche Telekom: Sea Hero Quest

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Kate Stanners

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