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Guest Column: Struggles of being women in the ad industry: Aatsi Desai Jasani

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Guest Column: Struggles of being women in the ad industry: Aatsi Desai Jasani

Certain statistics suggest that worldwide only 25 per cent of agency creatives are women, and just 11 per cent reach the creative director level.

I believe that is reflective of the advertising and media agency business. With India being a patriarchal society, the numbers would be even poorer.

The advertising industry has come a long way from what it was half a century ago. As depicted by the popular TV show Mad Men that is set in the 1960s, it was the men who were right at the top of the famous advertising firm Sterling Cooper. Don Draper was held as the creative director in spite of his ever-wavering personal life. However, it was altogether a different ball game for Joan to become a full partner and for Peggy to receive any recognition as a valuable copywriter.

Today of course advertising agencies are a lot different from what it was but some gender bias undertones can still be felt. There may be a large number of women at junior or midlevel agency roles but that number falls dramatically in senior most or leadership roles.

Some reasons for this that I can think of -

A. Being a woman
B. Being a woman + being married
C. Being a woman+ being married+ starting a family

The limits are already set because of being a woman. Thus, we suffer from a loss of opportunity even before starting.

This is exactly the opposite with men. Married men, in turn, are more sought after because since they are married they are looking at more security and more stability.

So how much is this really spoken about? When do we discuss this? If you Google it, the top results are on and around women day's issues of lead publications from the previous three years.

Let me share my personal experience from not too long ago.

After my marriage, I took a short break to travel. When I got back into the game, I went for a few job interviews and I remember one in particular because of the particular conversation that I had with the gentleman there. He seemed to have had a problem with me being married because he did not think twice before asking me what my motherhood plans were.

It's a question which in itself is quite offensive but I replied to him in a civil manner by simply saying that though it does not feature in my immediate future, it cannot be ruled out for later (awkward!!)

I was there for the business head position and of course, after my response, I never heard anything from that gentleman.

I am not saying women should be preferred purely because of their gender but definitely shouldn't be left out because of it.

In India, the expectation from women does not end with the paychecks. They are still expected to carry out social obligations and household chores. Women are as educated as men, intact with an increase in pass percentage. Recent statistics show more women are opting for higher studies now than they were earlier and graduating with exceptional grades. Then why the disparity?

In fact, there are some obvious reasons to have more women on-board besides creating a better office decorum. Let me state a few reasons. Women are born multi-taskers. We score high on emotional intelligence, managing all the chores and strike a fine balance between professional and personal life. We have got a good foresight, patience, negotiating and budgeting skills. Not to forget, today the two largest spenders in the industry are mainly talking to women. So, having women lead the team not only gives them (clients) confidence that you (agencies) understand them but also that you mean business.

I do believe things are improving. Diversity is a very important agenda within most agencies and a lot of them are actually doing something about it like providing better work-life balance, having mandates on hiring women, etc. But the big change will happen only when there is a change in the mindset and the onus lies on the men to be equal stakeholders in creating an equitable and diversified work environment.

More power to women!

(The author is Co-founder and Chief Business Officer of What Clicks)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

Tags Advertising agencies Guest column women in advertising Women’s Day What Clicks Aatsi Desai Jasani

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