Hundreds of women working in advertising have described being sexually assaulted, harassed and discriminated against, after a blog sparked a wave of fury that is being described as the industry’s #MeToo moment.
Lead advertising industry actor Zoe Scaman said she was inundated with emails from women around the world describing incidents ranging from sexist comments in meetings to sexual assault and rape . She is now working with leaders of organizations representing women in the advertising industry to try to bring about real change and “not just another political commitment.”
In his blog post Mad men, furious women, Scaman includes some of the examples she received, but has removed the identifying details.
A woman described being sexually assaulted by her boss when she was 24 after he followed her to a washroom, then suggested that they “forget about it” as if it was “consensual or mutual ”. “It was neither,” she wrote.
Another found out she was being paid £ 20,000 less than a man of equivalent seniority and experience, while a senior official described being fired while six months pregnant after simply created a new business. Stories of receiving sexual advances from clients were common, with women reporting being told to ‘take it for the team’ and ‘suck it off’.
While the vast majority of women who contacted her were angry, many did not want their stories posted online, Scaman said.
“Women are absolutely terrified of the consequences of being honest about the abuse they face,” she said. “These women are evicted, they are silenced with the NDAs. And the men who are problematic continue to be successful, continue to run these agencies… We all have personal stories of women who had to speak out and who have just been completely ransacked.
Scaman, founder of marketing and advertising agency Bodacious, said she wrote the blog after meeting another female strategist, who had just moved to London. They were quick to talk about who to avoid in the industry and “safer” agencies.
“Between the two of us, we had some horrible stories,” she said. “And these aren’t from the ’80s and’ 90s, they’re happening now.”
Scaman believes that while there is misogyny and discrimination in all areas of the job, the supposedly “maverick” nature of advertising makes it a particularly difficult – and sometimes dangerous – place for women. .
“The problem with supposedly living outside the rules of society is that you get away with bad behavior, and that is dismissed as ‘what happens in advertising’,” she said. declared.
A 2018 survey conducted by Time to, the advertising industry body created as a result of #MeToo, found that 41% of those surveyed had experienced sexual harassment and / or assault at work, but 83% had not reported it.
A 2016 survey of 600 women working in the United States of 3% Conference found that more than half of those surveyed had experienced unwanted sexual advances – 88% of them from a colleague, 70% from a supervisor and 49% from a client. Only one in three had filed a complaint. The same report also found that 68% of women in the industry were told they were “too aggressive” and 64% were “too emotional”.
Scaman partnered with leaders of different organizations representing women in advertising, and said there was now a “rally to talk about real change.” She would like to see the end of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) in cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the industry, and the creation of a “central repository”: an external body where harassment could be reported. externally and independently and be investigated.
“When this kind of thing happens in agencies, the only escalation for women is to [an employer’s] human ressources [department], but we all know HR is not on your side, they are there to silence staff and avoid scandal, ”she said. “It would put the fear of God on agencies if they knew that there is an impartial third party that women can turn to that they cannot control. “
Scaman added that if advertising companies are serious about tackling the problem, they should pay to fund such an organization, rather than making an easily overlooked pledge. “I don’t care about promises and codes of conduct because they don’t mean anything,” she said. “They don’t work. What I really want to see is a change in policy.