Marketing and the future of the female creative

Committing to more inclusive and diverse representation, NZ Marketing Editor David Nothling-Demmer engaged four marketers for a conversation on gender in the industry and what can be done to achieve equality. 

In March, Global Women New Zealand launched its 2021 campaign for International Women’s Day, highlighting the ‘motherhood penalty’ and the startling fact that on average, mothers earn 12.5 percent less over the course of their career than fathers of the same age and education. The campaign created by internationally awarded director Anna Mantzaris of Passion Animation Studios and Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand builds on the humorous workplace scenarios she conceived for her critically acclaimed short film Enough, and suggests there’s almost nothing a woman can do that’s more career-limiting than having a baby. It hopes to raise awareness of the motherhood penalty that has a significant impact on Kiwi women in the workplace. 

“It’s very sad that the pay gap and the way women, or rather mothers, are being treated by the work environment is still the way it is,” says Mantzaris. “I don’t believe that this is something that’s happening intentionally but rather a consequence of our culture and failing to see the invisible obstacles and discriminations that mothers are constantly being faced with.”

This type of work by future-focused creatives like Mantzaris is an example of the increasing efforts by women
in business to shine a light on the barriers they encounter when striving to get ahead. 

Rosina Webb.

Time for change

Women and men will tell you that much needs to be said and done to make a real difference to the lack of equality in the marcomms industry. 

“As a husband and a father, I’ve seen up close the way being a mother can impact a woman’s career and trajectory – and, yes, from my position of male privilege you might say,” says Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand CCO Steve Cochran. “There’s no simple answer, but self-awareness and consciousness of employers is certainly
a place to start.”

In 2020, NZ Marketing was called out for a lack of diversity (in terms of gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status) among our contributors. By no means intentional, a skewed male voice was evident in several issues, and got us thinking about what more should be done to increase diversity both on our pages and within the industry, and what role our publication has in this.

In the past few months, our editorial team has been more consciously promoting a diverse range of voices within the creative, media and marketing industries. Examples of this include a more than 55 percent share of voice for women in the December/January 2021 issue; profiles of women marketers published online; and our celebration of female leaders in the industry, including the winner of the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards Marketer of the Year Award Annemarie Browne and Young Marketer of the Year Liv Glazebrook. 

As part of this process, I’ve engaged with several women within the marcomms industry and listened to the challenges they face and their hopes for change. It’s kicked off a much larger discussion around gender representation within New Zealand’s creative services, something that’s too broad and complex to be adequately covered in a single article, but a positive starting point for continued improvement. 

My conversations with women working directly and indirectly with the marketing industry touched on the challenges women still experience in the workplace, what more needs to be done, who’s championing equality and what we can collectively be doing to amplify the voices of women and those in minority groups. On the following pages, you’ll find snippets of these conversations about their experiences and how they see things evolving for female creatives.

Kath Dewar.


Many of you may have noticed the gender identifiers on LinkedIn – I certainly have. This led me to a new networking programme aimed at women in business, championed by marketer Rosina Webb. I first met  Webb during the judging of the 2020 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards. She runs Energise, a full-service marketing agency powered by women, and has recently launched SHE – networking events and mentoring support for women in business. 

Following in the footsteps of a long line of educators in her family, Webb began her career as a school teacher and couldn’t have imagined that three decades later, she’d be heading up a marketing agency and providing support for women entrepreneurs. She started her own business journey 11 years ago, after a successful pivot into a marketing career, with roles at Westfield, SkyCity, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland City Council and Telecom.

Formed using the knowledge and experience she’s gained during her time in the industry, and drawing on the challenges she herself has faced, SHE (under the umbrella of Webb’s SME School, a school and community that’s
dedicated to the success of SMEs) is predominately designed to help women network.

“SHE is about creating a place where women business owners can hang out together, learn from each other and listen to epic stories of ‘she-resilience’ and courage,” says Webb. She says that during her years in the male-centric marketing industry, she’s continued to see women struggle to get ahead, despite how many hold junior and mid-level roles. It’s something she has actively sought to change through the employment of exceptional women marketers in her own agency and by inspiring other women in business through initiatives like SHE.

Webb believes that the industry needs to up its game in terms of nurturing and promoting women. “Things are starting to change, but not nearly fast enough, and we all need to be doing more to empower women in business and marketing who face unique challenges, such as raising families.”

Nicola Devine.

Overcoming bias

Kath Dewar is founder and Managing Director at ethical marketing agency GoodSense. She’s been in the industry for 25 years. 

“Bill Gianotti hired me as a ‘fresh off the boat’ migrant in 1996,” she says. “I was an account director with Aim Proximity, with five years’ industry experience from the UK, working on accounts such as Air New Zealand and Microsoft.”

Dewar reports mixed experiences in terms of how women’s roles have developed and changed within the industry. “Aim was unusual then in having a woman director and creative director in Sharon Henderson [now founder and CEO of brand, digital and CX agency Federation]. Back then, I think there were fewer women in senior marketing roles in large organisations than Aotearoa has now. My sense is that agencies have, in the main, done less well than client-side organisations in developing and benefiting from female talent. My hunch is that this reflects the relatively low focus on HR and culture in agencies generally.”

Dewar says that like most industries, unconscious bias perpetuates the status quo when it comes to gender representation. “Low work-hour and location flexibility make for less family-friendly workplaces, and low visibility of female role models in media and awards reinforces this. Informal hiring practices and out-of-hours networking tend to benefit men over women, because data shows that on average women still spend more hours on childcare and household duties than their male partners.”

She also has a hunch that unless companies have pay-equity policies in place, it’s likely women in marketing are earning less than men doing the same jobs. 

Founder and Creative Director at Tanker Creative Nicola Devine tends to agree. As well as discrimination against working parents and exclusion from certain networks and job/business opportunities, she’s also noticed a lack of respect. She believes that businesses need to face more serious consequences if they’re found to be discriminating against employees with caregiving responsibilities – from industry bodies and the Government. She’d also like to see more support made available for those who are being discriminated against.

Having managed her own business, Devine adds that women marketers in a similar position are able to shape their own futures and are less reliant on gender stereotypes in larger corporations. “E-commerce has been positive in this regard. Being able to work from Cloud-based systems and remotely has been a massive bonus as far as continuation of business for mothers.”

Dewar’s of the opinion that for those marketers who don’t have their own businesses to fall back on, most workplaces can be doing more to ensure women’s voices are heard and that women can access the support they need to make the most of their talents and experience. “It seems to me that organisations often lose talented women because they don’t offer them the flexibility they want, especially at senior levels,” she says. “New Zealand has a very poor track record of hiring women as board directors, even though companies with more diverse boards are well proven to perform better. I think the industry can do more to make these issues visible and share best-practice ways to address them.”

She has implemented such strategies at GoodSense to meet the needs of senior marketers who want to do strategic work with both the flexible hours of freelancing and the sociability and support of a team culture around them. “This may be because they’re parents, or because they have an arts practice or want to complement part-time hours with other work, or because they’re studying,” she says. “Because I’ve run my own show for 20 years now, I’m also in a privileged, independent position where I can call out inequity where I see it, such as raising the issue of the 75 percent male coverage in NZ Marketing’s October/November 2020 issue. Silence doesn’t change anything and I was raised to believe that if we have the power to speak out about inequity, we should.”

Rebecca Caroe.

Dewar says that the marketing industry is teeming with talented people of all kinds around the country and across sectors, but that there’s a bit of a cosy Auckland agency-Marketing Association bubble that rarely reflects this. NZ Marketing approached Marketing Association for statistics around women in marketing, trends over time-based on job titles and the like, but was told that such information was not available. 

Rebecca Caroe, a B2B marketing specialist at Creative Agency Secrets who joined the New Zealand industry from the UK 10 years ago, says that as an outsider, she notes that there are a lot of mid-level women marketers but very few women agency leads or CMOs, and even fewer women working as creative leads on the client side. “This last point I tested by going through everyone I know on LinkedIn who had the job title Creative Director. None. Here and in the UK.”

Caroe’s involved with women’s mentoring platform OneUpOneDown, the AmCham Women’s Chapter and Women in Media (WIM Global), and says that there needs to be more women role models in the public spotlight, and that they should be mentoring other women. “Recruitment agencies should be advising their clients on how to improve their recruiting skills to avoid bias. I think many New Zealanders get jobs though shoulder-tapping – especially senior roles. And this practice is more prevalent in male than female circles.”

Says Dewar, “Women are less likely than men to apply for jobs unless they tick every box, so reaching out to prospective candidates can be more important. Similarly, I think women can be less likely to ask for media coverage or to volunteer to speak at events or enter awards – in part because of social norms and in part because they’re often juggling more out-of-work duties than their male counterparts.” 

She believes it’s often the case that editors, event organisers and industry bodies simply need to ask more women to get more yeses.

Future equality

As to the way forward, Webb says that women and marketing are a great fit, something that’s evident in the number of women who are driven to pursue it as a career. “They [women] just need to be given the opportunities and exposure in order to be able to rise and thrive in their roles.”

Dewar points me to a recently published book by Jo Cribb and Rachel Petero, Take Your Space, in which the authors delve into the issue of gender bias in the workplace and urge women to take the lead. They suggest that women must make their own moves in order to progress in their careers and workplaces to get pay rises, promotions and make progress towards shutting down gender inequality in the boardroom. 

Only continued conversations and industry-wide initiatives will help give these challenges and issues a louder voice and ultimately help solve them. Profiled on page 85, Marketing Association’s annual Women in Marketing event showcases the stories, talent and insights of women (and men) in the marketing industry, and provides a forum for discussing how industry professionals can most effectively engage women as a target audience. Events and discussions such as this will play a beneficial part in highlighting the exceptional work women do within our industry and beyond.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2021 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

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