Are gender bias and sexism a thing of the past in adland? The 3% Movement invited our community to share their stories via our "Elephant on Mad Ave" survey. Nearly 600 women told us in excruciating detail what it is like to be a woman in advertising.

The results speak for themselves.


Boys Will Be Boys

The challenges are certainly not over. Over half of our respondents have been subjected to an unwanted sexual advance. Among those, 88% received an advance from a colleague, 70% from a superior and 49% from a client. Only 1 in 3 filed a complaint to their company.

Beside a few actual sexual advances, I have been subject to many sexual comments from colleagues and superiors, such as "I wish I were you so I could see myself naked."

I was propositioned not once but twice to go to bed with the CMO of a major Fortune 500 company. After I said no twice, we lost the business the following month.


Toxic Culture

In addition to overt harassment and inappropriate behavior, the majority of ad women report dealing with subtle conscious and unconscious bias on a regular basis.

My boss comments on my appearance almost on a daily basis. He comments on my hair almost every day, he offers his opinions on my clothes and weight and likes to preach about how women "should" look on a regular basis.

If by demeaning you mean hearing male colleagues talk about my breasts or how they would like to do me when they think I am out of earshot, yes a few times a month.


No Seat At The Table

In an era when every woman is being encouraged to "Lean In," most are finding they aren't even invited into the room.

It seems that when it comes to new business pitches, the majority of our team that attends is male.

I've been in many situations where I knew the male leaders were having an off-site without the female members of the leadership team. I would hear about parties, golf outings, poker nights, none of which I was ever invited to.


Rock And A Hard Place

No matter how they carry themselves, ad women are told they need to change. The subtext? You don’t belong.

I get glowing feedback from my peers, but I've had supervisors tell me I'm "too emotional," "too passionate," and "hard to work with."

They think I'm the chill girl who gets it. No, I'm the normal girl who buries it.


(Un)Fair Pay

Nearly half of respondents with partners told us they were primary breadwinners in their family and yet the majority reported they weren’t being paid fairly.

My last partner drunkenly disclosed his salary to me. Even though we had the same amount of experience, he was paid $20,000 more per year.

As a HR/Talent lead, I saw massive inconsistencies between performance and reward for males and females in the ad agency business. I was silenced not only by men, but my female boss when stating the issues.


It's Tougher For Moms

Many women leave agency life when they hit their prime childbearing and rearing years. Those moms who do stay found it a challenge.

I was asked: "Will being a new Mom hold you back from giving the job 100%?" I had to ensure my potential bosses that I would outsource my child's care to a full time Nanny to keep my job.

I was offered a CD job at a local agency a few months after I freelanced there. When I told the president that I was 5 months pregnant, he immediately rescinded the offer.


An elephant in the room is a metaphor for an obvious truth that goes unaddressed. The ad industry doesn't have time for unaddressed truths any longer. Yet (some) folks in power claim gender bias and sexism are a thing of the past.

The stampede of stories from the "Elephant on Mad. Avenue" survey settles any doubt. Sexism and gender bias are alive and well in adland 2016.

Now that we've got definitive proof to silence any naysayers, let's get on with the important business of changing the ratio.

It’s time.


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