Sheryl Sandberg, the COO at Facebook gave this talk at Ted Women called “Why we have too few women leaders.”  She refers to women in all industries and it made me think specifically about the advertising industry.  But, the good news is that there are people in advertising who are working on changing the ratio and I’d like to help them spread the word.


Sandberg points out that women aren’t making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. In the corporate world, 15-18% are female leaders.

So, how do we fix this? Sandberg makes 3 suggestions:

1. Sit at the table – women tend to underestimate their own abilities and don’t negotiate well for themselves in the workplace. She cites a study where 57% of the male college graduates, entering the workforce negotiated their first salary, while only 7% of women did. Women also tend not to promote themselves well. (More on this later)

2. Make your partner a real partner — In our culture, women are still expected to carry more of the childrearing duties. When a woman and man both work full time, the woman does twice the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare. We have to work on changing this. Studies show that couples that split the duties have half the divorce rate.

3. Don’t leave before you leave — Actions that women take to help them stay in the workforce, end up making them leave. From the moment a woman starts thinking about having a child, she starts to hold back. She doesn’t raise her hand to be put on that big pitch or even for a promotion.
We all have to start paying attention to these things or nothing will change.

What can we do? Farrah Bostic, a VP, Group Planning Director at Digitas is doing something about it. She has started a list of women leaders in advertising on her site,  Pretty Little Head. The idea stemmed from a conversation that she and Edward Boches, the Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen had on Twitter about the lack of women leaders in advertising. She then wrote a post called Time to #changetheratio in Adland, too. Once you get to her site there’s plenty to read about this topic and be sure to check out the list of female leaders. If you see someone missing, including yourself, just email her.  It’s pretty amazing to watch the list grow by the day.

There are a lot of women leaders out there! But why don’t we already know this? Why, in 2011, does it require a list? Farrah talks about how women are not great self-promoters and that’s a very large part of this. Farrah talks about this here and refers to a Clay Shirkey post called A Rant About Women. His “rant” is about his concern that women don’t have what it takes to be the self-aggrandizing jerks, that men are capable of being, to get ahead. If this gets a rise out of you, read the article. It’s interesting.

Lists like the following (that I also got from Farrah’s site) will be very helpful to those who want to hire more female leaders. Not just for the sake of hiring a female, but to broaden the pool of who you’re considering. These women are doing great work. They should be on your short list.


Pink-raise-your-glass-rosie-riveter A Field Guide to the Female Founders, Influencers and Deal Makers of the New York Tech & Media Scene. This is not a club or an organization, but a list, so again, if someone is missing, including yourself, add your name to the list. Check out these sites and if you know of any relevant resources, please share them with me directly or in comments.

If you want to get more people talking about this, and find this information helpful, please share the link on Facebook or Twitter and reblog this (share links below this post).

Thank you!!

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on: a call to all woman leaders – sit at the table via @jpenabickley