The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Equality Is In The Eye Of Whoever Is In Charge …
December 19, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

A few weeks ago, this picture was doing the rounds and causing all sorts of hoopla …

Now, even though the company in question has issued a press release saying they are a true equal opportunity employer – it doesn’t look good does it.

OK, so they could argue that out of all the people they employ, the men at the top are the most qualified for their job … their female colleagues may openly agree with that point of view … or they may simply say their ‘meet the team’ photo doesn’t convey the true nature of their business and it has given them a wake-up call … hey, all of those could be true – however unlikely – but the fact of the matter is that while that picture may make some men think, “that’s how it should be”, I think it’s pretty sad.


Well three reasons.

1. I work in an industry where the number of female leaders is remarkably small.

[I got told less than 10% but I’m not sure how true that figure is, I’d imagine it should be less]

2. I work in a country where gender roles are fairly defined.

[Though in business, there is a massive percentage of females in positions of power here]]

3. I am a Westerner, heading up a planning department in China.

In essence, I am triple-guilty of what the guys at CellularSolutions have done, intentionally or otherwise.

Sure, it’s amazing that someone like me – a bloke from Nottingham with no formal academic qualifications – has been able to experience so many different and wonderful cultures … however, I must admit to being embarrassed that so many advertising leaders in this part of the World are [1] white and [2] male.

Now this post is not meant to be anti-men or anti-Westerner and I am a firm believer that you hire the best for the job, not what will look best to the casual observer … however with so many people in adland – especially in Asia – being similar to the group that was there before, it means we’re either not bringing people through quickly enough or it’s becoming a closed shop.

For the record, I believe/hope it’s the former rather than the latter – and I’m not just saying that because I am a white male in an agency ‘leadership’ position based in Asia – however I have always felt success for me in Asia is when I’ve been able to make myself redundant and while that doesn’t mean I’m going to resign any day soon [sorry W+K], I do feel that day is coming closer and I am genuinely excited about it … excited to the point where for the past few years, I’ve been preparing myself for what will hopefully be my subsequent career, something some of you are aware of and something I hope I don’t fuck up by not being qualified enough.

Anyway, I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suddenly advocating an industry where only people from the home nation should work in that nation, but by the same token I’m not advocating an industry where the people at the top so poorly represent the culture of the home nation.

Of course, part of this situation is because the majority of ad agencies in Asia are owned by companies based in the UK, France and US so, just like countless industries and companies from other nations including Chinese/Asian firms – they tend to prefer having senior representation from people who have ‘grown up’ within their company culture … people they know and trust … and I get that, that kinda makes sense, however all that aside, for an industry that claims to be creative and liberal, I find it amazing we’re in a situation where women are still so poorly represented at adland boardroom level and for that to keep happening, I have to wonder if there is another reason other than the best qualified person for any given job at any given time is – by pure coincide – always a man.

And you thought government was out of touch with representing the masses …



I know this post goes from gender inequality to cultural inequality then back to gender inequality and I know it’s a highly sensitive subject so I just hope my rant doesn’t get misread or misunderstood because as I said, it’s not meant to be anti-men or anti-Westerner, just pro-equal chance. [Which I also know is almost impossible to administer, especially when the people making the decisions tend to be so highly represented by one particular group. In other words, this blog post is even more daft than my usual ones. Bugger]

37 Comments so far
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Cellular Solutions management are lucky bastards.

Comment by Billy Whizz

But wk shanghai planners aren’t.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I bet his colleagues, Dan and the population of China are hoping he is made him redundant too. He’s more resilient than a cockroach.

Comment by DH

Since I’ve never come close to being employable in your industry, my conscience is clear on this one.

Comment by John

Would you even want to work in the advertising industry John? I think you would be an excellent addition, I just thought you were better than that.

Comment by George

That’s very kind of you George, but I’ve never had the luxury of beign able to choose where I might be employed.

Comment by John

But I just ruled myself out of anything requiring accurate typing.

Comment by John

Maybe that means you should be an art director.

Comment by George

The figure of senior female leadership in the advertising industry is closer to 2% than 10. I’m sure you know this Robert but China is one of the leading nations for female senior management within companies. Or that is what a report I recently read stated. As for Cellular Solutions. Despite what the truth may be, that picture does not paint a good story. By the way, how is the secondary career development going? I hope the change doesn’t happen soon, your current industry needs you to hang around. Good post.

Comment by George

While not condoning their employment bias in any way, you could argue that Cellular Solutions have ensured that customers don’t have to deal directly with insular-thinking members of the patriarchy.

Comment by John

2%? How can I recreate the movie disclosure when there’s so few female bosses in adland. And I bet only 2% of them are hot babes. It’s fucked.

Comment by Billy Whizz

The Michael Douglas/Demi Moore film? That’s the scariest news I’ve heard all year.

Comment by DH

It won’t happen Billy, but if you wish to continue deluding yourself, you should skim through this list and identify which companies you need to be employed at.

Comment by George

We should remember China is an entrepreneurial society so while it is true there is a higher percentage of female business leaders than in the West, many of the companies headed by women were actually started by them so the figures can be a bit misleading in terms of the progressive nature of the country.

Comment by Lee Hill

My above comment was not designed to trivialise the lack of female senior leadership, just to highlight the imbalance.

Comment by Lee Hill

It’s going George. Slower than a snail. But it’s going.

Comment by Rob

I think it’s great Rob wants to let more than just adland and China experience his pain and I wish him luck in achieving his goal.

Comment by DH

As we’re closing in on the day so many people look forward to every year, i.e. Rob’s last blogpost of the year and because it’s also almost Christmas, I was wondering what one might buy the man who gets everything for free.

And then I chanced across this

And no, I was not googling any other form of grinder at the time.

Comment by John

Apologies, make that

Comment by John

And it was started by two characters called Dan and Dave. Surely that is a sign this is the present for him given Robert is employed by a company started by two characters called Dan and Dave.

Comment by George

Hahahaha … I saw that a few days ago. If only it produced the coffee rather than just ground it, I might want one.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. There’s not much I can add but I would be interested to hear when you think there will be a management shift in China towards more local leadership.

Comment by Pete

That’s a good question Pete because I think China is going through an interesting time right now … a time where they are realising their strength and power and turning their back on international leadership.

That’s a good thing as long as it’s with clarity rather than ego. That might sound a condescending thing to say – it’s not meant to be because I am a huge advocate of the countries talent and intellect [plus no one will know China like a local] but when you look at how many organisations in China acted post 2008 Olympics, you will see there have been occasions where arrogance was mistaken for confidence.

So to answer your question, sooner than many may think and what’s doubly good, is a great deal of that next-gen adland leadership appears it will be female. We shall see.

Comment by Rob

First I looked only to the pictures of women and thought, what a shame – ultra feminist company, but when I scrolled all the way down I realized that women are not in charge and it totally changed my point of view. It was one of those eye-opening moments.

Comment by M.Borgarbúi

It would be wrong for me, bearing in mind the point of this post to share I’m discovering that women in media agencies are uniformly fit, wouldn’t it?

Comment by northern

Yes you would. I hope you’re not Youporning in meetings either. Now a serious question, would you say there are more senior females in media than men? My perception – at least in Asia – is that’s the case, but I’m wondering if I’m talking rubbish or if there may be something in it?

Comment by Rob

I’m not sure there is more, it’s certainly more even.
That said, the proportion if middle and junior females is greater, partly I venture because of the media cliches which,despite my fippant comment above I think is unhealthy.
It would seem that there is still a glass ceiling but the critical mass of females simply means more push through

Comment by northern

You better hope that none of them read this blog then. Or more specifically, your comments on this blog.

Comment by Rob

I think that’s a safe bet don’t you?

Comment by northern

Unfortunately yes.

Comment by Rob

A recent report from the cosmetic surgeons of America stated that plastic surgery spikes were due in no small part to social media. Everyone has a web or Facebook site and wants to look good – it’s all about image.

Comment by Notes To Ponder

Do you believe that?

Surgery might have spiked, but I don’t think it’s driven by social media, just vanity and the cult of celebrity. Besides, if it’s for social media, there are photo manipulation apps that are easier and cheaper … look at the header of this blog, I almost look human and those who have met me know that’s nothing of the sort in reality.

Comment by Rob

No I don’t, but do think media plays a part in perceptions. We watch the Kardashians get Botox injections, the “real” housewives strut their immovable Tim Burton faces, and children not old enough to tie their shoes paraded across pageant stages in full make-up and spray tans. Society is whacked – many companies request a “head shot” with job applications – cosmetic solutions are an easy way to rise above the ordinary. I wrote this post the other day….

Comment by Notes To Ponder

maybe campbell has forgotten he was part of the development fuckers behind the mtv shit “i want a famous face”. throw that in his face notes and sit back and bask in the glow of wiping the smile off the bastards face.

Comment by andy@cynic

or just punch it off him.

Comment by andy@cynic

By the way, I think we can all agree this is an improvement on Brad Pitt

Comment by northern

I would be an improvement on Brad Pitt. OK, maybe not … but this is definitely better.

Comment by Rob

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