In a highly transformative and evolving industry, the South African advertising landscape is not as representative as one would expect from such a progressive and diverse nation. Digital marketing in South Africa is still demonstrates an imbalanced gender dynamic.
In an industry where 45% of the workplace is female, a mere 3% of directorship is held by women. Today, only 2.4% of women are CEOs and Only 9.2% of women hold chairperson positions. Women in leadership positions remain a minority within an industry that does not lack female representation: 50% of graduates studying marketing degrees are women.
“Despite there being no shortage of women in the industry, there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough in leadership roles,” says Facebook Africa's regional director, Nunu Ntshingila. “We need to see women that are authentic, we need to see women that are empowered, and we need to see women that are progressive because our girls need to see not only that what is possible, they’ve got to see what they need to become.”
It seems that the advertising industry has no trouble attracting women to the field, it is retaining them that is the problem. Women in creative roles appear to leave the industry in the middle of their careers, a move which is primarily attributed to having children. While many women return to agency, taking a break often hinders the opportunity to progress in their careers. Further to this, women are challenged with work-life balance in ways that their male counterparts are not. One can argue that taking on the dual roles of motherhood and career woman shifts the focus from a dedicated climb up the career ladder.
While the representation of women in advertising agencies in general is a bone of contention, the diversity of women in this field is much to be desired. There is a pervasive lack of black women in creative leadership positions or founding their own agencies in comparison to the increasing amount of white women and black women in the same position. The focus needs to shift: diversity is not solely about the number of women in leadership roles, but rather consider that a wide array of cultures, races and ethnicities are represented within agencies. Ultimately, diversity results in creativity, innovation and progressive concepts; agencies will reap the rewards of an exceptional offering from an entirely inclusive workforce. Diversity does not lower the bar. Diversity raises it.
It is essential to have strong female leaders in advertising agencies to inspire and motivate other women. We must celebrate women of colour who hold positions of prominence in the industry. It is important to understand what the female workforce would need to help them stay in the industry - this could mean child care assistance, destigmatising flexi-time and correcting salary inequalities. At the end of the day, it is about creating an environment that empowers women and allows them the courage and self-confidence to flourish within their roles, as creatives and leaders.
About Keshia Patchiappen, Condriac CEO
Keshia Patchiappen is paving the way for women of colour with her dynamic, strategic approach to the realm of digital marketing and communications. Keshia has experienced a stellar career trajectory, rising from an intern to CEO through 11 years of experience across all advertising platforms. She has worked for global communication agencies and a vast number of clients ranging from automotive, construction, consumer and corporate brands.
Keshia is passionate about revolutionising the way in which brands are marketed in the digital space, and is extremely focused on the inclusion of data in cohesive Public Relations and Communications strategies. Her tenacity, creativity and thorough knowledge of the industry allows Condriac to continue to break new ground and provide clients with an invaluable competitive edge.