Campaign Middle East newsletters, 2 October, 2005

We have a fun little tradition on a Thursday lunchtime. Various editors from within the company get together in the boardroom and take it in turns to kick lumps out of each other’s titles.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  October 2, 2005

Why it would be good to see some more women|~||~||~|We have a fun little tradition on a Thursday lunchtime. Various editors from within the company get together in the boardroom and take it in turns to kick lumps out of each other’s titles. Actually, it’s not so bad — I might even go so far as to call it constructive. It can be useful to have a fresh pair of eyes look at your publication. But boy, did I get a hard time when it was Campaign’s turn under the spotlight. The duffing-up came from Mandie Gower, editor of Viva magazine. Where, she wanted to know, were all the women’s faces in the magazine? And she had a point. In the average edition of Campaign, you will see plenty of middle-aged men in suits and occasional national dress, but unless work is being featured, you will very rarely spot a female face. And, if you do, then the chances are they’ll be in PR. So, I’m afraid that Mandie gave Campaign a big thumbs-down. The problem, I hope, is not the rampant sexism of Campaign’s, erm, all-male editorial team. But rather that our pages reflect the realities of the industry in this region. Last week I had coffee with a professor who teaches marketing to young Emirati women. He was sad but resigned to the fact that most of these intelligent youngsters cannot expect a career in marketing. More likely is that they’ll work for a year or two, then get married and be expected not to work. Similarly, I bumped into a creative director from a big ad agency over here. I suggested meeting for a drink but he couldn’t make it as he had a couple of office parties. One was to celebrate a member of staff’s anniversary at the agency. But the other was a leaving do for a bright woman whose husband had told her she could no longer work there. No wonder then that there are not many female faces in our pages. So those are the, if you like, home pressures. Then there are the wider barriers that slow up women who do wish to make their way in this industry — client scepticism and internal opposition. But also there is the time lag. Even if attitudes are slowly changing, it will take a while for people to make their way up the ladder. It’s the same in more developed markets. Try to find a black, Asian or Arab face in a UK agency and you’ll have to look extremely hard. It’s not that they’re racist, it’s just that it takes a long time to catch up from a slow start. But the bottom line is that agencies need women in key roles in order to help clients. Just as the best marketing communications to Arabic audiences requires Arab insight, the same goes for women. As Mel Gibson demonstrated in the comedy about female ad execs, What Women Want, even the most sensitive bloke, backed with the most helpful of focus groups is not as good as the real thing. In the meantime, I sincerely hope the industry hurries up and hires a few more women. Before Mandie beats me up.||**||

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