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The rising and crucial role of women in advertising

Natalie Shardan/Dubai
Filed on February 2, 2020
The rising and crucial role of women in advertising
Women already have the qualities to take the lead in advertising, says Natalie Shardan, GM at Serviceplan Group Middle East.

The female empowerment movement in the Middle East is stronger and more vocal than ever. As such, women in the workplace are securing greater recognition and responsibility than they've ever experienced before.

However, there are questions over the sincerity of companies proclaiming to empower women. Are they engineering meaningful change, or simply doing the minimum for commercial reasons? What happens after female empowerment stops trending? Will the momentum disappear with it, or worse, will female leadership be rolled back to its starting point?

Everyone in the region is talking about the importance of equal rights for women, but not all seem to be doing it for the right reasons. There are several questions that women, companies, and industries must consider, such as:

. Are companies really changing their ways?

. Is there sufficient flexibility for working moms?

. Do women who chose demanding career paths feel the benefit of any changes, or is everything largely the same as it was?

. Are women still facing similar or new struggles that men don't have to deal with?

The biggest question of all concerns whether we are seeing a rise in women taking leadership positions in demanding industries like advertising and marketing.

The answer at the moment is, unfortunately not. Women tend to doubt their own capabilities and believe that they won't be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance without a detrimental effect on their families. So, while the industry is attracting more talented women, there remains inadequate retention, promotion, and female leadership.

In the male-dominated advertising industry, women are still trying to claw their way to the glass ceiling - and that's before they've even had a chance to push through it. Some have been successful, but there are many left behind. Even though the landscape is more positive than in years past, unequal opportunity when it comes to rights women deserve to manage their tasks at home and in the office is still a key concern of women in advertising.

Women already have the qualities to take the lead in advertising. They have a natural talent for building and maintaining strong client relationships, alongside impeccable organisation, multi-tasking, and time-management skills. Women possess an intricate understanding of what makes brands unique, as well as a powerful command of consumer behaviour. They are influential, perceptive, capable, and fast, critical thinkers. In short, everything you'd want from a leader in the marketing space. Sadly, the potential is going to waste. Only three per cent of creative directors in the advertising industry are female.

Despite the challenges that women face in advertising leadership positions, there are some women who are changing the status quo. They have raised the expectations of the norm and made a name in the advertising industry.

I'm happy to see that the industry is attracting swathes of women who are talented in different areas. Since marketing and advertising tend to be directed at women most of the time, it would be a shame if they were not involved; both in the creation of adverts and leading the industry.

Our industry needs brave leaders now more than ever. We all know that budgets are shrinking; alongside ever-higher expectations, there's a lot of pressure on marketers and advertisers. The best way for brands to gain fame and stay at the forefront of consumers' hearts and minds is to be brave!

During tough times, companies need focused and courageous leaders. This is why, I think, all the more today, that the role of women in our industry is key. They're fearless from the front, and history has proven it.

We need women to fill executive positions. To get there, female leaders of the present and future must stop playing second fiddle. We need to take big leaps of faith, believe in ourselves, embrace challenges for growth, stand tall, and support one another. With a much-needed injection of confidence, women are ready to finally take their place at the top.

- Natalie Shardan is general manager at Serviceplan Group Middle East. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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