These bikini-clad women draped over products would have had the ASA apoplectic with anger

One issue that appears to return time and again to debates about business is the lack of women in top jobs. I was shocked to read that Liv Garfield’s appointment as chief executive of Severn Trent last month took the number of women running FTSE 100 companies to a mere four.

Secret Marketer

Personally, I have never come across any element of discrimination in any of the businesses where I have worked and they’ve all had a fairly even split in the sexes at most levels. As a man, I may be looking at things through rose-tinted spectacles but my marketing team is 60 per cent female, including 50 per cent of senior managers.

That said, a number of issues in the past few weeks have challenged my perceptions.

The first was at a trade show I attended for big industrial items. I was aghast to see several stand owners having what can only be described as ‘bikini-clad’ young women draped over the products they were selling, in a gratuitous way that would have had the ASA apoplectic with anger. I thought that sort of thing had left the marketing mix a long time ago.

I was then invited to a school to talk about careers in my industry sector. While I admit that my sector is not as glamorous as some, it worried me that around 80 per cent of the students who had turned up to hear me speak were male.

That same evening, I attended an industry awards event. I have never seen so many middle-aged men in penguin-suits dancing with themselves.

And finally, as I mentioned last week, I have recently endured ‘chemistry meetings’ with 10 marketing agencies – the bastion of female/male equality. Of the 10 meetings, 3 of them were devoid of women and 37 of the 40 people we met were males. That just has to be wrong.

At the centre of the marketing industry is a culture of passion, emotion and intuition. So how can we have got it so wrong? And how can an agency demonstrate that it understands the needs of my customers if it is so one-sided in its thinking?

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