Ever seen a picture of the Executive Creative Director’s team from an ad agency? Or chanced across this Tumblr? Or wondered why you are struggling to think of more than a handful of female screenwriters or film directors? It’s because, in case you haven’t heard, women just aren’t as creative as men.
Whilst visiting the Picasso museum in Barcelona a few years ago, browsing the master’s thousands of works, I had an epiphany about my interpretation of creativity. I realised that creativity meant something different to me than simply having ideas or a wild imagination. In my eyes, creativity is inextricably linked to the creation of the idea, literally the action or process of bringing something into existence. The urge to give birth to an idea is the true essence of creativity. Picasso proved this to me with the sheer volume of his work. Some of his works were unrecognisably his, such was the variance in style and mood. His evolution and progress and breadth and urge was so potent, so zealous. I finally understood creativity for what it is; the need to create.
Surely this isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to men? Of course not – women are just as prevalent in the arts as their male counterparts, and just as successful. Female artists like Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Mamma Andersson, Joan Mitchell, Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic have made no small impact on the world of art. Writers including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Zadie Smith, Germaine Greer, and Anais Nin all had original ideas, didn’t they? Even the mainstream music industry, women are almost unusually well represented as performers and hold their own in popular culture. They write songs, and produce music, even though their success is often attributed to men in one way or another. Women clearly are creative, so where is it all going wrong?
Obviously, the missing link is the moment from which a women can self-publish, self-promote, self-teach, to the moment when she has to rely on the support of others for her advancement, and given the fact that most industries are male-dominated, that’s going to be tough. There are a number of things you generally can’t or aren’t invited to do in the corporate world that men take for granted, where they have access to higher powers and general mentorship which can give them an enormous edge. Let’s be clear on this; once women enter management positions, they rarely help other women, and I have a couple of feasible theories around this lack of support. One is that women often suffer from imposter syndrome, which may lead them to believe they don’t actually have anything to offer their younger counterparts. Perhaps they believe it’s dumb luck that they are where they are, and that they will be “found out” at any moment, or that they have been promoted in an act of tokenism. The other is that women are hesitant to offer other women a leg-up once they are in leadership circles for fear of accusations of nepotism. Of course, there are malicious reasons too! Women are only human after all.
In my days in advertising, even the most junior account executive was invited to play golf with the male members of the team on the weekend, including the senior team members and MDs. A junior designer would often go surfing with the Creative Director. While women can obviously do these things, the reality is that they generally don’t, and it can be very difficult to maintain professional relationships with the male team members without either being slandered for flirting, or being sexually harassed (one in four women were sexually harassed in Australia between 2007 and 2012). This is not me being dramatic, it’s a statistically-proven fact. So, where’s the mentorship for women? Where are the promotions on the basis of being a good bloke? Where are the opportunities to talk about your hopes and dreams with someone who might have influence in them becoming a reality over a coffee or a beer in your free time? The simple fact is, women are creative, they just don’t get recognised in the corporate world while they are at the mercy of a male-dominated system.
In the BRW’s 2015 Young Rich List, there were no women in the top 30, number 31 being Ms Erica Baxter. There were eight women in the top 100 overall. Eight. In the year 2015, Australia only has eight women in the pipeline for the rich list. Five of those work in the fashion or entertainment industry and only 6 of those women own their own businesses, which means that if you’re waiting for the next generation of female business owners to turn the tables then you can keep on waiting.
Obviously money and business ownership doesn’t equal happiness, but it does equal a level of freedom and power. If you own the company, then you get to make the decisions, whether it’s about who to hire, what clients to engage with, and what direction to go in. Oh, and whether to give a helping hand to someone in your organisation that you believe in. A business that I love to love is Wildwon, a purpose-driven experience agency based in Surry Hills. Founded by two young women who were dissatisfied with the status quo, Wildwon aims to change the way people do business through exceptional real-world and digital experiences. By owning their business, these women have the power to be as creative and divergent as they please. That’s the dream, right?
Sadly, having material power is also a social advantage. It’s vital that women have the power to have their voices heard, and in our (slightly bloodthirsty) capitalist society, almost the only way to do that is to that is to have some level of financial success.
If you want to have power and money, you have to go where the power and money is. This is not another article about how men need to help women to achieve their potential. This is an article about the reality that this may never happen. If you feel smited by the system, then get out of the system. Start your own company, create your own destiny, and write your own ending. In the words of Sophia Amoruso:
“The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.”