Blog Women Can’t Write

Women Can’t Write

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The older I get and the more senior positions I hold within our industry, the more I notice the bias around me each and every day.

The theme of this International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias, so I’d like to share a personal story about this from when I worked for a previous employer.

I started at a new agency as a senior creative in an all male team of writers and was given a brief one day which came with some explanation around it.

I was sat down and told that this particular client, who was a woman might I add, thought that women couldn’t write. So “what would have to happen” in the process is that she would brief my male colleague. I was told to write the campaign and scripts behind the scenes, then hand it back to him to email to that client. It was explained to me that if it came from me she would never sign it off so it had to appear like it was written by a man.

I did as I was told and the campaign and scripts were signed straight off. In fact, she was delighted with them. And my male team saw it as a win against her because, little did she know, it was written by a woman. I didn’t see it as a win. Looking back on it now I don’t only not see it as a win, I’m really fucking angry about it.

My team thought that they were doing the right thing, but it made me question my ability, feel under huge pressure to write something perfect to prove her wrong and I was left feeling as though I had no right to to call it out because we all knew she was wrong (and we proved that was the case secretly behind the scenes), so all was well. What should have happened is that she should have been told she was wrong, that it would be written by a highly experienced female writer who was more than capable of writing her campaign and if she still had an issue with it she could take her business elsewhere. For this and many other reasons, I left that job within weeks. I didn't have a voice so I voted with my feet.

To deal with breaking the bias we need to call things out for what they are, whether that’s the internalised misogyny of a female client or the microaggressions that happen on a daily basis of people interrupting women when they’re speaking, the requests for male bosses to come along to meetings for “seniority” or “to get things done quicker” or being called “girls'' by the men in the room. It’s about listening to women and believing women when we say we’re experiencing sexism and not jumping to the defence of the person dishing it out.

It’s not comfortable to call things out but until we do we’re letting bias continue. We’re being an active part in making women feel lesser than. Ultimately it’s why we don’t attract enough female talent to our industry, and why those who do work with us choose to leave because they’re simply too tired to deal with it.

So if there’s one thing we can all do to break the bias today, tomorrow and going forwards, it’s to find our voice and use it to support our female colleagues, friends and family members.

Written by Kathleen Moroney, Executive Creative Director


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