‘I had a very senior position in the creative department of a marketing agency and was recently made redundant, along with a series of other women in their late forties and early fifties.
I work in a creative industry, and creativity is subjective. It was very easy for my employer to say I wasn’t good enough. But I know I did a really good job, brought in lots of money for the company and never had negative comments from anyone.
But even if it was true that I just wasn’t up to scratch, I absolutely know that wasn’t the case for the other women who were let go.
I believe the real reason was because – as women over 40 – we became invisible and expensive.
‘The agency as a whole was fairly gender-balanced, but the creative department was a fiefdom of 40-50-year-old men who had come up in the company together over the last 20 years. It was quite a toxic environment for women, particularly those who put their head above the parapet. I would often get shot down creatively.
None of the women were included on the senior creative board. There was one woman there who was easily better than any of them, but while her senior partner was on the team, she wasn’t.
They knew gender diversity was important so frequently pointed out how many women they were hiring, but it felt very much like lip service. Yes, a slew of 20-year-old women were brought on board, but the women 40 and older were let go.
In a sense, I saw it coming. The head of department wasn’t advocating for me in any way, and I just felt like I wasn’t one of the “chosen ones”. But it still knocked me sideways. Not to mention I got statutory minimum pay out, so financially it was a bit of a disaster.’
Sexism in creativity
‘It’s not necessarily that well-known that the creative industry is difficult for women to prosper in, but according to Creative Equals (a company that’s trying to rectify the situation) women make up just 29% of creative departments in the UK. In London specifically, just 12% of creative directors are female.
I started at my company six years ago when I was 36, and while that’s not long in the grand scheme of things, there’s a different feeling when you’re in your late thirties. I felt I was at the top of my game, and it was a great time to be going into the industry (I had moved over from PR).
Going out into the world again at 42 was different and I was definitely nervous, but as it happened, things turned out well. A place I had worked at before as a freelancer loved me and asked me to come back once they heard I was available. I’ve not been there long but already I feel I’m appreciated for the skills that were ignored at my previous place, plus I’m being paid more money.
So while I definitely had a bad experience that should never have happened, it didn’t have the power to derail an otherwise successful career.’