A choice between home and work – how gender inequalities at work mean women can rarely 'have it all'

June 13, 2018 by Charlotte Anscombe, University of Nottingham
A choice between home and work – how gender inequalities at work mean women can rarely 'have it all'
Credit: University of Nottingham

A 'boys club' culture and a lack of flexibility for working mothers are two of the reasons for a gender imbalance in the highest ranking positions in the City of London advertising industry—according to new research.

The paper, 'Gender inequalities in the City of London ', focuses on and age-based forms of inequality within advertising, and it looks at the possible reasons for gender segregation within the industry.

In the study, lead author—Professor Louise Crewe from the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham and co-author Annie Wang—argue that whilst age, gender and domestic divisions of labour combine to reinforce within the industry, these factors are amplified by a lack of flexibility, the concentration of ad agencies within London as well the pace of the industry.

Boys club culture'

Professor Crewe says: "We chose to look at the world of advertising as it is a particularly insightful industry in which to explore contemporary issues of gender, power, work and space. It is also interesting to note that the way in which the media represents in the industry is profoundly at odds with the actual reality of the industry's workforce. It is often projected as a progressive industry in which women are visible and equal – but clearly, this is not the case."

The gender divide is also heightened by a so-called 'boys club' culture, whereby men in the industry still tend to surround themselves with other men in informal networking situations.

The research shows that this type of homosociality has been crucial in maintaining sexism in the workplace, which has made it very difficult for female creatives to achieve the most sought-after roles.

Patterns of presenteeism, long hours and a male majority have become institutionalised in advertising agencies and show little sign of abating.

Can women 'have it all'?

The paper reveals that although women currently enter the profession in equal numbers, they have been much less successful in reaching the higher ranks of the advertising world. In part this is a result of social interactions between male colleagues, both in and out of the workplace. It is also about power.

The study shows that advertising employment relies on long working hours, homosocial behaviours and subtle forms of sexism. Taken together, examples from the research undertaken reveal how informal social networks exclude women who are trying to juggle a double life of home and work. Rarely, it seems, can women 'have it all'.

Professor Crewe adds: "Whilst women continue to be the primary consumer group of these agencies, this is in sharp distinction to employment in the advertising industry, which remains a decidedly white, middle-class affair. Until these challenges and embedded working practices are addressed, the in these industries will continue."

Explore further: Automation has the potential to improve gender equality at work

More information: Louise Crewe et al. Gender inequalities in the City of London advertising industry, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space (2018). DOI: 10.1177/0308518X17749731

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