Working toward a structural change
In 2020, allegations of sexist faux pas at the Berlin-based agency group Scholz & Friends were made public. This led to scores of people from other advertising agencies speaking out about sexism being common practice in the industry. Two of those affected, Lisa Eppel from Scholz & Friends in Berlin and Isabel Gabor from Grabarz XCT in Hamburg, took this as an opportunity to join forces with other women and kickstart an action group against sexism at advertising agencies.
According to its female founders, the Ad Girls Club campaigns for intersectional feminism and is open to all women and intersex, non-binary, trans, and agender people who have suffered any form of discrimination. Its mission is to transform the industry – not only in terms of how agencies operate on a day-to-day basis, but also with regard to the advertising that they routinely produce.
“We know that we can only produce really effective advertising when our colleagues feel comfortable,” the collective explains in a statement.
The activists’ wake-up calls have so far mainly reached people via the Ad Girls channels on LinkedIn and Instagram – where the response has been extremely positive.
What specific goals are being pursued?
In October 2021, the Ad Girls Club published a manifesto for the first time, in which it takes a distinct stance and makes clear demands to combat sexism. The main things it is seeking include:
- A 50% proportion of women at all management levels
- Gender-inclusive language, both internally and externally
- Equal pay, which should be reviewed regularly
- Work-family balance
- Reliable contact persons, both internally and externally
The manifesto is directed at German advertising agencies, around 20 of which have signed it so far, thereby pledging to fulfill the demands internally and agreeing to undergo annual reporting to check their progress.
Umbrella association welcomes the initiative
An open letter written by the Ad Girls Club in very unambiguous terms has even got the attention of the GWA (the German General Association of Communication Agencies). In the letter, the club’s leaders call on the association to demand action from its members and finally take equality seriously. The GWA was receptive to the suggestions and called them necessary for modern corporate governance. It intends to establish a program of training courses and workshops as well as a complaints office for agencies. It is also planning to conduct a baseline study in order to analyze anonymized data from agency employees. These pledges received a cautiously positive response from the Ad Girls Club on Instagram: it will be keeping an eye on whether they’re actually followed through.
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