No magazine cover should have 1 woman and 9 men

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Guest Column: But then again, writes Mithila Saraf, Business Head, Famous Innovations, no industry should have such few women leaders

Advertising is overwhelmingly, unapologetically, unabashedly a boys club. All-male panels, all-male juries, all-male boardrooms weren’t unheard of until recently when having all-male anything became politically incorrect. You can count the number of women CCO’s in our country on one hand (and you wouldn’t even need the whole hand). The situation is no less grim at the bottom, take a look at any creative team in any agency. So much so that I have seen even the few creative women who are at the top, often turn themselves into pseudo-guys, laughing, joking and spitting like men (metaphorically, of course) to fit into this gang. It’s no surprise then, that when a publication starts hunting for the people behind some of the year’s best work, they run into a wall full of men.

So yes, let’s get mad at IMPACT, but let’s also realize that this cover is a symptom of the issue and not the issue itself. The covers will change when our creative leadership and creative teams change. Otherwise, we’d only be fixing advertising’s PR problem, not its diversity problem. Otherwise, we’d only be signaling to journalists that the next time you have a cover like this, go far and beyond to find women to put on the cover. This will then worsen the oft-repeated narrative, “she’s only there because she’s a woman” or “she’s only there for the diversity count.” The point is, they shouldn’t have to look far and beyond. And they won’t. If all of us decide to look a little harder in our everyday hiring, nurturing and promoting decisions.

So what can be done about all of this? Start by looking around the floor at your team. Go back and review the last few multi-crore films you released. Do you see enough young people and women represented there? It’s easy to say, we don’t get talent / good ideas from these groups. It’s harder to ensure that you sit down with them, help them with their ideas and give them the time they need to do what you could do in a matter of minutes in your sleep. Further, when you are invited to a jury, a panel or a cover, ask what is the ratio of men to women there. And the next time you hear a colleague or a friend undermine the success of a woman (even jokingly), remember that she was 9 times less likely to make it up there.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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Mithila Saraf

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