Addressing the Agency Gender Pay Gap

This is a guest post by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR.

This is a guest post by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR.

Last year, Ad Age released an important thought piece, which examined the discrepancies in agency pay by gender – to the tune of women earning 79 percent of that of their male peers. Research done at the Institute for the Study of Labor explains an average ratio of 92 percent. This can be hard to digest, especially in female-dominated industries such as public relations and advertising.

Along with this call to action, we must activate change by 2017, by narrowing a gap that by some predictions will not reach parity or true equality until 2133.

We may dually address the fact that women in both PR and advertising agencies – not to mention within digital, social, print and broadcasting media – comprise 65 percent of the global workforce.

With closer lenses to examine this fact, it’s equally important to identify why this practice continues to persist at the agency level. Ultimately, women must take charge.

If we are not promoting our agencies to grow better behaviors and cultures, what kind of strategic or creative practitioners are we client-side? We need to examine this dynamic from the inside out.

Linda Babcock, author of the book Women Don’t Ask, conducted a study on negotiation and gender in the workplace. When given their offer at a job, 7 percent of women attempt to negotiate, strikingly less that the 57 percent of men that do.

In industries that continue to be predominately female, why do women feel uncomfortable asking for more compensation? Or rather, the question should be: why do women have to ask in the first place?

Fast Company recently published a piece that has high hopes for the future of women in the industry. As more men enter the industry, it will by nature become more egalitarian as the gender split evens out over time.

It’s a tenet of every top-tier agency practice to perform their best work on behalf of clients. The issue remains as to when agencies will recognize the importance of training new generations in the business to command what they are worth – both fiscally and to the future of the business. That is a gender-neutral practice, once the gap is narrowed significantly for equal pay.

At our agency, we have long embraced the practice of billing at a rate commensurate to our global male peers as we largely – but not exclusively – service businesses that are largely managed by males at the C-level. With a profit-driven mindset, we view it as important to benefit the client while compensating fairly.

A new conference this month, hosted dually by Center for an Urban Future and the City of New York (funded by Capital One’s Future Edge Initiative), in which our agency is participating, anticipates these pressing issues with a focus on ‘Breaking Through: Women Entrepreneurs New York City (WE NYC).’ A focus on scaling up more of the city’s women-owned businesses is at the forefront.

Although initially discouraging, there seems to be a positive result of this gender disparity. While men may hold more senior positions in agencies, women generally take more initiative to become entrepreneurs and start their own companies, according to Digiday.

Historically, women have not been in the workforce nearly as long as men have. But the progress made to date is extraordinary, and the gender wage gap is only yet another hurdle for women to leap over before reaching full workforce equality with men.

As agency owners and global practitioners, we need to be mindful of how we set an example within our respective industries – as well as client-side with award winning campaigns – by being exemplary coaches, mentors and champions of our respective practices to cultivate, promote and reward talent.

Courtney-profileCourtney Lukitsch is the principal and founder of Gotham PR, which was founded in 2002 and is a boutique Marketing PR firm based in New York and London, with a roster of high profile clients in 25 global markets.

You can find Courtney on LinkedIn or Twitter.