Jane Newman will never forget that phone call. It was seven years ago, shortly after she began to raise eyebrows as a hotshot researcher at a British advertising agency. When she picked up the phone, a distant voice said, "You probably haven't heard of me, but my name is Jay Chiat."
Of course she had heard of Chiat. His Venice ad firm, Chiat/Day, ranks among the most successful on the West Coast. Chiat told Newman that he was interested in the research techniques she had developed in London. He wanted to talk with her about a similar job in his company's New York office.
She got the job, all right. And last week she finally got something else--the title of chief executive. Newman, 40, was named president and chief executive of Chiat/Day's New York office. For years that office has played second fiddle to its West Coast counterpart, but this year the New York operation outshone its California sibling when it won numerous advertising awards for its Nynex and Arrow Shirts campaigns. Newman, who is directly responsible for $150 million of the agency's annual billings, is one of only a handful of women in the nation who hold such a responsibility at a major ad firm.
"It's odd, because it's never been my goal to run an office," said Newman, who was one of the New York office's first employees when it opened in 1981. "My only real goal has been to do really great advertising."
Many of the estimated 150,000 women who work in the U.S. advertising business would gladly trade their Agency Red Books--the industry bible--to be in Newman's place. The fact is, only a few women ever get to run a regional office of a major ad firm. And how many women will ever see a major ad agency add their name to the agency's official corporate name? Well, last month Louise R. McNamee saw hers placed on the newly renamed New York ad firm, Della Femina McNamee WCRS. Both Newman and McNamee are rarities in a profession whose upper ranks are still dominated by men.
Why do so few women make it to the top in the ad world? "Most agencies are overly sensitive to possible client reactions (to women at the top) than to the realities of the situation or the capabilities of women," Jay Chiat said.
Now it appears that the unhappiness of women professionals in the industry is reaching a near-boiling point. Survey results released Monday by the trade magazine Adweek indicate that a growing number of women in the advertising business are unhappy with their titles, displeased with their salaries and generally pessimistic about their prospects for advancement.
More than 3,000 women nationwide responded to the sixth annual Adweek survey--nearly 50% more than have responded before. Slightly more than 85% of the women surveyed said they "have to work harder than men to achieve the same positions." Nearly half the women said they were underpaid. And the notion of ever reaching top management isn't even wishful thinking among many young women who are just entering the field. Only 14.5% of respondents in their 20s said they ever expected to reach top management.
"The reality of the ad industry is there are very, very few women in top management," said Maryanne McNellis, editor of the West Coast edition of Adweek. "In the Los Angeles ad community, you can count them on one hand."
One of those is Nancy Shalek. She owns the Shalek Agency, a Los Angeles firm that creates advertisements for Gilbraltar Savings, Gotcha Sportswear and KABC radio. The agency, which she recently purchased from ad firm W. B. Doner, posts annual billings of more than $22 million.
But Shalek is not all that sympathetic to gripes expressed in the Adweek survey. "Some women have a chip on their shoulders. They are always out trying to prove something," she said. "Being successful has more to do with being comfortable with yourself. Then you can make other people comfortable with you and your abilities."
Another colleague generally agrees with Shalek. "I don't know if most women really want to bite the bullet," said Joan McArthur, who was recently named senior vice president and creative director at the Los Angeles office of Ogilvy & Mather. "Realistically, a woman with two children is not going to compete with say, a Michael Eisner (chief executive of Walt Disney Co.), who probably works 18-hour days."
But McArthur says the creative end of the advertising business "has always been more forgiving" by allowing more women to advance to the top. That, she says, likely played a role in her rapid advancement at her former agency, Wells, Rich, Greene, and at Ogilvy, where she was only recently doing free-lance work. Still, she adds, "although women have now been accepted in middle management, there is still a 'glass ceiling' that stops many of them from getting to the top."