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The Token Woman

We've all seen the picture. It's the executive shot in Ad Age because the agency won some account or got an agency-of-the-year honor or the PR folks just feel like having everyone know who's in charge.

Obviously we can't have everyone in such a photopgrah. That would be far too many folks at most shops. So we have to decide who's in the pic and select our three to six people. And what do we end up with? Well as long as it's not a media shop (apparently media buying is women's work) you get a bunch of white guys and one lady.

Who do they think they're fooling? I can see the meeting now: "Tom needs to be there and Greg. Possibly Al, cause he'll pitch a fit, damn creatives. And we need a woman, so....uh....let's grab Mary."

God! It's like those stock photography shots that always get selected for bank ads that have the happy multicultural neighborhood enjoying a street fair or something. We know such a thing barely exists, but we like to pretend that everyone lives together in harmony.

The agency exec shot would be completely laughable if I hadn't actually sat in the meeting. You know the one. It's the meeting where you're trying to finalize the pitch team and realize that you're all men sitting around the table. So you drag a woman in at the last minute to, "round out the the team." 

The client will never suspect!

This doesn't mean that the women in the photo doesn't deserve to be there. Believe me when I say, if there's a woman who's managed to get into the exec shot, she's worked her ass off to be there. But do we seriously believe that the team is balanced with a feminine perspective because we have a single skirt mixed in with a rack of slacks?

And don't bother writing to me to defend your agency's male-to-female ratio. I have the pictures. That's all that matters in the end.

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