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Scholarship to push for gender diversity at ad agencies

A Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival award.

Cannes Lions

Industry bigwigs on their annual migration to the south of France are hoping to bring home coveted awards from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and are attending seminars exploring trends in the business of persuasion.

One troubling trend was a focus of discussion this week when agency JWT announced a new scholarship to attempt to address the lack of gender diversity in leadership roles at the industry's creative departments. A commonly cited statistic has just 3 per cent of worldwide creative director positions held by women.

JWT is introducing five annual scholarships for young women in North America, China, India and the Middle East, which will also include internship placements at its agencies and "first look" considerations for jobs after graduation from a program of study. The scholarships are named after former JWT executive Helen Lansdowne Resor, who became a copywriter in the early 20th century and, as a leader at the agency, recruited and supported other women.

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Of course, anyone who has stepped into an ad creative department can see recruiting young women is not an issue: Agencies have no problem finding them. The bigger problem is continuing to support them on a leadership track, as many are streamed out after they have families.

But as JWT sees it, a support program for those early in their career is a start.

"While we are proud of our existing female talent, we know we also need to be working harder to identify, train, develop and mentor the next generation of female creative leaders," JWT Worldwide's global president, Gustavo Martinez, said in a statement.

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