Working Moms Explain Why They Quit The Advertising Industry, Solutions

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  • Thousands of mothers quit full-time jobs at advertising agencies, compounding the agencies’ hiring difficulties.
  • Many quit because they wanted more flexibility in the way they worked.
  • New research suggests that companies that have adopted hybrid work models will lose the war for talent.

The advertising industry has a big problem keeping its employees, especially mothers.

According to a report by the non-profit organization She Runs It which surveyed 50 companies including Publicis, WPP, Unilever and Dow Jones.

A recent investigation by consulting firm Seramount further found that since March 2020, one-third of all working mothers in the United States have quit their jobs, reduced their jobs, or planned to do so. The survey wasn’t specific to advertising, but it’s common knowledge that the industry’s hourly billing model leaves less room for flexibility in when and where people work.

Many mothers have gone freelance or left the business altogether during the pandemic. Katie Elliott, head of talent experience at We Are Rosie, a leading job platform for freelancers in the advertising industry, said 26.3% of new members in 2022 are also parents, compared to 16, 8% in 2020.

Hiring is such a challenge for agencies that WPP, the largest advertising company, recently created a program encouraging women in their 40s and 50s who have left the industry to come back.

“He who is in an agency is overworked, [and] many are parents who can no longer work 80 hours,” Elliott said. “It’s a vicious circle.”

Insider spoke to eight moms who worked in marketing or public relations and told us why they quit their full-time jobs.

Parenthood in the pandemic has pushed mothers out of the workforce

Advertising has emphasized getting people back to the office more than other industries because it places a high value on in-person collaboration.

At the end of 2021, Mother and Havas called people back to the office several days a week. Omnicom CEO John Wren said he would bring back full-time managers and referred to the “office-centric culture.”

Some mothers see things differently. Katie Friedman was a social media manager at an agency of 500 people. When her two children’s schools closed in early 2020, she had to leave them in front of screens while attending client meetings during the day, then finish her work after they went to bed.

The tipping point came in December 2021, when her youngest son missed all but four school days due to COVID exposures. “After two years, I had to make a choice,” she said. “Would I continue to choose my clients or would I start choosing my children? »

Friedman quit his job in January and now works on Children’s books on life during the pandemic.

The recruiting firm where Carri Zurawik worked as marketing manager was full of mothers, she said. But she lost her job in 2020 after her daughter’s daycare center closed and management wouldn’t let her work from home two days a week.

Zurawik found the uncertainty of freelance work frightening. But she got a contract job in the marketing department of Delta Airlines and now doubts she would return to the days when she worked full time when she came home just an hour before her daughter went to bed every night. .

Agency strategist Ashton Songer was the only mother on a team of 20 at the start of the pandemic and asked her boss if she could work fewer hours to care for her baby.

“His response? ‘Don’t worry, I know if you only get six hours a day, you’ll make it up somewhere else.'” But Songer said she didn’t have that extra time.

Later, she moved to an agency that touted work-life balance, but experienced the same situation. She quit after less than four months to go freelance.

Parents want to choose when and where they work

Some


advertising companies

, like Portland’s Rain The Growth Agency, have become totally distant. Others offer limited benefits; Holding Publicis allows employees to work where they want six weeks a year. But most have opted for a hybrid model that designates in-office and remote days.

In a November 2021 survey of 574 professional women by consulting firm Have Her Back, 52% of Gen Xers and Boomers and 36% of Millennials said their companies had made no changes. to accommodate parents during the pandemic.

Have Her Back co-founder and former agency executive Caroline Dettman said that while many ad executives view hybrid as an ideal middle ground, it will hurt their ability to attract and retain women, and especially mothers, in the long term. At least 79% of survey respondents said they wanted the flexibility to create their own schedules; only 4% prefer the hybrid.

Forty-three percent of survey respondents also said they were more productive at home, while 31% chose the office. And 64% said remote work improves their career prospects, compared to 16% who said it doesn’t. This preference for remote work has increased since the start of the pandemic, when the figures were 52% and 29% respectively.

Respondents see a significant gap between their preferences and those of their employers. Forty-seven percent said fully flexible hours were their top request, while 41% said their bosses wanted them to work entirely on-site.

Full flexibility is essential to bring working mothers back

Some women returned to full-time work when company policies met their needs.

Véronique Rhys Evans quit her job as PR manager for WPP’s Gray London several years ago to do freelance work and spend more time with her children. But she has just accepted a position with Dentsu UK after negotiating the ability to come into the office on a day of her choosing each week.

“I thought I would never be employed again because flexibility was so important to me,” she said.

Dentsu UK recently changed its policies, advising all staff not to come into the office for more than three days and launching a platform to help working parents and carers.

Emily Lewis Keane left freelance work to join Canadian firm Cossette full-time in January after the agency let her work when she wants, as long as the job is done. CEO Melanie Dunn said the agency has started letting employees include some of the hours they spend caring for children on their timesheets, but warned leaders should use those benefits too, lest mothers fear being punished for not being in the office 9 -5.

“I want to say when I have to leave early to take care of my children,” Dunn said.

Katie Friedman said the office culture was her favorite part of the job. But she doubted she would return to a full-time job without the assurance that she would not be punished for arriving late or taking last-minute days off to care for things like sick children. and school closures – something she deemed unlikely in the advertising industry.

Ashton Songer said that just before quitting his job at the agency, his son had to stay home due to exposure to COVID. The whole household tested positive within days and she struggled to do her job while caring for herself and her child.

“I finally understood firsthand why so many moms were leaving,” she said. “It’s an impossible situation.”

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