Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Despite the concerted drive the advertising and design industry is making towards transformation, there remains a dire need for female, in particular black female, creative directors to provide diversity of input in terms of branding and design.

The primary reason for this, according to Anli Grobler, senior academic navigator at Vega, is that design careers have been incorrectly positioned as a career in the arts. The implication of this is that it’s neither sustainable nor lucrative, which makes it a less popular choice among parents and guardians as well candidates themselves, who would rather pursue careers with status and salary tags attached, such as those in strategy or project management.

Grobler says that while some females are enrolled in Vega’s design courses, the creative and communications industries need to invest in an internship audit to compare what other immersion and internship programmes have on offer.  They should take note not only of the creative and communication industries, but also of corporates that invest in their own programmes and in-house teams.

The value of having black female creative directors is undeniable, says Liana Liebenberg, head of design at FCB Johannesburg. “This goes beyond correcting the inequalities of the past; it is rather about positively affecting the quality of the work we produce. The richest creative work stems from the most diverse human truths. To do truly relevant and effective creative work we need to make sure we as advertisers and designers are a true representation of the audience we are speaking to. When you walk into any agency today, however, the absence of black women in senior positions is a glaring oversight that we can’t ignore any longer,” she says.

HKLM creative director, Catherine Kruger, agrees that the lack of black female creative directors is leaving a gaping hole in the industry, a hole that appears to be growing. The Marketing, Advertising & Communications charter is not the solution, she says, adding that the industry needs to gain insights into today’s realities in order to grow in the right way. “There are a lot of creatives out there, but they don’t know how to enter the design field,” she says.

The big take-out

There is a clear gap in the advertising and design industries for black female creative directors – a gap that seems to be widening, to the detriment of both agencies and their clients.

Kruger is passionate about addressing the lack of good female black creatives and designers. “Historically, the design area has been an area dominated by males – perhaps because females feel they don’t climb through the ranks as fast in design,” she says. Design, she points out, requires a certain mindset. “It’s a pure craft requiring years of learning and honing, which means it does not offer a quick rise to the top.”

There is a pressing need to groom and raise young creatives, she says. This grooming, says Kruger, should start with offering art as a subject at primary and secondary school level, as well as giving designers the opportunity to work on different projects that excite them while at the same providing them with the skills and experience they require to progress within the discipline.