Blog

News and videos to improve the strength and vigor of all your direct response marketing activity.

March is an important month for women. Each year, Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8, 2020) are dedicated to the celebration of women and their important roles within history and society. These designations honor the contributions that women have made toward society and gender parity, and they go beyond education to entice action.

The advertising and marketing industries are no different from those areas of society where women had to create their own paths. Due to discrimination and inequality, it’s been a challenge for women to gain a foothold — many had to struggle to open opportunities for the women of today, and women of the future. Below is just a glimpse into some of the important milestones that women achieved in advertising and marketing.

Women Make History in Marketing and Advertising

1910s: The J. Walter Thompson agency introduces an all-woman team of copywriters – “Women’s Editorial Department” – led by Helen Lansdowne Resor.

1912: The League of Advertising Women was created to “promote the profession of advertising and to open new opportunities for women in the field.”

1926: Nedda McGrath becomes the first woman to be named Art Director in the US by Blackman Agency.

1917: The Women’s Advertising Club of Chicago is founded with a goal of allowing members the opportunity to network and receive exposure. By 1999, it has over 300 members.

1918: The Women’s Editorial Department accounts for more than half of J. Walter Thompson’s total earnings, at a time when it’s considered the leading ad agency in the country.

1944: Ruth Waldo becomes the J. Walter Thompson Women’s Editorial Department’s first woman Vice President.

1944: Jean Wade Rindlaub, formerly a copywriter, becomes Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn’s first female VP.

1952: Erma Perham Proetz, a copywriter for Gardner Advertising in St. Louis, is the first woman inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

1959: Adrienne Hall and Joan Levine launch the advertising agency Hall & Levine in Los Angeles.

1966: Mary Wells Lawrence founds and becomes President of Wells Rich Greene. By 1969, she is said to be the highest-paid executive in advertising.

1970: Barbara Proctor becomes the first African-American woman to own an ad agency. She is the founder of Proctor and Gardner Advertising.

1973: Charlotte Beers is the first woman to achieve the rank of senior VP at J. Walter Thompson.

1975: United Nations begins to formally celebrate and sponsor International Women’s Day.

1979: Women in Advertising & Marketing in Washington and the Network for Professional Women are created. Both organizations aim to allow their members to network and stay up to date on new industry developments.

1985: Louise McNamee becomes the first woman appointed to run an established advertising agency, Della Femina.

1986: Caroline Robinson Jones starts her own agency, Creative Resources Management, making her one of the first female African American advertising entrepreneurs.

1987: March is declared women’s history month nationally by Congress.

2008: Of all creative directors at top ad agencies, only 3% are women.

2016: 4A’s President and CEO, Nancy Hill, takes on gender inequality in the advertising industry and the media transparency issue with company initiatives.

2018: The Time’s Up Advertising movement is started by 180 women executives in advertising to eliminate discrimination and inequality within the industry.

2019: As of last year, over 11% of creative directors in the industry are women.

These events signify the continuous progress and ever-present need to recognize the rights and fundamental freedoms women deserve. While equality of women has grown over the years, the inequities continue and there’s more progress to be made.

To learn more about the current role of women in business, including marketing and advertising, read how Women Are Making Advertising Funnier, Smarter, and Way Less Sexist, the Fast Company article 7 Surprising Things I’ve Learned From Working With Powerful Women, and this Forbes piece about executive women’s groups fostering strength in numbers.