More than half of women in advertising have faced sexual harassment, report says

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Sexual Harassment at Work Affects Two Thirds of Women

If you are a woman in advertising, chances are you've faced workplace sexual harassment at one point or another.

That's the unnerving message of a forthcoming report from industry trade group 4A, which found that more than half of the nearly 400 women it surveyed said they had been subjected to harassment at least once.

One third said they had been passed over for an assignment because of perceived bias. Four in ten said it had led to their exclusion from a relevant decision-making process, and just over half admitted to feeling at least "somewhat vulnerable" to discrimination.

The survey was weighted heavily towards managerial workers with a relatively even split among middle management, senior management and other professionals — 43 percent, 33 percent and 24 percent respectively.

The group released a summary of its findings on Thursday in anticipation of the full report's publication sometime later this fall.

The revelation couldn't be more timely. A string of recent high-profile controversies have fueled an incendiary, industry-wide discussion on the gender gaps and sexism that still plague many workplaces in advertising.

Most recently, Saatchi & Saatchi executive chairman Kevin Roberts told Business Insiderthat the debate over gender equality is "all over" and suggested that the lack of women in leadership roles has to do with a dearth of "vertical ambition" among young people. The remarks set off an uproar that ended in his resignation.

Months before that, a lawsuit accused Gustavo Martinez, the since-ousted CEO of storied ad agency JWT, of repeatedly making inappropriate rape jokes and using sexist slurs, among other things.

Those incidents and others prompted 4A to release the data early in hopes of jolting forward the conversation while the issue remained fresh of mind.

"Given the amount of discourse generated in the past two weeks, some of which seemed to imply there were isolated incidents, we wanted to put any further denial to rest," 4A CEO Nancy Hill told Mashable in an email.

While the industry has made strides past the kind of casual misogyny famously portrayed in AMC's Mad Men, numbers show that women remain scarce in the executive suites and creative departments of Madison Avenue.

Hill says Roberts' comments are still representative of the attitudes of far too many ad execs when it comes to gender-related topics.

"There are industry leaders out there who brush off gender and diversity issues," she wrote in an op-ed accompanying the research. "Too many C-suite execs believe this issue is an isolated problem, one that doesn't exist in 'my house' or, remarkably, one that doesn't exist at all."

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