How Much Did Women Make in Advertising: 2021

Jess Watts
7 min readJan 10, 2022

With one exception, not enough. Thanks, gender pay gaps.

Just the facts, ma’am? Go directly to the excel

Nine months ago a Creator posted in the anonymous industry app, Fishbowl, asking the participants of the Women in Advertising Bowl to share their salaries.

And boy (uh, girl), did they ever.

As a female, freelance Strategy Director, I found the range of salaries eye-opening. There were inspiring six-figure queens. There were insulting, rage-inducing low-ball numbers. The sharing of both poles, however, encouraged more than one woman to successfully lobby for better pay. Which got me thinking: organizing these comments into a clear data set could make it a better tool for women to get their due.

So I did what any Type-A feminist does on winter break: I binged romantic holiday movies and got drunk on rummy eggnog. And then, I spent three days manually coding and analyzing the 330+ salary posts, self-reported by the self-proclaimed female advertisers on Fishbowl.

Data included department, title, years of experience and city. I thought it would be useful to have a baseline to compare these salaries to; so, I pulled in the average Glassdoor salaries for each role in their respective city (when known) and calculated the pay difference from what women shared. Voila! Neurotic magic!

A word of caution: This should all be considered directional and anecdotal — the samples are generally too small to make definitive salary claims about women in advertising, nationally. We also don’t have male salaries to compare to, though it can be somewhat inferred by taking the national average and subtracting our women’s reported salaries. More caveats and methodology notes are at the bottom, if you’re into that kind of pain.

You can check the Google Doc of the raw data here, but I’ve also included some tasty take-aways below.

Entry level and junior women are underpaid

Entry level and junior employees tended to make less than the average salary, across Account, Creative and Strategy. Mid-level account women struggled to make average, too. I’d say there wasn’t quite enough entries in Production, Media and Project Management to tell if this was a trend there, too.

Jess Watts

Where culture & consumerism meet. Strategy Director, culture, pay equity and travel pro. Stalk me here: