Alright, Mad Men fans amongst us? Yes, I figured as much. Hard not to, right? This season took a little bit (for me) to ramp up, but when it finally did, it has been pretty awesome. This is hardly a show review – but the show did get me thinking (a lot) about women in our industry and just how far we’ve come. And how in many cases have stayed frightfully the same.
Past couple years, I’ve had a few bright young women ask me about getting into the industry and surviving it. Watching this particular episode (where Joan sleeps with the Jaguar guy and Peggy quits) I had to write a few garbled thoughts down, just in case these same young ladies happen to be reading.
In that episode we saw two struggles for the top by two women. One had to pay the ultimate price (with her body) in hopes to secure her future. The other, made the sacrifice to leave the person that believed in her, mentored her, but ultimately never had the guts to act on what he knew was her true worth. And once he did, it was too little, too late.
Sadly, this scenario is far from unusual in our industry today. Even when it is presented to us, blatantly in a 60 min show on AMC, we still fail to stand up and admit that there may be a wee bit of a problem.
Fighting for a place at the table isn’t something new. Society tells us that we shouldn’t have to fight anymore.
We should be at the table on the basis of the quality of our work.
We should be at the table based on the bravery of our ideas.
We should be at the table because of the spirit we bring to our co-workers.
And yet, we still struggle to get our fair shot at success.
This isn’t to say there aren’t incredible, strong women in the industry. I’m incredibly proud to work at an agency that has a lineage of incredibly strong, strategic, smart and sassy women. From Cindy Gallop to Emma Cookson to Sarah Watson to Mel Exon and ex- BBHers (but always black sheep in their hearts) Patricia McDonald and Heidi Hackemer. I’m so proud to be at a place (BBH) that I believe, fosters and grows some of the strongest women in the industry. I wish I could say this is normal, but it isn’t. My biggest hope is that in my career I see it become “the new normal.”
A bit of practical advice:
A big part of navigating this business is confidence. Finding your voice. Sometimes your voice gets a bit quiet (that’s OK, it happens to everyone), but you have to have that confidence (not arrogance) to stand up for what you believe is right and sometimes, be prepared to walk out the door if necessary.
But before you walk, express yourself: Ask questions.
Ask hard questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask your worth.
**Be objective. Be rational.
**I say both those last things feeling highly hypocritical, so I’ll caveat with “but always be true to yourself.” I’m fully aware that being emotional and passionate is part of who I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve and can be honest to a fault. Very early on in my career I was asked to change that about myself in a review – to be less emotional, hide the heart. I just remember calmly and quietly saying “I’m never changing who I am” and walking out, tears stinging in my eyes. Not fun, but one of the best lessons I ever learned.
So anyone of the three people reading this, if there’s one thing to take away: DON’T CHANGE WHO YOU ARE. EVER.
It’s just not worth it. Because there will be wonderful people who appreciate, love and respect you and your work just the way you are. True story. (ps. thanks Pelle + crew for making me such a happy home)