Finding the Right Balance: ARGONAUT's CFO, Ana Dixon

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?

I only recently joined ARGONAUT. When considering this opportunity, it was important to me that I was joining a modern agency with a fresh outlook on culture and how people work together. Over the years, I’ve worked in many male dominated cultures where women had to band together to get their ideas through. Creating a Sisterhood is a lot of fun, but my dream scenario was to work in an environment where talent and skills matter most, and where anyone with a great idea can have a voice and equal opportunity.

In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?   

While I’ve seen many things change in terms of business practices since I started working in the industry, the fundamental management challenge has not changed.  We’re all striving to strike the right balance of meeting our clients’ business needs, attracting and keeping the best talent, and doing great work. We’ve all worked in agencies where the balance is off and know how that affects the success of the business if not in the short term, certainly in the long term. I’m excited about the impact that female leadership is bringing to meeting this challenge.  My experience has been that as the leadership mix becomes more balanced, collaboration improves, while a more nuanced, and holistic approach to planning, and problem solving develops. I’m excited to be working with a leadership team that is an equal mix of men and women at ARGONAUT. It’s refreshing and really productive.

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

The biggest gap still exists for women at the executive level and there are two main challenges that I see with this. The first is that there is still a double standard – women must work harder and accomplish more to get the same opportunities for promotion as men. I believe that women are held to a higher standard. It’s getting better but we still need to work towards everyone being evaluated and rewarded equally based on track record and contributions. The second issue is that women are still not always comfortable with speaking up. I see a pattern of women waiting for permission to speak or of not being confident in our opinions. In meetings, I try to create the space for the women in the room to voice their ideas and opinions. It’s not always easy to get a word in, but we also need to work at developing our voice.

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

This is a never-ending challenge, and I’ve tried many tactics over the years. Where I’ve landed is that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I used to think that if I created boundaries, and compartments, I could fit it all in. But that didn’t work for me. Now I just let things flow, don’t worry so much about what I didn’t get to, and pay close attention to my energy level and when I need a mental break. I simply take breaks when I need them, whether it’s a few hours in the middle of the week, or weekend down time. I also find that how I spend my free time really matters. Being with family and friends, or spending time in an activity or with community, recharges me and reminds me not to take work too seriously.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Having worked mostly with independent creative shops, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very smart and innovative entrepreneurs. To operationalize a vision as a new business model or service offering is very rewarding. In a sense it’s helping to make dreams come true. I love working with entrepreneurial teams and feel very proud in those moments when it’s clear that we’ve realized the dream.

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?

Early in my career I was lucky to have a mentor who taught me the fundamentals of the advertising business and then encouraged me to use that knowledge to develop ideas. I recognized that asking questions, listening, and absorbing created opportunity for growth. I also learned about the importance of confidence and risk-taking which in turn allowed me to understand the power of innovation. I’m very grateful for these lessons.          

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

I think a lot about the importance of being a positive role model and leading by example. I hope that I might inspire in that way. But I feel the most valuable thing I can do is to work at creating more opportunities for women in part by providing encouragement so they can reach their full potential.