To mark International Women’s Day, AdForum is gathering opinions from women working in advertising and marketing communications. We asked women from a range of job roles both agency- and client-side, for their view of the state of the industry.
How would you describe the overall culture at your company? Would you say that there is a separate female culture?
I’ve been at RAPP for just shy of nine years, and I would definitely say that our organization been on a culture rollercoaster for quite some time, and for a variety of reasons. Polarizing leadership, overall industry culture, upswings and downturns in business… they’ve all contributed, at different times, and for different reasons, to the way our culture has manifested, changed and, eventually, flourished.
What’s more, I’m in a unique position, being in a global role and getting to experience our company culture in different markets around the world. What matters in NYC isn’t, necessarily, as crucial in London – and what sets the tone in Singapore might not resonate in Argentina. That said, it’s rewarding to see common threads in our company culture, no matter the office location – which always seem to center around strong communication and peer support.
I wouldn’t exactly say that RAPP’s female culture is separate – rather, it’s an amplification of that support. I witness, and am a part of, really fantastic cross-discipline, “hierarchy”-spanning partnerships that serve to make both RAPP, and the parties involved, they best they can be. To be honest, throughout the other peaks and valleys of the past nine years, this culture of support, mentorship and sponsorship is one of the main reasons I’ve stayed at RAPP.
In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
Our decibel level. We are louder than ever.
Importantly… we’re not just making noise. Our ideas, positions and points of view are valid, resonant and impactful – and we demand to be heard.
But I do think it’s crucial to underscore the nuance in this question, due to the word “begun.” That’s to say – the ceiling isn’t shattered yet. As we kick off a new year and new decade, it’s worth noting that, while women make up 47% of the US workforce, they represent less than a quarter of senior executives at large US public companies. And women still make, roughly, only 79 cents for every dollar men make.
So the ceiling, while, perhaps, cracked, is still very much intact.
What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?
Frankly, I think one of the biggest challenges women face is a lack of mentorship and sponsorship.
Awareness and exposure? There’s plenty of that. Conferences like ADCOLOR, 3% and MAKERS all consistently and powerfully drive home messages about the importance of parity, equality and equity. While nowhere near where it should be, more than ever, we’re seeing women at the helm of major corporations, in marketing positions and in the c-suite. Some of my favorites to follow include Bozoma Saint John, Stephanie Mehta and Tiffany R. Warren, just to name a few.
These women are powerhouses. And they’re certainly not done – but, for all intents and purposes, they’ve made it. Not many of us do. So many women join our industry at the entry level, with high hopes and big dreams, only to be stifled in mid-level roles, unsure of their footing, or where to step next. I would love to see some of these conferences and organizations, with equality and empowerment at their core, create mentorship programs and opportunities for junior and mid-level women who aspire to follow in the footsteps of the rockstars they see on stage.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I grapple with anxiety and OCD, so I take achieving work-life balance very seriously. I absolutely love my job, especially the global component, but that means I’m almost always “on.” Because Dubai’s week starts on Sunday, and when it’s 11AM in Paris, it’s 5AM for me, in NYC… and 9PM, for me, is only 6PM, for Los Angeles. It never ends! Oh – did I mention that my commute is two hours each way, door-to-door? The price I pay for working in a metropolis, as a beach girl, at heart. Which means that I try my best to leave the office at 5:00-5:30 every day, answering emails on the train rides both to and from the office.
RAPP also offers me flexibility, as it relates to working remotely and altering my schedule, as needed – my team’s motto is “as long as the work gets done, it can get done from anywhere.”
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of launching Omnicom’s first-ever global LGBTQIA+ ERG, OPEN Pride. It took almost a year to get off the ground, back in 2016, but is now nearly 1,000 members strong, in 11 chapters all over the world – including locations like Manila, Australia, Barcelona, Chicago, Denver and Berlin. In addition to local initiatives, like partnerships with the Chicago AIDS Foundation, GLAAD, The Trevor Project and NLGJA, we also sponsored WorldPride, out of NYC, in 2019.
Being a part of a global scale human-rights movement, for an organization as large as Omnicom, has really opened my eyes and stoked a fire to affect change. I’ve taken that passion back into my own organization and have since become a co-Director for RAPP’s Diversity & Inclusion programming committee, called The Neighborhood.
Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?
I know this might sound cliché, but my manager, Anne Marie Neal, has been the most incredible mentor for me. Long before she was my boss, she established herself as a force to be reckoned with in my agency. A powerful woman, claiming her space as a leader and using her voice to impact the way things are done – who I admired (and was intimidated by!) from afar. When she was promoted to Global CMO, and I began reporting into her, I got to learn about a whole different side of Anne Marie – as a woman and businesswoman. I realized that there was nothing to be intimidated about. In fact, she has been one of my brightest lights and fiercest champions, throughout our organization, and I have truly learned so much from her. Her understanding, and application, of RAPP’s offering is brilliant – she’s guided my learning as a practitioner. Not to mention, she’s a total badass. Assertive and kind, all at once. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor, leader and friend.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?
Nothing that makes me happier than giving others space to shine. As I continue to grow, I’m committed to helping women in my organization, and industry, do the same – and ensuring they receive due credit for their brilliance, authenticity and tenacity. There’s enough room at the table for all of us – and I’ll always pull up a chair.