Perspectives: Women in Advertising: Beth Rilee-Kelley, President, The Martin Agency
By Jeff Finkle
In honor of Internationals Womens Day, AdForum is showcasing the achievements of women in advertising in the month of March through a series of interviews. We would like to thank Beth Rilee-Kelley, President at The Martin Agency for taking the time to offer her thoughts and reflect on her career.
AdForum: How would you describe the current overall culture at your agency? How would you describe the culture among your female colleagues and what are the differences?
Beth: At Martin, we describe our culture as ‘good and tough’. Good to each other and tough on the work. We’re a highly competitive group of people who wants to do extraordinary work and we have each other’s backs at the same time.
I think the culture among the women at Martin mirrors that of our overall culture. Gender doesn’t change the fact that we’re all here to do the best work of our lives while taking care of one another. Nor should it.
AdForum: What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling” into Sr. Executive level positions? What are some of the challenges that still exist for women in reaching the upper echelon of management?
Beth: Put simply, having more women at the top means our senior leadership teams are much stronger as a whole. And this is our greatest challenge going forward, too. How do we continue to propel more women into these leadership positions? Because when both women and men are represented equally and working together, the whole team thrives in a way that it simply couldn’t before and that means the business thrives. The genders bring different strengths to the table and it’s this complementary effect that drives the team performance to a higher level.
Adforum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Beth: When I became the President of The Martin Agency. It was a pretty special moment for me. While I was certainly thrilled personally, I can’t tell you what a high it was to be representing all the women at my agency. Reading the emails and notes from my female colleagues and from women I didn’t even know was about as good as it gets. These women truly lifted me up and I found myself wanting to make all of them proud.
And I still do.
AdForum: How do you find the best work-life balance to help you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?
Beth: I wish I could say I’ve found that magic formula. Has anyone?
There’s never a perfect work-life balance and I’ve learned over the years that the best way to deal with that, is to just roll with it a little more and try not to sweat the small stuff.
I’m a type-A, list-making, planner who loves crossing things off a list. Every day. My list is always long (yes, I do that to myself) and there are many days when I don’t get through it. And I’ve learned that’s ok.
Plus, there’s always tomorrow.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Beth: I was a waitress throughout my college years and that job taught me so much about life in general. How to be patient, how to be a strong communicator, the art of listening, the importance of kindness. And, of course, the feeling of accomplishment one gets from working hard at something.
Hmmm, sounds a lot like this business…
AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Beth: He was a coach and role model who led by example.
He believed in me and let me know that. All the time. He never doubted what I was capable of, even when I sometimes did. Feeling his confidence in me - his belief in me - gave me the confidence I needed to achieve great things.
A mentor’s greatest gift is believing in the person he/she is mentoring.
AdForum: How do you as a successful woman in your industry plan to inspire the next generation of women?
Beth: The way I always have.
By showing them what’s possible and working hard on their behalf.
By having conversations and being open and honest about the issues, concerns, etc.
And leading by example.
AdForum: In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
Beth: I was just having this conversation with a soon-to-be female college graduate last week. I always try and keep the advice pretty simple:
- Listen to all points-of-view.
- Assume positive intent.
- Find your voice.
- Enjoy the journey.