Representation is just the start

TBWA\Chiat Day LA is creating space and shifting perceptions to create a more equal industry

by India Fizer , AdForum

TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles
Full Service
Los Angeles, United States
See Profile


President at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA, Courtney Nelson, believes in the power of transformative leadership as a catalyst for growth, systemic creativity and organizational innovation. As a leader deeply committed to putting people at the center and being a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion, we chatted with her about improving equality in the industry.


In what ways can women in advertising pave the way for or support younger women hoping to break into advertising?

Representation, first and foremost. Younger women need to see other women succeeding in our industry because that hasn’t always been the case. The second most important thing is to very intentionally create space and set aside time to mentor and support younger women. We all get so busy with the day to day that we forget about how little it takes to make a real difference. Thirty minutes spent giving someone your full attention and providing perspective and/or advice goes a long way.


How can we close the gap created by ageism, especially among women, in the industry?

Ageism is a big problem in our industry, but it’s an even bigger problem in society as a whole, and it’s certainly compounded for women. I believe the only way we can truly shift perceptions and attitudes is to do our part to address the bigger societal issue. This includes developing long-term solutions that create deeper respect and admiration for those that have lived longer and experienced more. As well as short term solutions such as greater representation, etc. that we as marketers can start to immediately and directly affect.


How does your experience as a woman inform your work in marketing?

To start, the majority of consumers are women. I always remind other women of that whenever they are questioning whether their opinion matters. Even if they are not directly the target audience, women still make the vast majority of purchasing decisions. So, not only do their opinions matter, but more often than not, they play a critical role in the success of most marketing efforts.

On a more personal level, I’ve learned over the years to deeply appreciate the unique perspective and approach I bring to my work. That was not always the case, and as a mother of two with a demanding career, it has not always been easy, but now it’s a real source of pride. I wear it like a badge of honor, and I hope other women will do the same.


Gen Z is a generation of digital pioneers and has shifted the framework of many industries. How have this new generation of young women impacted the advertising industry and where do you anticipate they will improve the workplace going forward?

That’s a hard question to answer because I can’t think of an aspect of culture or the workplace that Gen Z  won’t impact in a meaningful way. I’ve experienced them to be highly collaborative and empathetic while also being extremely self-reliant and pragmatic. Those are four qualities that I have always personally valued in any co-worker or employee, so if I were a better woman, I’d say the future is bright.