The Trend

Guest Post by: Tessa Danielson

Women in leadership is a hot topic right now. I’ve seen it trend on Twitter, it’s been mentioned by many of my friends on Facebook, and there are plenty of articles about it circulating on LinkedIn. The current popularity of the topic is (without a doubt in my mind) in part due to the upcoming presidential election and the talk of multiple women being poised to run. For the first time I am seeing articles upon articles with the topic of women running for president. I’ve seen articles covering which women have spoken about running, who the author thinks should run, which women wouldn’t surprise them if they ran, and even articles about why a woman could be just as good a leader as a man. Wait….what?

I’m not talking about the satirical articles, I’m talking about the serious articles. I’m sure the authors had the best intentions in mind while writing these articles…but, really? I’m not sure if it’s more upsetting that 1) people feel the need to explain that women can be leaders or 2) people actually need to hear it. These women who have worked tirelessly to get where they are today, who have accomplished so much, and who have become public figures have to not only gain support for their policies but also have to convince the US that women can be leaders? Really, society? After years of civil rights battles and women’s suffrage, this is how far we’ve come? This disturbing reality begs the question: how can this be changed? It’s simple really: the environment needs to change.

DanielsonLet’s focus on ad agencies creative departments where the gender gap happens to be huge. Women leaders here are few and far between. It has been blamed on many factors but the gist of it is this: women are not staying long enough to become leaders. If the environment in which someone is working is hostile, unfriendly, and sexist, why would any woman stay? Maybe if 10, 30, or 50 more women stuck it out and became leaders it would enact change. But who can blame them for leaving? When an environment is unkind to change, it will also be unkind to those trying to change it.

Disappointingly, this seems to be fairly representative of society at large. Not for lack of trying or determination or qualifications, women get to a certain point and then are pushed out of the conversation or decide that their efforts are better used elsewhere. There is something to be said for “leaning in,” as Cheryl Sandberg puts it, but if the environment a woman in leaning into is sexist, the disadvantage faced may be too great to overcome alone.

Sheryl Sandberg has said, “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” Personally, I can’t wait for this day. But until then, I’m pretty sure that in this environment, if a woman can convince the majority of society that she can lead as well as a man, she can do anything.


Dear Clients. I can make you a lot of money. Just watch.

Guest Post by: Kelly Rasmussen, Aspiring Art DirectorRasmussen

Money. You want to make more of it.

I know how.

I have your attention, and maybe you are a bit skeptical, but here’s how you, the client, can reach your target better, sell more, and overall improve your brand image…


Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down. Women make up roughly 80-85% of consumers. Women in Advertising Creative, they only make up 20%.

So, who is coming up with the ‘award winning ad campaigns’ that will appeal to women?

Men. Now I’m an advertising major, and not too great at science, but I’m pretty sure the people who know women and their buying habits the best, are other women. You may argue that focus groups provide insight into the mind of women, but you have no idea what you are dealing with. Women are complicated.

Forbes recently reported that “Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact on the economy is growing every year. The global incomes of women are predicted to reach a staggering $18 trillion by 2018, according to global professional services firm EY.”

In fact, the entire article is a gold mine about female consumers, and you should definitely read it after you read this…

Women are the influencers and decision makers for our economy. Shouldn’t they also be the influencers and decision makers on your accounts? And not just on the accounts, but in the leadership roles?

Older professionals in the advertising industry have repeatedly told me, if you want more women in the creative industry, pitch it to the client as a smart business strategy.

Make sure they understand that it would be a good business move to have women working on accounts to sell to other women. Why?

Well for one thing, women selling to other women is a good business strategy.

A first hand look at the female mind. For example, women are funny. So why aren’t there more ads appealing to women’s sense of humor?

Sadly, we are afraid to say something to our boss or to you, the client, because we think just doing good work and showing up is enough to get put on the big accounts.

So clients, I can make you money. A lot of money. But first, the request has to come from you.

Ask for more creative women on your account.

Why would you trust a team of men to talk to stay at home mothers? You know what they produce? Culturally ambiguous actors that show and tell about cleaning and cooking products.

Women know what cleaning products are. We get it. Instead, why don’t you talk about how the bottle will actually last longer and has an easy to spray spout that never clogs?  Or maybe, instead of selling us the science behind the bottle you could put a man in the commercial instead (GASP!). Show THEM how easy it is to clean the kitchen.

Women will still buy a product, even if a woman isn’t in the commercial.

So clients, now that you know how to make more money, will you make the change? It doesn’t have to be drastic, because history would reveal men aren’t bad at selling to women and I don’t want an exclusive team of women working on female products either… but let’s start with hiring more women creative directors to lead a team of men.

Let hire inspiring creative women who will encourage others how to think more like a woman. Once you do that, you might not even have to conduct a single focus group ever again.

And that would make everyone very happy.

Staring at My Shoes

Guest Post by: Gabby Kailas

I blinked. There I was in my creative director’s office, staring at my shoesKailas

patiently, awkwardly. This had become the norm for him and I. I bring him the new version of a project and then I wait. I wait for him to review it and give it back to me because he didn’t want to take the time to return in to my desk. So, there I stood, staring at my shoes, for months.

My female coworker asked one day, “Why do you just stand in there?” My response was, “He asked me to do it one day and I just really want him to like me.”

It took me 8 months at my current job to fully realize what I was doing. The last three weeks of that I was in Dr. Grow’s class. I realized I had succumbed to the male leader like a lost puppy, but I was no lost puppy.

In my short time in Dr. Grow’s class, I had become aware that women in creative are knights going into battle by themselves. They live in a man’s world full of beer and locker room talk. This traditional view of a creative department in the advertising world is somehow unable to be shaken.

Sheryl Sandberg provides a fascinating perspective on the overall business world. It was not about becoming one of the boys or acting like her mom, it was leaning in and being herself. Sheryl Sandberg was herself and people respected and appreciated her for it. She even said that her “desire to be liked by everyone” would hold her back.

So, there I was again, staring at my shoes in my creative director’s office. I then saw my shoes walk out back towards my desk. I heard him yell, “Hey, I thought you were gonna wait?” I looked back to him, shrugged my shoulders and said, “I got shit to do.” He laughed then said, “That’s cool, I’ll bring them back when I’m done.”

It was from then on that him and I established a new norm. I was just as busy as he was and he respected that. If there was anything to take away from my first job in an agency, it would be to trust who I am as a person.

Sheryl Sandberg did say it best, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Gender in Advertising

Guest Post by: Megan Goerth

Gender in Advertising or Advertising to Gender…A few months ago I would have looked at the arrangement of those words and thought nothing of it, as if they were equal. Let’s just say a lot can be learned in a short period of time. I now look at the words with confusion, angst, hope, and multiple other adjectives. The first thing that pops into my head is gender in advertising. Three percent of creative directors are women; whereas women make eighty five percent of consumption decisions. Learning about these shocking stats along with other important information about women in creative has been an eye opening experience. The veil of ignorance has been lifted. I have finally been exposed to the bitter realities creative women face every day. I have become aware of the gender disparities in advertising creative and I am hopeful that my generation will be able to make a significant change to the number of creative women leaders.

GoerthAlthough, I have learned about the hardships that come with “being a woman in a man’s world”, I still believe that becoming a female creative director is highly attainable. Will it be easy and effortless, absolutely not? Male or female; no matter who you are, you will experience struggle, sacrifice, failure, triumph and many other things while on the way to the top. Males may have an easier time getting there, but at the end of the day it’s what you make of it. No one ever said that getting to the top would be easy, male or female, so why not just take the challenge? Being a woman, who wants to make it to the top, I have two choices:

  1. Wallow in the unfairness that only 3% of creative directors are women and give up on my hopes and dreams.
  2. Take the information I have learned and use it to my advantage.

I choose number 2! In order to make a difference and change the way things work, one must be aware of the change that needs to be made. Everything I have learned has only made me more eager to accept the challenge that comes with being a female creative. I could not be more excited to confront the gender disparities head on.

Gender in Advertising: We’re the Boys’ Club. Who Are You?

Guest Post by: Liz Roberts

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in advertising creative departments. There are many books, articles and studies providing advice for women trying to make it in creative. However, these sources all tell women something different. Be feminine. Be masculine. Be quiet. Stand out. And even with all this contradictory advice, the system is still against women. Negative stereotypes about motherhood, female humor and other feminine qualities abound.

Part of the problem is that women are seen in terms of narrow concepts by both men and other women, rather than as whole, complex people. A woman is more than a mother, a sister, a coworker, a friend. She may be brilliantly creative; she may not be. She may be extremely dedicated to her job or her family or both. She may manage her time efficiently or she may not, and that might just depend on the day.

RobertsMost of the advice given to women by writers and industry professionals can, or should, be summed up with two simple words (albeit cliché): be yourself. In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shared the idea that “feminism wasn’t supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competitions over who is raising children better, organizing more cooperative marriages, or getting less sleep. It was supposed to make us free.” Equality in the workplace and in society in general means having the freedom to live as a whole person without fear.

When women are empowered to be their whole selves, they make better employees. They are not confined to stereotypically feminine behaviors, but they do not have to conform to the “boys’ club” either. Their ideas are fresh and original. They hold themselves and others accountable. They are confident.

Better employees mean better business.

Advertising creative departments have a long way to go, but there is hope. As more women break into senior level positions, women just entering into creative will be able to see how strength, emotion, intelligence, cooperation and other characteristics come together in one outstanding female leader. Then, hopefully, they will be able to assert their true selves and, in turn, provide the unique insights needed to make great ads.

More women in creative means better advertising.

Gender in Advertising

Guest Post by: Jessica Ayala

When I first processed what this course was going to consist of, I was hesitant to take it. I felt scared about what I would be learning, as it applies to something that I identify with and embrace each day: being a woman. I chose to go with my gut and I’m happy I did. “Gender in Advertising” is a sensitive topic because it targets the misconceptions and ignorance that has become so prominent in the creative industry and society. But these are the kinds of courses in which I learn so much and feel better prepared about the path I’m on.


The first topic that hit me the most is Nina DiSesa’s book “Seducing the Boys Club.” DiSesa is BOLD. She suggests that women should act more like men because men feel comfortable with their own kind, and the more someone reminds a man of himself, the more comfortable he is. This is the way women can achieve “success.” I still struggle with her suggestion on seducing men without sex and manipulating them without malice. The language she used stirred up mixed emotions in me and I ended up counteracting her argument. Seducing your male coworkers is not the way to “make it” in the creative industry. In fact, many creative women never even considered that tactic and managed to be successful just by being themselves. As women, we should never be someone we are simply not. Everyone is wired for success. Possessing gender-specific qualities should not determine that.

I love Sheryl Sandburg. She brought a more positive and attractive light to gender in advertising. How? By being realistic, hopeful, and hard-working. She recognizes how hard it is to manage a career and motherhood, she thanks the past activists who battled for women’s rights, she points out that men still run the world, she learned to be vocal about what she deserves, and she argues that internal obstacles are what hold women back. Sandburg gave me hope, as she also shares advice about developing professional relationships and asking for raises. She uses her vulnerability to support the fact that anyone can do it: women can and deserve to sit at the table. I love that phrasing. Again, everyone is wired for success, and your dream job, whether it’s being a stay-at-home mom or a working professional, can get you there as long as you lean in…all the way.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Guest Post by: Alexandra Engler, Future Journalist

When I opened Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In for the first time, I knew I was going to enjoy it. The very first chapter is titled: “The Leadership Ambition Gap: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It’s a question I have ironically been asked many times throughout my life.

See, this quote sits on my father’s desk in his office in Lincoln, Neb. It’s engraved on a little bronze plaque that stares at him from the middle of the desk. And every time I visited him at his office, the little plaque asked me this question, too.

And from an early age, I took it to heart. What would I do if I had no fear? What dreams could I accomplish? If I did not limit myself, what could I achieve?

Engler image

So at the tender age of 10, I set my sights on New York City all the way from the dense cornfields of Nebraska. What I would do there often changed when I was young (lawyer, Broadway actress, ambassador to the United Nations, you name it). But after joining my high school newspaper, I knew it had to be journalism. Since then it has never changed.

It’s understandable to think that I would be fearful of my aspirations—especially in this job climate for aspiring journalists. But my father’s favorite quote always reminded me that I chose this career path with no fear—now it’s time to do it, even if I am fearful.

After reading Sandberg’s book, however, this quote that nearly defined my life took a new shape—which was entirely due to my gender.

Women have the pressure to not only be fearless for our own dreams, but for others. In a commencement address to Barnard College, which she quotes in the book, she states: “And I hope that you—yes, you—have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it. Women all around the world are counting on you.”

Fortunately for me, women in my generation are showing signs of being less afraid to lean in. Sandberg cites a 2012 Pew study that showed young women around my age were more likely than young men of the same age to value “success in a high-paying career or profession” by seven percentage points.

We young women are becoming less afraid of our own power and ambition. We are becoming less afraid to answer the question “what would you do if you were not afraid?” with an honest answer.

And for that lesson, I cannot credit my father’s quote. I must credit my mother’s example.

My mother joined the workforce again after I was a few years old. She is a talented and brilliant woman, and she wanted the challenges of the working world again. She worked at my grade school for a few years. She enjoyed it, but it clearly wasn’t what she really wanted to do.

So she took a risk and started applying for jobs in the business sector. After a few interviews at a few places, she landed a job at a pharmaceutical testing company. She’s been there ever since—rising through the ranks to her current job as a project manager.

Her journey was one of the most fearless things I have seen. She doesn’t have a degree in business, nor had she worked at a company that did anything like her current one. But she had confidence that she could excel—and she did.

She was fearless. And even if she didn’t realize that it was for my benefit, it gave me the confidence to be fearless as well.