For The Drum's Diversity Census we invited individuals to share their experiences of being ‘different’ and how they have survived and thrived in the marketing industries.
In the first of a series, 'Talent is talent', we hear from Laura Visco, creative director at 72andSunny Amsterdam.
When I was four years old, I was obsessed with the fact that I couldn’t pee standing up like boys do. It was extremely difficult for me to understand because I really couldn’t spot the difference between boys and girls. My poor mother kept on washing my pants time after time, while explaining to me that guys could pee everywhere, but I just couldn’t. It was just not genetically possible.
I got exactly the same feeling when I was a teenager and thought about being a copywriter. Every single person discouraged me to do it because it wasn’t a ‘girl’s thing’. I’ve been told “Don’t even try that. Look at the D&AD... See the credits? There are no women there. Not a single one.” And they were right. There were all Toms, Franks and Pauls. All men, native speakers with great English accents. There was no room there for a Laura from South America. But I somehow managed to convince myself that maybe there was room for me, and gender was just a social construct that has nothing to do with your capabilities. I just needed to convince everybody else.
I got my first job placement in advertising when I was 19 years old, and obviously, I was the only female copywriter in the building. I wasn’t raised in a society that was way ahead on gender equality. So I knew that if I eventually got hired, people would accuse me of having sex with my creative director to get the promotion. You are a woman, so where I come from that basically meant that you have no talent, hence no other way to get promoted. So I decided to wear oversized sweatpants and hoodie to go to work, as a uniform. I totally erased every feminine part of me in order to fit in. I was a girl, yes. But I tried to keep it quiet.
It certainly worked for me, I got hired right away. But then I realised that working in this industry really isn’t about trying to disguise and behave like men. Rather it’s about understanding and bolstering my unique strengths and traits as a woman and human being, and embracing them with pride with the right dose of I-don’t-give-a-damness.
Advertising without diversity and people from different backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation, accents, colours and visions about the world can become an extremely dull place, doomed to repeat itself time after time. We need very different eyes to look at problems in very different ways and different minds to share and find an unique solution. This is how amazing things have always been created.
Advertising brightens up and becomes great when you have the Toms, Franks and Pauls working hand to hand with the Paulines, Alexandras, Jorges and Zaidas. We are lucky enough to work in an industry that has an enormous reach and can impact and change other industries. Let’s make sure that all the little girls in South America and everywhere else get to know that they don’t have to act like someone else to become whatever they want to be (even if they do have to pee sitting down).