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10 ways to change the ratio in advertising

By Jean Batthany, group creative director

March 8, 2016 | 6 min read

For the longest time I believed that if I just kept my head down and worked hard I would be recognized, rewarded, awarded and promoted. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way. I’ve always felt that I had to work harder to be taken seriously, to be considered “as good as.” I believed that I wasn’t good enough.

And I thought it was just me. But it’s not.

Over the last few years, I’ve connected with a community of like-minded women in the ad industry. They have given me context, tools and a lot of inspiration to help change the ratio of women to men in leadership roles. In the spirit of the International Women’s Day #PledgeForParity, I’m passing their wisdom along.

1. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Seriously. Ask.

I was able to extend my maternity leave an extra three months and come back working from home two days a week while at BBDO New York. Huge for a new mom. How? I asked. Same way I got promoted to ECD, by asking repeatedly what I needed to do to achieve my goal.

Ask for the raise, the assignment, for flex time, the promotion, or the job. If the answer is no, ask why and what you need to do to make it happen. If the answer is still no, go and ask somewhere else.

2. Be conscious of unconscious bias.

It’s all around, and within all of us. Mirror hiring, boys' clubs, lopsided male representation. It’s human nature to feel more comfortable with those more like ourselves. That is exactly why the ad industry needs to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And it’s not just a gender issue – unconscious bias is also a huge contributor to the lack of ethnic diversity in adland.

What can we do about it? Invest in training for those in a position to hire and promote talent.

3. If you see something, call it out.

My shero Cindy Gallop is famous for it, as is 3% cofounder, Kat Gordon. If you see a sexist act or discriminatory behavior, ad, or publication – call it out. Sometimes it’s an honest oversight or “unconscious,” and sometimes it’s just insensitive assholes. This industry is full of them. But we also have our share of truly empathetic humans who, when made aware, also want to see change.

4. Manbassadors. Grab one. Be one.

Tracy Wong, Rob Schwartz, Matt Eastwood, Pete Favat, John Maxham, Mark Hansen… thank you. Men hold the lion’s share of leaderships positions. We need them/you to be part of the conversation and the solution, or else we’re women in a room talking to women about women.

5. You cannot be what you cannot see.

Not long after joining DDB, I attended a workshop for up and coming creative directors where Christie Giera, head of communications for DDB Worldwide, shared a simple but brilliant message:

Build your brand. Use your social feed, write articles, participate in panels and award show juries. It helps both your career and the agency. That was a eureka moment for me.

I started “shamelessly” self-promoting, connecting and saying yes to every speaking, writing, judging opportunity that came my way. The more I did, the more I was asked to do. While it felt unnatural and often exhausting, in the words of Maggie Fox, “Women who don’t self promote are letting us down”. We have a responsibility to show it can be done. And right now, I see the invincible and inspiring Wendy Clark leading the way as CEO/President of DDB North America.

6. Don’t let women suck at presenting.

This was one of my favorites from Kim Getty, COO of Deutsch LA at the 3% Conference 2014. In order to make great work happen, win new business, get promoted, we have to be able to sell our ideas. Even though I’d been presenting for 20+ years, I went through presentation training soon after arriving at DDB and it was invaluable.

7. The three ships: internships, mentorships and sponsorships

Inspired by Matt Eastwood, I helped bring DDB Launchpad creative internship program to Chicago as we were in dire need of junior talent. Our program matches up young creatives with mentors, helping up-and-coming creative directors transition from creating the work to leading it. A sponsor, however, doesn’t just mentor, they make things happen. A five-minute conversation/email/connection/recommendation can change a career.

8. Get yourself a personal board of directors.

Great advice Lauren Connolly, ECD at BBDO NY, shared on our OmniWomen panel. Surround yourself with, and reach out to, people you admire and respect for support and sponsorship. I go to mine often about negotiating raises, pay equity, judging and speaking opportunities, personal recommendations and career goals. Pretty confident Susan Credle, Global CCO at FCB, is on both of our boards.

9. There is no such thing as work life balance. It’s all LIFE.

This was probably my favorite line from Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP, Global Marketing Solutions at the AWNY Working Advertising Mothers of the Year Award.

So go ahead, live and create wholeheartedly.

Be mindful. Be where you are needed most.

Remember to feed and water yourself.

You are no good to others if your tank is empty.

And for fuck’s sake ladies…

10. Don’t apologize.

Jean Batthany is executive creative director, EVP DDB Chicago. Follow Jean on Twitter @jeanbatthany


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