Although I’m grateful to work alongside many female colleagues at Orcí, International Women’s Day makes me think of the many times along the way when I’ve been the only woman in the room—and sometimes the only Latina. Throughout my career in advertising and production, I have seen my fair share of male-dominated meetings, often with men serving as the sole decision makers. I’m glad it’s changing.
One of the best things about working in advertising is the window it gives you into how diverse industries function, and throughout my career—spanning verticals like automotive, financial services and insurance—I have seen worlds where even today, there’s very little diversity from a gender and multicultural perspective. As I think back on some of those rooms that I’ve walked into as one of the only Latina representatives, what stands out to me is the shared experience with other women in a similar position.
While there have been few of us at times, the experience of walking through a male and often Caucasian-dominated world bonds us, lending common insight. Together, we know the value of the perspective we bring and the doors we’re opening for future generations. Our growing voice in business and the media has had a great impact on this country, and as more of our viewpoints continue to be represented, we will become even stronger for it.
Sometimes, being the only “one” in the room can be scary. When you’re asked for your opinion, you’re incredibly aware of the fact that you’re representing a great many voices. Over the years, I’ve proudly taken the responsibility of sharing the Latina point of view with advertisers nationwide, knowing that when they listen and enact strategies accordingly, it moves their businesses and our society forward. We’re seeing movement in the right direction, as marketing departments have increasingly become more diverse, in turn allowing our perspective to be better represented. The clients I work with inspire me every single day with their commitment to diversity, and the trend is gaining ground.
When I first started in this industry and would attend client meetings or conferences, I knew better than to expect to see myself represented in leadership teams. Even though I was lucky to work at agencies that were in some cases led by, or perhaps heavily influenced by women, this was not the reality at our clients’ businesses. Over the years, I have witnessed the slow, but inevitable shift as women have taken on more and more responsibility, watching as new generations walked through the doors, unapologetically expecting themselves to be represented.
Just recently, I sat in a business meeting with a wonderful group of women at various levels of an organization and as the meeting wrapped up, we couldn’t help but notice that there were no men in attendance—unusual, to say the least. As I left I wondered whether men ever had a similar feeling when they walked out of a meeting without any women present. But then I supposed not.
We still have a long way to go. While ad agencies and marketing departments have taken steps in the right direction, hosting much more diverse teams than ever before, many departments at companies across the country are still predominantly male. For every one time that I, as a Latina, lead a meeting or am asked to speak at a conference to share our viewpoint, I attend at least a handful of others where our voices are missing, or where I look around and still feel like the only one in the room.
My hope is that moving forward, members of the broader business community, each of whom are equally responsible for driving growth in their respective sectors, actively listen to more of the strong, savvy female voices around them. I hope that they frequently return to those voices for input, while considering how those voices represent the millions of consumers that buy their products and services every day.
In the case of Latinas, their voices have consistently been underrepresented, but when you choose to listen carefully and represent them well in your marketing efforts, they respond in kind—something our clients can attest to. We’re passionate, loyal brand advocates for those that take the time to get to know them. Though International Women’s Day is just one day out of the year, my hope is that it serves as a powerful reminder that when we listen to all the voices in the room, we are collectively much better because of it.
Marina Filippelli is chief operating officer, director of client services at Orcí.