Sexism seems to be a hot topic this week. In positive news, AdAge is publishing Women To Watch. Conversely, The Huffington Post just published an article on Asus’ tweet comparing a female model’s “rear” to that of its product. The New York Times’ David Streitfeld attempted to start out an article on a Silicon Valley gender discrimination lawsuit with shock and awe by saying, “MEN invented the Internet... Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.” Both statements were made by men — and there have been loads of passionate comments about these articles from men and women alike.
But in advertising, this is not a new subject. "Mad Men," industry organizations and recent conferences made to specifically highlight women have already brought the issue to the forefront. The evidence is also clear in Business Insider’s profiling of advertising’s 33 richest people in advertising, in which not a single woman made the list.
Voicing whether I am personally offended by the others’ opinions doesn’t seem constructive, and neither does trying to debate their validity to the point of exhaustion with a society in which these opinions have existed for centuries. So what’s a girl to do?
While I wish that our society was sophisticated enough to judge each person by their individual merits and qualities, rather than superficially grouping them and making premature assumptions, we’re simply not there yet. Actions speak louder than words, especially in trying to dispel stereotypes. To me, if we want to start permanently breaking down gender stereotypes, at least in advertising, the place to start seems to be among women.
Here are five actions I think professional women can do to work towards creating individual opportunity and success, which will hopefully one day build towards a world in which anyone would feel personally offended for even considering such aforementioned statements to be appropriate:
Don’t put your own gender down. I’ve met far too many professional women who claim that growing up they “didn’t like girls,” and that’s why they’re so comfortable in male-dominated cultures. That excuse makes you seem insecure and unable to differentiate between tween popularity challenges and collaborating effectively with adults.
Be inclusive. Even if your office has a male-dominated senior management team, consider ways in which you can involve more women in both professional and social discussions. Every individual has to be given opportunities in which to prove themselves.
Learn the facts. Women are succeeding in the workforce and gender responsibilities in the home seem to be evolving in many ways. Equip yourself with up-to-date statistics so that you can have confidence in explaining why it’s not shocking that you have the responsibility that you have or are interested in a traditionally male role.
Don’t perpetuate stereotypes. Be conscious of when it is appropriate to say, wear and do certain things. Baby talk may not be appropriate for the board room, but then again, that depends on the culture.
Work your ass off. If you want the title, the corner office and/or the salary, earn it. If you want to define your life in other ways, work hard towards that. Be the most successful human being you can be and you will be helping to break down these gender stereotypes.
I hope that one day this post becomes completely unnecessary. In the meantime, here are just a few women in marketing I look up to for doing these very things on a daily basis:
- My colleagues, Jami Oetting and Natalie Stezovsky
- Dana Anderson, SVP of Kraft Foods
- Lauren Crampsie, CMO of Ogilvy
- Lylle Brier, SVP of The Walt Disney Company
- Judy Pollack, Executive Editor of AdAge
- Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs
- Caitlin McCabe, Owner of Real Bullets Branding
- Nancy Vaughn, Principal of White Book Agency
- Pretty much all the women in the YEC