By Jen Putnam, Chief Creative Officer, Allen & Gerritsen
As a female chief creative officer, I’m used to being in the minority. It’s a sad but true fact that a miniscule number of the people who hold my title are female, despite the fact that advertising is a $33 billion industry – not to mention that women control upwards of 80% of consumer purchasing and $20 trillion of the world’s annual consumer spending. We’re making strides for sure, thanks in large part to the 3% Conference, which was created to develop, foster and champion female creative talent and leadership. But we have a long way to go, and that very fact infuriates me.
Speaking of infuriating, the recent buzz around Trump’s statements that Hillary Clinton has succeeded solely because of her gender conjured a powerful memory for me. About a year ago, at my previous company, I had a male “colleague” suggest to me that the “woman card” must have served me well on my career path. I could barely believe what I was hearing. Even after years of obstacles, sexism and biases, this comment was among the most offensive I had ever heard. And in that moment, after my initial shock and horror subsided, I told him that what served me well was my perseverance, sincerity, loyalty, commitment, passion and talent. That I’m not merely filling a quota. That I worked my ass off to get where I am today, and for him to suggest anything otherwise was just wrong.
Needless to say, the conversation ended there.
While I’m proud to have a voice in this discussion, I wish it wasn’t something we even needed to talk about. Talent knows no gender, race, age, sexuality, or any other number of so-called “defining” factors. I’m fortunate enough to work at a company that sees its employees as people, not statistics, and values each and every team member’s individuality and perspective. But not everyone is so lucky, and that means those of us who are in a position to help enact change must seize every opportunity to do so.
Case in point: at Allen & Gerritsen, we created a program called Boss Ladies to foster and cultivate an environment where women know they can be successful. By participating in the initiative, women at A&G have opportunities to step into leadership roles by organizing focused discussions around personal development in the form of panel discussions with industry experts, workshops and skill building exercises.
We strive to generate awareness about some very real unconscious behaviors we all exhibit and provide the entire agency with strategies and opportunities to overcome those behaviors. And our conversations aren’t limited to women. After all, if we’re discussing these critical issues in a vacuum we can only make so much progress. So our supportive manbassadors join us as we share ideas about industry opportunities for diversity, including what ruffles feathers and what can be done to make positive changes.
It’s been incredible to see my colleagues embrace this initiative wholeheartedly. But my aspiration for Boss Ladies is for it to become obsolete. I genuinely hope I live to see the day when we no longer have to go the extra mile to provide opportunities for women because they simply exist. Women represent 50% of the population, and the same should be true of leadership roles in our industry.
Closing this gap is not an option. It’s a necessity.