Originally featured in the Philly Ad News October 2021 Edition (page 15).
Want to retain talented women? Act like it.
Most agencies are designed to make “the work” their single greatest priority. They ignore the fact that while the work is immensely important, the people who make the work should actually be our single greatest priority. Since I started with Allen & Gerritsen (A&G), I’ve had 4 children. Four children and four promotions. They showed up for me when I needed it, so I made sure to show up for them. That’s how agencies create mutual loyalty.
Ad folk constantly talk about the power of personalization and designing based on what audiences need. But largely, the way agencies work ignores people’s individual needs. This is most obvious in the instances where our employees’ needs are in a constant state of flux, as is often the case with working parents – and still, particularly working mothers.
If we actually want to keep women in our industry, we need to act like it. COVID has given me a new perspective on what’s possible and how we can actually design a more inclusive and flexible workplace for working mothers that would also be a benefit to all. But in order to get there, women in positions of power must first explore their resentment for how this industry didn’t show up for them early on in their careers, own it and design the agency they wish they had. We are at a moment where we need to ask why and change what we don’t like. We don’t need a “Great Resignation,” we need to change the way we work so that a ‘big job’ and having time for enjoyment are not mutually exclusive.
At A&G, we have policies that support working parents (and are looking at how to expand them further). Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have managers who helped me figure out how being a working parent was additive to my ability as a professional, not detrimental.
My mentors introduced me to ideas about flexible working schedules. They understood the obstacles I faced and proactively helped me remove those barriers. They knew work wasn't a one-size-fits-all and tailored my work experience to bring out the best in me.
My advice to everyone in this industry is to be more generous than you think you need to be. Be proactive. Be the person and agency brave enough to trust your people to get their job done well on mutually beneficial terms. If we are so adamant that personalized experiences benefit our clients’ businesses, why would we not do the same for our own?