In the aftermath of #MeToo and Time's Up, four female CEOs of independent shops gathered to discuss what's next for the movement attempting to realign the entire advertising industry.
For one, panelists said gender isn't the issue. "Our goal isn't to hire more women but bring diversity of thought that requires people not to look like each other," said Seema Miller, president, chief strategy officer, Wolfgang. “We need all different paths and upbringings,” she added.
Panelists agreed that their leadership comes before their gender in their priorities as CEO.
That said, women often lead differently. While it is increasingly important that all CEOs understand their employees' life stages, this mindset is probably something women recognize more readily than male CEOs.
Frances L. Webster CEO, Walrus, hired a pregnant woman as creative director who soon went on maternity leave, she said, noting that this is unusual in the ad industry. “But we want her to be there and we want everyone to realize that we are willing to adjust to family-work life balance,” she explained
While mentorship continues to attract headlines, it doesn't need to be overt guidance, said Sandy Greenberg, co-founder, CEO, Terri & Sandy. Just be a role model, she offered. "Female success is a beacon of light."
Women portrayed as catty infighters is one cliché that needs to be retired, said Webster. It doesn't help anyone by knocking someone else down, added Miller.
There is also some awkwardness that must be phased out. For example, men can ask out other men for drinks as colleagues, but it is often inappropriate for a women to ask out a male without seemingly having another agenda (or vice versa).
Women need to be louder advocates for themselves, particularly when it comes to money and networking, say panelists. Plus, be nice to everyone. "Do it with a smile, not a whine," said Greenberg. "People like to deal with positive people."
Still, although men can ask women for advice, there is the question of whether they actually do so. “When I was coming up, I was one of the 3% [of female creative directors] and now it is up to 11% -- even 35% isn't good enough," said Greenberg. ”The world is changing."
Greenberg said men keep bemoaning how men can't get arrested right now. "Every agency is in search of women to promote," she said of male complaints.
While female elevation is essential, the next step is to not only empower women to support other women, but the need to encourage more men "to support their daughters, wives, and coworkers, as it is critical in moving this issue along," said Greenberg.
Miller added that it is easy to call out men, but women need to recognize their own biases. "Gender neutrality is hard to do," she said. Women need to confront their own stereotypes, like being okay with standing as the main breadwinner.