It’s almost Mother’s Day. I’m a mum. And I work in advertising. It seems like an easy fit to write something that celebrates mums working in advertising. But I’ve gotta say – it’s one of the hardest briefs I’ve ever had.
It’s not like I don’t know the topic well. It’s my life.
It’s not like I don’t know my audience. I AM the audience.
And it’s not like I don’t want to celebrate mums in advertising. I honestly do.
But what I don’t want to do is write a ‘mum’s rant’ about how hard it is to forge a lasting career in an industry dominated by men. How as a woman, you have to work harder at building and keeping your credibility. And just when you’re winning, you risk losing it all by becoming a mother.
No one wants to read about that. Especially ambitious young women in advertising.
And I definitely didn’t want to talk about why it can be so hard. You know, how being a mum is grossly undervalued by society and women who ‘take time off’ to raise children – even for a few years – are viewed as ‘lacking’ in just about everything when it comes to resuming their careers. Like bringing a human (or two) into the world somehow equates to having a lobotomy.
We’ve seen and heard it all before. People are tired of reading about it. And with a mere 3% of creative directors being women and only a fraction of those mums – does anyone really care anyway?
I think we want to.
One of the most successful and respected ad agencies in the world is Mother. And true to their name, behind every person on their website is a picture of their mum.
This year, in the lead up to D&AD, instead of featuring high-flying creatives in their promo piece, they profiled their mums.
We know that women control 85% of consumer spending. In the US alone, mums represent a $2.4 trillion market. So as an industry, we pour an awful lot of time, energy and money into speaking to mothers.
But despite all of this, there are still so few mums in our industry to show for it.
When you consider 91% of mothers think advertisers don’t understand them, surely we’d be doing our best to not only keep hold of skilled and talented mothers in advertising, we’d be seeking them out.
We’ve seen some positive steps in that direction with ‘returnships’ opening up opportunities for skilled mums looking to return to their careers. Crispin Porter & Bogusky London launched the Creative Equals programme last year with success. But not without a backlash from mums themselves asking why – with years of experiences, skills and knowledge – they’re forced to essentially prove their worth all over again. Would ‘ad dads’ be expected to do the same?
Although there’s a dearth of women – particularly mums – in senior creative roles in advertising, it’s not impossible.
I’m a mum of two. I work full time. I’m a creative. At senior level.
Even though the journey back into advertising wasn’t without its hurdles, dead-ends, and closed doors, I’m here.
I attribute that to my sheer bloody-mindedness. But I didn’t do it alone.
It’s taken compromise and a strong partnership on the home-front to make it happen. And it’s taken enterprising women in the industry to open the door to new opportunities – namely our own Managing Director, Julie Malone, who combined motherhood with building SLG from the ground up more than 30 years ago.
Chance has also played its role. I got lucky that my CD at the time didn’t look at my CV close enough to see the time-lapse between roles. If he had, chances are the interview would have ended like all the ones before it.
I hope that, one day, mums in advertising won’t be judged as lacking in anything when it comes to returning to their roles. I hope that the wealth of experience they’ve gained by being a mum is valued and highly sought after. I hope they’re never in a scenario where they have to justify their choice to have children and assure recruiters and employers alike that they’re no longer a liability – that their family planning days are over.
While we’re not there yet, I have a feeling that one day soon it’ll be a whole lot easier to celebrate mums in advertising. Firstly, because there will be more than a few to celebrate. And secondly, because we mums will have done our bit to make that happen.
So to all the wannabe mums out there in advertising, happy future Mother’s Day. Your day is coming.
“I hope that, one day, mums in advertising won’t be judged as lacking in anything when it comes to returning to their roles. ”