Women creatives: 'Don't wait for approval -- write your own approval sheet'

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Charlotte Beers urged women in advertising to embrace their "leaderly" qualities.
Charlotte Beers urged women in advertising to embrace their "leaderly" qualities.

Charlotte Beers, former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, told an Advertising Week audience that women need to worry less about being popular than being persuasive.

NEW YORK — Women in the creative industry must become "leaders in the art of persuasion" if they want to get ahead, according to Charlotte Beers, former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

Beers, who was the first-ever woman VP at JWT, was speaking on a panel discussion about the need for more gender diversity in advertising, titled "Women Aren't Creative" at Advertising Week here Thursday.

She said that women in the industry are being hampered by being "womanly" in the workplace, rather than assuming a more "leaderly" behavior.


"In the creative process, you have to be persuasive when you have no basis of proof," Beers said. "If you don't have proof, what you have to sell is a belief.


"Being 'womanly' is all the things people admire about us [women] – being a team payer, collaborative, nice, cooperative. But it is more important to master the skill of being overtly persuasive, knowing what you want to say – instead of saying it three times – mean what you say, and say it with passion and the right vocabulary.


"Because when you are busy being popular, you will miss being a leader in the art of persuasion – and no one has ever solved a creative idea without this skill."

Beers told women in the audience to "keep your own scorecard, don't wait for approval – write your own approval sheet."


Women have had to be more creative than men because the world is not structured around them, said panel participant Sarah Barclay, executive creative director at JWT. She said it "speaks to women's cleverness and creativeness" that they have had to succeed in a man's world.


"This is the time for women," she said. "We can start to write our own story and dictate the way we evolve our industry," she said. But in order to do this, women must have a voice and not be afraid to speak up.


The panel discussed how women have to become champions for other women to succeed.


Caroline Missen, general manager global marketing at Shell, said that there is a "big opportunity" for the industry to have female role models and they should take a more active role in mentoring.
"There are two types of women – those that encourage and build confidence in other women and those that are working hard to behave like a man, which often alienates other women," she said.
Shelley Zalis, chief executive of Ipsos OTX, agreed it is up to women who have climbed the ranks of organizations in the creative industry to"opt in" to help change the rules for other women hoping to do the same.


"If companies don't evolve and transform, we will have a talent pool of those who are left, not the those who are the best," she said.
She said this is not about "gender balance" but "gender intelligence."

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