Making advertising work for working moms

We need to make it easier to be a working mother in all businesses, including ours.

In early 2020, I was offered a seat on the leadership team of the now (again) independent agency, Fitzco. 

Accepting that offer wasn’t just an opportunity for career growth, but also to champion policies that matter to me, ones that I believe could shape the best agency to work for in America by attracting world-class talent. That talent, of course, includes mothers. 

But man, it’s hard to be a mom and have this career. 

I think back to my first job at Grey New York. My boss, a successful senior business leader, had no children. My next leader, always the sharpest in every room, had a baby but chose to leave the business. This pattern repeated for years. 

When I was lucky enough to have children myself, I worked at a shop that didn’t offer paid maternity leave. But I worked with two incredible leaders – one a mother herself, the other not. They made space for me to grow my career and raise a family through a flexible work schedule when it wasn’t en vogue

Now I have two elementary school-age children, and every day comes with the litany of challenges so many of us face: balancing work with childcare, my career with my husband’s, work emails with conversations about school activities and birthday-parties (always sent to mom first), as well as planning for summer camps. The list is long, and according to friends with kids older than mine, it’s only going to get longer. 

I’m one of the lucky women who is supported by a work and personal village that enables me to be both a mom and leader at my job. But it’s far less doable for most. Earlier this month, McKinsey’s latest Women in the Workplace study underscored how damaging the pandemic has been for working women: 1.8 million women have left the workforce, and one in five say they never intend to come back. 

This isn’t just an unsettling loss of workers in an economy that desperately needs them. It’s also a tragic loss of intellect, strategic thinking, creativity, diversity and life experience that companies can ill afford to lose. 

We need to make it easier to be a working mother in all businesses, including ours. If we can solve remote work, flexible work schedules, supply-chain issues and creative challenges, surely, we can crack this one, too. 

In early 2020, as Fitzco became independent with a bank slate, our agency moved quickly to roll out an updated benefit: no matter how you create a family, you get paid leave. 

But we can’t stop there. 

Enter a smart, driven woman on my team who is looking to balance the demands of her career, a family business and an infant. She wants to stay in our industry but simply cannot commit to the full-time hours the job demands. So we’re going to try a job share — splitting the job between her and one other person looking for similar flexibility. Both of them want to stay in a career they are passionate about. 

It’s surprising to me, in a business where creativity thrives through partnerships, that agencies aren’t more open to job sharing in other departments. A perfect job share takes trust, collaboration and accountability – all traits of a strong account leader. The foundational qualities are on our side for a job share should work. We just have to care enough about our talent – our moms – to try.

We’re still on the hunt for the perfect “other half” for this job share experiment. I’m sure that once we find that person,  there will be challenges as we get these partners into their groove. But I am 100% sure it’s going to be worth the effort. 

We must open our minds to new experiments in order to keep world-class talent in our business, and continue to offer the flexibility to make it just a little easier to be a working mom.

Stephanie Hanley is head of account management at Fitzco.

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