In honor of Women’s History Month, Campaign US is checking in with women across the industry, from all career levels, on how they’ve navigated the past year personally and professionally.
This interview with Jennifer DaSilva, President at Berlin Cameron, has been lightly edited for clarity.
What has the past year been like for you personally?
Beyond difficult. But I know that I’m lucky. My husband and I spent the early days of the pandemic in New York City, in an apartment with our two vivacious boys. For 10 hours every day I was in my dark, cave-like bedroom on Zoom calls, while the boys tried to homeschool themselves. They fought like cats and dogs after too much time together. Between Zoom calls I was obsessively cleaning, sweeping the floor more than I ever thought I would. I don’t think we understood how trapped we felt.
We went to California in June to be closer to family and realized how much we needed the air. That’s when we decided to move permanently to the West Coast. Since then, I’ve been nonstop transitioning — moving out of New York City, finding a new home in California, getting the boys settled into their new life, and running an agency. It’s enough to make anyone lose their mind.
My network has gotten me through it all — whether it’s the family friends I moved closer to, the Zoom happy hours, the calls while sitting in LA traffic, or virtual Facetime walks with friends. Connections fuel me. I’m lucky to have such amazing friends that have stayed connected.
How have you managed through isolation, burnout and other challenges of the past year? What strategies have you used to balance work and home life?
Lucky for me, my husband does most of the home schooling because his job is a bit more flexible. Our manual has been Fair Play by Eve Rodksy, a book that balanced our home and took some of the invisible lifting off of my plate. We’ve talked about how he can contribute more, and I’ve managed to relinquish some of my control over everything about our family.
In terms of burnout, I’m already there. I barely took a day to move into a new house (in fact, I did three Zoom calls, video off, while lifting boxes). But I’m not proud of that. I always accept boundaries others set for themselves, but my actions are examples for my team.
To cope with stress, I take baths and fit in mini HIIT workouts between calls. Every morning at 5:30am, I squeeze in a walk on the water to clear my head, listen to a podcast, and have some me time before jumping into the workday. I work East Coast work hours, which gives me a lot of time to spend with my family or getting work done in the afternoon.
What can we do in our industry about the current crisis of women leaving the workforce?
We need to accommodate working parents with better policies and more flexibility. We need to care more about mental health issues, miscarriages, menopause, childcare support, caretaking, instead of just giving them lip service because it looks good.
We’re working with clients in the fight against the SHEcession. The No7 Unstoppable Together campaign, for example, included a job summit in partnership with Hello Sunshine and The Female Quotient, and free coaching sessions for women. We’re also partnering with Action Button, which gives people four easy ways to combat the SHEcession.
This past winter I dedicated Connect4Women, a network I started in 2019, to helping women who lost their jobs. So far, 120 women looking for mentorship and 95 mentors, or “connectors,” have signed up. We also host PowHERHours, training sessions with useful content such as interviewing skills, resume building and pivoting mid-career.
What progress has the industry made in achieving gender parity? What still needs to be done?
More women are in leadership roles. But the industry is still known for a difficult work life balance, more mental health issues and less flexibility than others.
We need to lead like some of our clients (especially in tech) with more flexible parental leave policies, rather than having them lead us. Mentorship plays a huge role. Today’s leaders need to provide the next generation with tools to change the industry for the better.
What work can still be done to address the disproportionate impact this crisis has on BIPOC women?
Programs and workshops are somewhat helpful, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We need policies that future-proof our economy and secure a seat at the table for all communities. The Marshall Plan for Moms is a great first step.
How can the industry support women in the workforce during this stressful time?
We should work with our clients on initiatives to help to solve this crisis. Internally, should develop programs for women to re-enter the workforce easily. We should hire caretakers and help them create flexible schedules. I’m working with VMLY&R and at WPP to develop a program that does just that — watch this space.
We should all devote time to connecting and mentoring women. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend during a rough time, supporting a friend’s business on social media, or inviting a colleague to a networking group, every little bit helps.