Are we there yet? Barker's Maya Kagan says 'don't be a jerk'

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Maya Kagan

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

Women are still being called girls. Sometimes I hear it spoken with intention and other times with naiveté, but either way, I always find it jarring, particularly when I think back to a former agency: During a client call a while back, a male colleague handed the presentation "over to the girls." In my uniquely charming way, I corrected him with the word "women." He loudly crinkled his chips for the remainder of the meeting in protest, unaware that he had just completely undersold our credibility.

My rebellion against girl starts with its origin, it’s defined as "a female child." Yet often, it is attributed to grown women. When used, it makes us feel like our accomplishments, maturity, and point of view are being put into question. It may be completely innocent, but nonetheless, the word girl feels grating and the underlying sentiment, reductive.

The most dangerous outcome of calling women girls is that they start believing it.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

This may seem small, but I find it significant. As we become more vocal about the issues that cause us tension, we’re simultaneously creating a shorthand for these behaviors. Mansplaining, gatekeeping, bropropriating -- these words help us more readily recognize bad behavior, make that behavior accessible to call out, and ultimately create an open dialogue.

What else needs to be done to get there?

A lot! Here’s one idea that’s simple to execute but requires a bit of self-awareness: stop talking over women and listen, they might actually be right.

At a hackathon recently, I was paired with an all-male team. They were lovely people overall, but when we delved into the user journey of our app, it became extremely difficult to get my pov across without being interrupted or discredited. The irony is that I had the most UX experience on the team.

In short -- give women some credit, don’t interrupt, and don’t be a jerk.

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