Today’s Woman

You only have to look as far as pop culture to see that women may be driven to a collective identity crisis.

Take your pick: We’re staunchly independent, driven professionals or a throwback to the ’50s housewife. Incredibly sexy, wild party girls or lonely old maids home every night with a carton of ice cream and a biological clock that is ticking out of control. Older women can be seen romancing younger men in recent movies like Igby Goes Down, Tadpole and Crush. Even Candace Bushnell, the original Sex and the City gal, has tied the knot with a man 11 years her junior. And of course we can’t forget Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book, Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children. It started a national media storm on the premise that a generation of women are sacrificing their chance to have children for their careers.

So what does all this have to do with women working in advertising? Plenty. Advertising is the business of shaping perceptions, and we are the target market! How do we see ourselves? How do we want young women to see themselves? If we do not face these questions as part of our day-to-day work, we run the risk of depicting women as the stereotype du jour. At best, female stereotypes create boring advertising. At worst, they insult women viewers.

We should recognize the effect all this stereotyping has on young women working in advertising today. For the most part, women ad professionals have been silent on the subject—save Mary Wells, who recently suggested that, for many women, the sacrifices required to really make it in advertising simply might not be worth it in the long run. Not very motivating to a 25-year-old account exec working 60-plus-hour weeks. It is important that young women know they can realize their full potential in this business and still have a personal life.

My advice: Just let life happen, and demand to have it all. Ms. Hewlett would have us think there must be on-ramps and off-ramps in our careers. For some of us, this is not a choice. I, myself, am married and the mother of two. And while there are days when I’d like to take the off-ramp, there are more when I feel proud of my accomplishments and empowered by the daily juggle.

We need workplaces that reward women for their unique perspective, value their contributions and celebrate their ability to do it all. I run the GMC Trucks business at Lowe New York. Yes, trucks. And while that may be somewhat unconventional, the most startling fact is that I was promoted to this position while I was pregnant with my second child. That spoke volumes to me about my value at Lowe and should be a calling card to other agencies on how to engender the respect and loyalty of their female employees.

OK, still you ask, just who is today’s woman? I don’t pretend to know. But, like it or not, we are shaping the answer every day as advertising professionals. It’s time to embrace our role, support the multifaceted woman of today and realize our ability to affect pop culture. After all, your daughter may be watching.