Friday, May 28, 2010

the business world is no place for ladies

I took my millennial daughter to the Clio Awards last night, which was a splendid affair. Non-recessionary menu (quail eggs and tartar), flowing bar, great work, fun crowd. She still can't get over having been in the same room with Pharrell Williams. But, perhaps because I was seeing things through her eyes, I couldn't help noting how lopsided the awards acceptances were. Virtually all who took the stage to receive them were men. What bothered me more than this was--my daughter didn't notice.

How acclimated we all are to the role of women applauding others. Barbara Lippert (Adweek) and Penny Baldwin (Yahoo) did a swell job presenting well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Awards to Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby. But only two women were lauded as winners themselves. The first approached the stage accompanied by a male teammate. She hung in the shadows as he delivered a few words, then he gestured for her step up to the mic. But she was as hesitant to comply as if he'd asked her to give it a blow job. She kept her distance, leaned forward and said only, "Thank you." Later, another woman was honored, but instead of accepting her due, she apologized for it. "I don't want to take up your time. Enjoy your evening," she said, hurrying away.

It's true that the world isn't fair, that the playing field is tilted, that the world's default setting still seems to be Male. Clio jury committees average 9 men to 1 woman. But women tend to worsen the odds by refusing to get comfortable with putting themselves forward. By adhering to vestigial mandates to act like a "lady."

In the lobby, while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, I met a young guy who'd flown in from Stockholm. "Guess that means you've won something," I said. "A Silver," he nodded. "But I feel a bit sad. They won't let me on stage to accept it." Unfortunately for him, there were too many Clios and not enough time to publicly award them. I asked to take his picture and said I would blog him. His name is Carl Jannerfeldt. He was a copywriter at now-defunct Farfar. He and his team won for building the World's Biggest Signpost. And because he was forthright about his achievement, I know about him and now so do you.


Susan Ellis said...

Congrats to the creative kid who thought of the Signpost...brilliant!

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

It was brilliant, wasn't it, Susan? And he had a speech all prepared!

California Girl said...

I read this last night but am reading it again because I just didn't know what to think last night.

In some ways, women have moved the bar a great deal. I believe more women are now graduating from college than are men. Our incomes have improved dramatically even though we are still not paid equally. The advertising and broadcasting worlds are funny places. On the one hand, we now have two female natl news anchors. On the other, so little acknowledgement in your world and mine.

I went to work for a female GM/Regional Manager in 1983. She was then 52 yrs old and had started as a secretary at a daytimer in Raleigh NC and worked her way up, supporting 2 or 3 husbands along the way. I was surprised to learn that only about 16% of all GMS in radio (at that time) were women. I'd been in it only 2 years but, having come up during Women's Lib, thought we were moving along quite nicely.

When I left radio 2 years ago I was equally surprised to learn the number of female GMs was still around 16-17%. Given the growth of radio between the mid 80's through the early 2000s, I realize there's little parity.

I know what you mean about "hanging back". I've done it myself. But I've fought for myself too. Always with a male boss. When I fought for better opportunities with female bosses, it was a different fight. There was a different vibe. They might be more understanding, they might be threatened, they might be jealous, but the talk was out in the open. I usually felt we covered the issues whether they went my way or not. The men? It was usually "my way or the highway" with very few exceptions. Those few were my best male bosses and they believed in promoting women.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@California Girl, Thanks for your very interesting story! Hopefully male bosses who were exceptions for you (and me) are becoming more common as guys raised by employed mothers ascend to the helm, a bit more willing to share it.