In honor of International Women’s Day, we asked advertising executives their thoughts on equality in the advertising industry, and here’s what Cheryl Overton, Chief Experience Officer of Cheryl Overton Communications LLC shared:
The media often highlights the negative, honing in on the lack of equality in the workplace, but what’s something that you think proves we’re making progress?
The increased activism of female voices (and those of male allies) calling out and working together to eradicate gender inequalities in the workplace is proof of progress. Thanks to their voices, the issues can no longer be ignored. Cindy Gallop comes to immediate mind but there are countless others using their thought leadership platforms and social media feeds to fight for the rights of women daily. More than ever, when someone sees inequality, they are prone to speak out against it. And that’s refreshing. For those looking for a starting block, organizations such as The Female Quotient and gatherings like the SeeHer Summit and She is Equal give marketers a place to convene, plan and involve our client partners in the fight for gender equality.
What additional steps do you think the advertising industry needs to make in order to achieve gender equality?
For starters, let’s shine a light on female talent beyond March/Women’s History Month. Put more women in leadership positions, on boards, on panels and in the press to share their visions of leadership, growth and inclusion. There are incredibly talented women creating iconic work right now – let’s lift them up higher.
Second, let’s be intentional about the hiring and retention of women including women of color, female veterans, 40+ and non-binary women. It’s not really a diverse workplace if everyone comes from similar educational and professional backgrounds is it? We need to purposefully seek women out vs. accepting passive referrals. We do this by extending our reach beyond traditional job posting sights and recruiters. We diverse employees for referrals. Consult civic and community organizations if necessary. Retention is also so important – we have to ensure once we hire women, we cultivate an environment where they feel they can bring themselves and it will be appreciated and honored. That means devoting more resources to development, training, quality time and sponsorship – all the things that come naturally when you work with someone who shares your
Importantly, we need to train and encourage all employees to identify and challenge gender bias because it harms us all. Allies are so important, particularly ones who can help effect changes. For example, are the right people involved in evaluation and compensation processes – will they work to ensure it’s equitable? If the immediate answer in your company isn’t “yes,” there’s work to do.
Does your company have any internal initiatives that specifically support/celebrate your female employees?
My business is powered by women so, in essence, everyday is a celebration of our talents. This month in particular though, we have committed to broadening our network of female founders and leaders. For example, I’m participating in Jennifer DaSilva’s Connect4Women initiative and have vowed to introduce 40 pairs of women in industry who didn’t previously know one another. It’s been a refreshing opportunity to take a closer look at my own network and how it can used to help other women build relationships.
What are you doing, outside of this month, to champion women?
I’m continuing my commitment (started 6+ months ago) of offering five young black women each month a chance to connect, share and learn from my experiences (the good and the bad) so they’re more confident and better prepared to advocate for themselves at work — and everywhere else for that matter! Before COVID-19, I offered these sessions during 60-minute “power walks” but this month have transitioned to videoconferencing. It’s been a wonderful way to cultivate and strengthen my network of junior and mid-level professionals while sharing our common experiences.
What advice would you give to young women who are just getting started in the industry?
• Be a sponge – learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. How’s the time to beef up your experience and skills and learn what you like (and don’t like)
• Do your best, always – there truly are no small jobs at the beginning. Perform in excellence. Trust me, it’s noticeable
• Don’t be afraid to fail – you learn more — functionally and inter-personally — from mistakes. So while no one wants a track record of errors, “failing forward” is a useful teacher and character builder. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection paralyze you – go forth boldly and learn from mistakes