While the industry has come a long way towards gender equality in the workplace, the highest echelons of management are still predominantly male. Speak to anyone with an interest in agency talent, though, and they will tell you that the brightest students and the most promising fresh grads are, by contrast, generally women. This means that somewhere along the way, women are losing heart and dropping out.
As part of our ongoing commitment to champion gender diversity, Campaign reached out to a cross-section of women in the industry to ask them about their careers, their experiences, and their advice.
Women in advertising is a showcase of a small number of inspirational women in the industry. They are in positions of leadership – whether through job title or personal or professional influence – and are leveraging their leadership to shape the industry and elevate the women within it.
Roxanne Gahol, Director of strategy, OMD UAE:
I first started as a wide-eyed junior planner about a decade ago and today, I am Director of Strategy at OMD UAE. My key role is to design end-to-end marketing and media solutions for clients to address a variety of brand and business challenges.
What has been your high point as a woman in advertising?
As someone who is passionate about learning, one of the many high points of my career in media and advertising is that I am constantly evolving. Every time I think I have mastered one aspect of my job, there’s a new and exciting challenge ahead of me. Growing into more senior roles, I learned that my technical skills are as important as my soft skills; sometimes, soft skills even outweighed them.
While winning new business is extremely satisfying, one of the most memorable moments in my career was when I started expanding my business unit and had to build teams from scratch. It’s extremely fulfilling to be able to groom and mentor the future movers and shakers in our industry, to pass on what you’ve learnt and share experiences, especially in an industry as dynamic as ours.
What has been your low point as a woman in advertising?
As I suppose many driven women do, I sometimes get carried away and overlook the importance of setting boundaries and limits. A low point was when I failed to respect my personal limits and continued to push forward at my expense; I learned, the hard way, that if I don’t take care of myself first, I can end up failing my team and colleagues.
What advice would you give to women starting out in the industry?
Self-reflection is one of the most underrated elements in the advice we give to young 20-somethings even though it’s one of the most valuable. I often share the wise words my father still tells me to this day, always to be honest with yourself about your strengths, your areas of growth and to question whether the goals you set out when you first started are still relevant to who you are today.
Through self-reflection, we find and nurture our authentic selves. If your conviction is unrattled, nothing can stop you from achieving what you set out to do. The last piece of advice I have is to be patient with your progress because, with your conviction in your purpose, perseverance and hard work, the only thing left to do is to trust the process.
What warning would you give them?
First, be prepared to make sacrifices. Second, stay composed when faced with a new challenge, as you will learn faster and upskill as you go. Lastly, be fearless on whatever path you decide to pursue, as fortune always favours the bold.
As women, we are constantly under immense pressure to be master multi-taskers and strive for the balance of ‘having it all’.
I believe you can have it all, but not necessarily all at once. It would be naïve to think that there won’t be late nights, cancelled holidays or tough briefs to crack but remember this, the further away you stray from your comfort zone, the closer you get to achieving growth and greatness.
What message would you like to give to men in advertising?
Continue upholding a high level of integrity in your work and respect everyone you engage with. We must embrace our differences; as Christine Caine noted, “To build a strong team, you must see someone else’s strength as a complement to your weakness, not a threat to your position or authority.”
To read the full article, click here: Campaign Focus: Women in Advertising – Campaign Middle East (campaignme.com)