This piece originally appeared on Medium.
You might be looking to a few — ideally more, but at least a few — women Showing How It’s Done with ease and grace and strength and impossibly chic clothes and cool lipstick, either at your agency (I hope) or at least out in the world and on your feed, and you may be thinking to yourself…
I want to be Her. I want to have That.
And it might seem like they have the secret and if only you had her clothes or her confidence or her haircut or her voice or her skills or anything she has, then you, too, could be Her and then navigating this industry and its power structures wouldn’t feel so lonely or difficult.
But that is a lie. There is no formula. No rules. There is no one way to be a woman in advertising that makes it any easier to be a woman in advertising, and similarly there is no defined path to becoming a woman in charge. All you can do is set aside your fear of failure (because we all have it, even Her, and it doesn’t go away) and do what only you can do, as yourself, and see what happens. Because yourself is what you are and all you have to be. Not someone else. Not a man or a woman or a robot incapable of being offended by blatant sexism and injustice. Just you.
And at this particular moment in time, many people will want to empower you and lift you up, which is the kind of energy you will need next year, or even maybe in just a few months, when stories lose their sensation and companies forget about their initiatives and men keep getting hired and you have to show up in a room full of them, starring as the strong female lead called Yourself.
You will have to remember that energy as you show up as only you can and remind them why they hired you: because you deserve to be there.
And in this process, I hope you see what’s happening around you: that we are ALL, men and women, lifting you up and cheering you on, even if some of them had to be reminded or convinced again or possibly just became scared of being in your way and thus stepped aside.
And if you are not, you need to get the hell out of there and go somewhere else that needs you.
A Woman in Advertising