Advertising is a tough business. But despite its challenges, it can be an incredibly rewarding field if you know exactly how to navigate it without offending, overstepping, or over-shadowing any men. Here is everything you need to know about being a woman in advertising, according to the men I work with.
Speak up, but not too much.
If you’re going to succeed in the male-dominated world of advertising, you need to know when to speak up. But it’s also just as important to know when to be quiet. Speak up to let everyone in the meeting know how much you love your male coworker’s ideas, but pipe the fuck down when you want to point out that tweeting “how’s it hanging” might not sound great coming from a fast food brand during Suicide Prevention Month.
Be smart, but not smarter than any of the brand execs who make $300k a year.
Women in this industry are incredibly smart. It takes a lot of intelligence to be able to walk into a room and immediately discern which men never to be left alone with, and which men to block on social media before they follow you and comment “Looks like fun!” on a picture of you at the beach in a bikini when you were a sophomore in high school.
It doesn’t matter if these guys still watch cartoons and think Joe Rogan is a real comedian, you are not smarter than they are. The same thing goes for any men in the room who are over 40, are under 5 foot 7 inches, or have been on a yacht. You know what? Just to be safe don’t be smarter than any of the men in the room.
Be a mom, but not a real mom because that’s not hot.
By being a mom, I don’t mean a real mom with children. That’s not hot which means it’s disgusting. Being a real mom means you probably can’t work past 9 pm on Facebook carousel ads for Toyotathon. It means you might not be wearing a full face of makeup every day, and you probably don’t look like a 17-year-old with zero children.
Instead, be a “mom.” Smile when they say something unintelligible because they’re eating a burrito and little bits of lettuce and chicken are falling out of their mouth onto the conference table. It’s not gross, it’s charming. And you should definitely clean it up cause it’s in your nature and they won’t. Always have tissues, band aids, 12 extra phone chargers, and weed in your purse like a real mom would.
Be a diversity show pony, but don’t be obvious about it.
As one of the few women in a senior position, make it clear that you’re a diversity show pony. You are spear-heading the agency’s Women’s History agenda, speaking at every conference on women in advertising, and every single day wearing a shirt under your blazer that says “Wild Feminist.”
But don’t make a scene about it. Sure, you’re a woman, but at the end of the day you’re just one of the guys. Don’t do girly things like support other women, eat food, or write like a woman. I have no idea what that means but don’t do it.
Never, ever talk about having a vagina. It’s not like men ever talk about having a penis.
Know how to take a joke, but not make a joke.
Take a joke like you’d take that raise they’ve been promising you for two years. If the joke isn’t funny, laugh even harder. And whatever you do, don’t take it to HR.
When you think of something funny, remind yourself it’s not funny. The only way you’ll know for sure if the joke you were going to say is funny is if a man says it. And by then it’s too late.
Plan all the social events.
This is obvious.
Remember, you’re just lucky to be here.
Know that there are tons of other women who want to do what you do—women who won’t mind only being put on the tampon/grocery store/baby formula/weight loss product accounts. Speaking of those accounts, please remember that the men on your team know best. Even if they think women use 40 tampons a day and period blood really is blue.
Good luck out there!
Bobbie Armstrong is a former child, current writer and student. Her work has appeared on McSweeney’s, Slackjaw, Belladonna Comedy, Little Old Lady, and her parents’ fridge. Follow her existential crisis @bobbien_