How Being Outnumbered at a Women-Founded Agency Made Me a Better Man
Five things guys can learn from women at work.
Originally published in Inc.
The most recent Gallup report on the state of American managers found that only 20 percent of polled workers preferred girlbosses. This is for the other 80 percent who don't know what they're missing.
I've worked for and with women for most of my career. As a painting major in college, I was surrounded by women artists. Ditto when I was a film student. I remember looking around wondering how this would change the creative landscape and what it meant for the future of art.
Before long I was part of that shifting creative workforce, writing copy at a small agency founded by two visionary women. Nine years later, I'm still here and can unequivocally say that working alongside women in an agency that is 60 percent female has made me a better creative at work. And a better man, period.
I don't think I'm alone. Women leaders are 41 percent more likely to encourage development and provide regular feedback--in other words, they give a damn about your career ambitions and life goals.
Here are five other things guys can learn from women leaders:
Pound Your Chest Less
Working with women has saved me from gratuitous posturing.
Put a bunch of dudes in a room together and it doesn't take long to kick into alpha-male mode. Who talks loudest? Who's got a face-melting idea you've never heard before? Who's the most connected?
This need to dominate leads to more talking, less listening, less resolution... less doing.
The women I work with are laser-focused on results. They want to take the most effective route to a great idea and a workable plan. And get on the next thing already.
An even gender split is like having a built-in filter to blot out inappropriate remarks, off-color jokes, and sophomoric tendencies.
I've personally become more attuned to individual communication styles. As an agency, we're vigilant about creating an atmosphere free of intimidation, high on respect--without sacrificing any of the fun.
Be It to See It
It's crazy that only 11 percent of creative directors in advertising are women (up from the abysmal three percent), especially knowing that women consumers make 85-90 percent of all buying decisions.
It's eye-opening to work with strategists who can look at an idea and immediately say whether it resonates with the target audience--because they are the target audience.
Collaborating closely with women has also helped me think more like them. Earlier in my career I created a Tumblr blog from the point of view of a female Nike consumer. The client didn't ask for it, but we wanted to tap into the amazing training and style culture on Tumblr and understand what inspires women athletes.
People believed Woosh Woosh was curated by a woman, which I bear as a huge point of pride.
Potential Pays Off
When I started in advertising, the agency co-founders saw something in me that I'm not sure my male peers would have noticed and supported. I didn't come from an agency background, and they were like, "That's OK, you can do this."
I began working as a writer and soon started doing illustrations and taking photographs. Then I was art directing shoots and pitching new business. Based on friends' stories at other companies, if the agency was led by men, there may have been a more competitive, every-man-for-himself vibe.
I've seen this again and again with others. Perhaps because women tend to be evaluated more on their accomplishments than their potential, they are determined to change that double standard and believe that our best work lies ahead.
Put Family First
Having faced backlash for prioritizing family over work, women in leadership are filling the public policy gap (shockingly the U.S. remains the only democratic country without paid parental leave) to make life better for all working parents.
Working at a women-led agency with generous family benefits has made me a better dad and husband. I can attend my son's baseball game and jump back on evening work later, and get great tips on anniversary gifts from the same women I'm in the trenches with (I'm terrible at picking jewelry).
Flexibility is baked in and it is understood that family emergencies--or celebrations--take precedence over everything else.
A less expected side benefit of working alongside inspiring women is their presence as role models for my own daughter. I count many of my coworkers as close friends she can learn from, and emulate, on her many visits to my "other home."