International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. And while we celebrate women every day here at Publicis and Boomerang, we’d like to take part in this moment to shine a light on some of our exceptional colleagues.
Read here what Alice Isakson, Pauline Landa, Soyana Mooren-Goring, Anouk Façee Schaeffer, and Sanne Houterman say about their role as women in the ad industry.
How did you get to where you are in your career right now?
Alice Isakson: I studied advertising and graphic design in Stockholm at 3 different schools. Then I had a bunch of internships, and the last one (kind of by chance) brought me to Amsterdam. I then landed my first job by somehow coming up with a winning idea for a pitch.
I got to Boomerang about 2 years ago and then I have been fortunate enough to be planned on some interesting brainstorms and pitches leading to some pretty cool work.
I probably have some type of talent but, I truly believe making it in advertising is all about being social, working your contacts and luck. Right place at the right time is definitely a thing!
While hard work goes a long way, it is still an unfair industry.
Pauline Landa: By staying true to myself. I know what my strengths are and I also know where I need help or in which elements I still need to improve. And I work hard and receive support to keep challenging myself in all aspects that affect that. Maybe cliché, but I am “what you see, is what you get”. I’m transparent, I don’t have a hidden agenda, I don’t want to play any games or politics, I’m just genuine… If you have my word, you can trust me and I will only do the utmost to deliver. Next to that, I want to believe that I always stay curious, open to new insights and keep connecting. I love working in a team, experimenting, sometimes failing, learning from it, succeeding and doing it with a smile and humor, daily! I’m lucky and pleased that there are some people that really believed in me and still do (regardless of their gender, by the way). Also I’m very pleased to have the trust from our Boomerang founders. They give our team the opportunity and freedom to start Boomerang UK, and I just love it!
Soyana Mooren-Goring: This involves a combination of (hard)work, determination and constantly seeking new challenges. I have always had a can-do mentality and believe there are always opportunities for growth and improvement, both personally and professionally. I am always looking for new opportunities and seize them with both hands. I like to be open to feedback and meet new people with different backgrounds who offer me new insights,
Furthermore, I find it important to constantly develop and grow myself. I participate in trainings and courses, read books and try to stay up to date of developments in my field and beyond. A constant way of developing is my second nature.
Anouk Façee-Schaeffer: Probably through the broad experience I had gained prior to my current role. I came from a rather diverse job background the past 10 years, working in the hospitality industry, where I picked up a lot of people experience, to my marketing journey with Hearst Magazines where the focus was on events and subscriptions. I originally joined Boomerang as a video producer and then moved into Project Management where I got to work with big brands like Zalando, Desperados and TUI. I always had a love for activations, big national campaigns and events. After 3,5 years with the company, I was ready to switch roles again and applied to become Brand Manager of my favorite brand: Boomerang. After strengthening the brand and setting up a team, I now oversee the job I once had as the current Head of Brand & Culture of Boomerang & Publicis NL.
Sanne Houterman: Stay curious, positive and eager to learn new things! As Pippi Langkous would say ‘Ik heb het nog nooit gedaan, dus ik denk dat ik het wel kan’. [I have never done it before, so I think I must be able to do it.] I was also lucky to learn a lot from really competent colleagues as well!
What responsibility does an ad agency have in challenging the status quo when it comes to equality?
SMG: As an advertising agency, we have an important responsibility to challenge the status quo on equality. We are in a unique position to use our skills and resources to make a positive impact on society and bring about real change.
One of the ways we can do this is by using our platform to raise awareness. Through our advertising campaigns and other communication tools, we can help educate the public and spread messages about inclusivity and diversity.
We also have a responsibility to ensure that our own workplace is diverse and inclusive. This means actively recruiting and retaining employees from diverse backgrounds and offering them equal growth opportunities.
Ultimately, as an advertising agency, we have the power to shape cultural norms and influence societal attitudes. We must use this power responsibly and make a concerted effort to challenge the equality status quo. By doing so, we can contribute to a more just and equitable society.
PL: We have full responsibility. The leadership, the employees, everyone involved. Regardless of our gender. It’s about staying aware of our unconscious biases. Honestly, I don’t have all the answers myself but I believe that we should listen to each other and keep having the conversation. I’m always very curious about what the next generation believes. They are our future and we need their help to change us. Next to that we need actions. Within our industry we change perception daily and have the influence to create communication that is seen by millions of people. We should use that to our advantage.
SH: As an agency, you have an opportunity and responsibility to contribute to a more equal world. This goes beyond gender inequality. You must fight for non-stereotypical representation of a diverse set of people, both within your agency as well as in the work you create.
AFS: I believe advertising agencies have a major responsibility when it comes to equality. The first step is internal awareness and I think that Boomerang’s progressive and rebellious DNA allows it to be very outspoken in what it believes in. We have a rather horizontally constructed organization, which allows people to address each other on sensitive topics, keeping us aware of our colleagues and closing in the spaces where inequality could present itself. Our role as an agency is first of all to provide ourselves and our employees with information by offering training, panel talks and creating an open and safe atmosphere. In addition, Boomerang employs almost an exact ratio of men to women in all areas of the business, from young upcoming talent all the way to the management. And our internal company ethos reaches far beyond the walls of our agency, as we call upon our clients to do things differently or better, just like us.
AI: Honestly a lot! We all have to work and take responsibility. All of us have to; you, your grandparents (age is not an excuse), your store, your teachers, agencies, clients and so on. Everyone (especially privileged people) has to read up, own up and speak up!
Do you think the industry has changed with regard to equality since you’ve started working in it?
PL: Perhaps a little, but sadly we are not there yet. Gender equality should be a fundamental right despite the country that you live in or the industry you work in. It shocks me every time when I read articles about how far we are from global gender equality. Do you know – that at this moment – it will take up to 268 years to close the gaps for gender equality?
In our industry the creative, women leadership and influence is still not equal. For instance in the Netherlands: as long as we keep electing “legends’ from the advertising world during an Annual Legend Diner I believe – unfortunately- we still don’t fully understand that we – unconscious perhaps- keep on contributing to the inequality. And please don’t get me wrong: I’m not an angry or frustrated woman in this industry but if I Google ‘legend meaning’….
References such as ” the legend of King Arthur ” or ” the man was a living legend” or “his speed and ferocity in attack were legend” are all showcasing that the word “legend’ is not appealing nor stimulating any female attendance. And then I’m not even talking about the low number of women that are in this, or equivalents of this kind of lists. Should we keep on having these events? Or should we reconsider it and openly discuss what could be a more inclusive replacement? I believe we all have a responsibility to become conscious of it.
SMG: I am absolutely thrilled to say that our agency has a male-female ratio that is above the national average. This achievement is something that I am truly proud of, and it reflects our organization’s deep commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.
At our agency, we recognize that having a diverse team is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. Diverse teams bring a range of perspectives and experiences to the table, leading to more creativity, innovation, and better decision-making. I believe that our agency’s high male-female ratio is a testament to our success in attracting and retaining top talent from all backgrounds.
SH: Fortunately, we see more and more women in previous male-dominated fields such as creative or strategy. But we are not there yet. Especially most boardrooms are still filled with white men. Unless we fix the gender pay gap, inequality of unpaid labor, and improve work/life balance flexibility, this’ll be hard to change. Due to its service-oriented nature, the advertising industry in general is still quite slow with adapting to new modern secondary terms of employment. This needs to improve to maintain talent, especially when looking at other industries such as consultancies and (tech) brands that are adapting faster, and freelance opportunities that offer women more autonomy and freedom.
Which women are role models to you and why?
SMG: Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a role model because of her commitment to social justice and equality, her pioneering research on collaboration and teamwork, and her courage and perseverance in the face of challenges. Her work has had a profound impact on the field of organisational change and management, and she continues to inspire and empower others to bring about positive change in the world.
Kanter’s commitment to social justice and equality is one of the things that make her an outstanding role model. Throughout her career, she has championed the idea that companies can be a force for good in the world, and has worked tirelessly to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace. She has been instrumental in empowering women and other marginalised groups to succeed in their careers.
Kanter’s famous slogan “You can have it all, just won’t be perfect” highlights her belief that a person can have a successful career while leading a fulfilling personal life. This message is particularly encouraging for women who are often under social pressure to choose between their professional and personal ambitions.
In short, Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s advocacy for social justice and equality, her pioneering research and her inspiring message of work-life balance make her a true role model.
AI: It might sound corny, but all the women I keep around me inspire me in some way. My mum for her never ending will to discuss, learn and change. My grandmothers for showing me women CAN, even when the odds are stacked against them. Both my aunts for showing me creativity is something you can work with. My cousin for inspiring me everyday with her art, and my friends for rocking everything from environmental work to producing movies. Every time I feel bad or small, I can rest in the fact that I have the support of the kick-ass women around me!
AFS: Beyonce: one of the greatest and successful musicians of our time. As an African-American woman, she covers many feminist topics that speak to a global audience while inspiring women from all ages and backgrounds.
Eva Jinek: Dutch powerhouse. I find it special that she hosts a show every(!) night, and she’s super intelligent and covers very interesting and diverse topics. She also wrote a book “Dream Big” in which 100 talents/creatives are portrayed. I keep this book at my house on the coffee table and I often enjoy reading through it. In addition, she’s always one step ahead of the press and very open on sensitive topics such as miscarriages – which is a painful subject for many women.
In addition to these more well-known names I also look to my close friends who inspire me in their bravery and entrepreneurial spirits – Kim Trotz from The Freelance Qommunity, Talisa Cheung with her own hat label Old Habits Die Hard, Marijn Veltman and Bo Maerten who are currently setting up a Film Theater in Den Haag called Flora, and Taar Willoughby with a successful clothing brand in Ibiza.
SH: I currently don’t have any role models. So, let’s bring more women in management positions and change that! 🙂
PL: I’m lucky I have a few female role models in my life. But if I need to highlight one it will be first and foremost my mom. She gave me the attention and love that every daughter deserves. And yes, she was working a lot… and apparently needed to explain that behavior to our society… to strangers, loved ones, neighbors, family members. This included a lot of debating at birthday parties. For me it was a normal situation that she worked, but it was unusual in those times. I should also acknowledge I’m very thankful for the full support she got from my dad. My mom has been a role model for me but also to so many other women too, just by staying very true to who she is and using her strengths to her advantage. The amount of people that showed up to her retirement party, the lovely speeches and all the personal gifts that were given, were very fulfilling and made me so proud.
Any advice you would like to give your future female colleagues?
SH: A previous female strategy director of mine once told me that she could immediately see if a resume was written by a man or a woman, without even looking at the contact information. Women tend to formulate their project contribution as a team effort, whereas men claim to have run the whole thing. Women tend to structurally underestimate their own skills, whereas men tend to overestimate their skills.
So, my main advice would be: don’t be modest. You don’t have to tick every box on a vacancy to be a perfect candidate. Have confidence in your own abilities and don’t be afraid to sell it.
AI: Talk to the people that inspire you and let them know you look up to them. Most people like being liked and love to feel needed. So, reach out and make yourself seen!
AFS: Above all, fear nothing. Don’t see yourself as different from others and push yourself to make powerful decisions. If you feel like there’s a moment in which you should speak up on an issue: it 100% means that you should. As a woman, trust yourself, because your gut is always right. Keep challenging yourself but most of all stay inspired. I learned a good trick from my coach that is easy to apply to many things: “Does the way I am approaching this fit me?”. And check in with yourself and your feelings often, try to turn everything off for a while (phones, external triggers) and listen to yourself!
PL: Stay true to yourself. You will meet a lot of discouraging people, with traditional views. Can you blame them? No, most of the time not. Can you help them? Yes, at least by having the conversation. Will it always be fulfilling? Maybe not, but don’t get discouraged. Next to that, you will meet a lot of people that are supporting and cheering for you. Just focus on those you can bring you further in whatever your goals are. I always believe the latter are in the majority. And please have fun while doing that!
SMG: Take responsibility for your own career and the changes you want to see. Decide what you want to achieve and take steps to make it happen. This could mean seeking new opportunities, developing new skills or standing up for yourself in salary negotiations or promotion talks.
It is also important to build a strong network of supportive colleagues and mentors who can offer you guidance, feedback and support throughout your career. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help or advice and be prepared to support others yourself.
It is important to remember that change is not always easy, but it is possible. By being the change we want to see, we can inspire and empower others to join us in creating a more just and equitable society. So my advice to future women colleagues is: be bold, be courageous and be the change you want to see.