I hail from a long line of strong women. In a time when much of society was clinging to “certain ideas” about what women were good at and capable of, the women in my family were busy cracking glass ceilings and blowing through barriers left and right. And it doesn’t stop with blood relatives. My life is full of awesome women—from entrepreneurs and innovators to healers and leaders. I even work for an agency with a courageous female at the helm. When it comes to women taking names and kicking ass, I pretty much know nothing else.
All of this made it especially shocking when I recently stumbled across a statistic claiming that only 3% of agency creative directors are female. Having known, worked for and worked with some amazingly talented, innovative, genius women in the creative industry, I feel certain the 3% stat isn’t a matter of capability. Having known, worked for and worked with some amazingly nurturing, empowering men in the creative industry, I also believe this isn’t a glass ceiling thing.
So what is it?
My hypothesis is that the 3% is, more than anything, a reflection of our failure to foster creative confidence in young women. And I say that as someone who was a victim of creative discouragement at a pivotal time in my life. (You can read that story here.) To this day, every time I experience a win vicariously through my clients, I reflect on the day I was told, by a guidance counselor no less, that a writing degree would get me nowhere. Then I think about all the awesomeness I would have missed had I listened to her.
As girls, there is an especially precious and fleeting blip of time between childhood and adolescence in which we truly believe that we are capable of doing and becoming anything. We haven’t learned to worry or second guess or shrink our dreams because the world has yet to cloud our minds with fear and doubt. It’s a period during which we are a vessel of possibility, unencumbered by messages and expectations and limitations from the world around us. Simply put: it’s the magic, pivotal moment when everything matters–when the difference between a kind or harsh word, a push forward and a put down can change the entire course of a life.
For the last couple years I have been harboring a secret dream: I want to see the women of the creative world band together to supercharge and inspire girls with the support, skills and most importantly, confidence, to know that they can not only be part of the industry we live and love, but leaders within it. I want girls to understand that creativity doesn’t have to be a side project or a weekend hobby, and there are places and ways to turn their passions and talents into the daily practice of their working lives. I want girls to hear that they don’t have to sit down, wait back, stay quiet and politely follow along. I want them to know it’s okay to have an opinion, bring a little opposition, stand up, speak out and take a stand for the things they believe in…and on behalf of themselves.
Whether this dream will eventually come to fruition in the form of a creative retreat, a camp or a summit, I’m not quite sure, but I know there are a bunch of awesome women in this field ready and willing to pay-it-forward by boosting up the girls who will follow in our footsteps. In doing so, I believe we can make the 3% a thing of the past. We can choose to get involved and become mentors, supporters, advocates and champions. We are holding the keys that will unlock the massive creative potential in girls.
Tomorrow is the International Day of the Girl. The mission of this day is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”
Yesterday I posed one simple question to some of the wise and wonderful women in my life. If you could tell the girls of the world one thing, what would it be?
There were their responses…
Brandy Amidon, Chief Financial Officer at Brains on Fire
Believe it or not you are in control. Yes, you have parents, teachers, and authority figures that you have to listen to, but ultimately you are in control of your life. You control who you are and who you want to be. There are too many opportunities out there for females to do and be anything they want to. You have no excuse and no one to blame for your situation. We are in control of who we are, how we react to our environment and how we shape the world. So own it, be happy and find the passion in life that makes you want to do good and be better.
Emily Everhart, Gentle Nudger + Account Executive at Brains on Fire
Don’t let people misconstrue what ‘strength’ is for you especially in your career. Some people think you need to be aggressive or pushy to get ahead. That it’s a ‘dog-eat-dog world’ and you must ‘kill-or-be-killed.’ Being strong doesn’t have to be about being the loudest or always winning or even getting your way. There is also strength in silence, in compassion, in self-control, in forgiveness and in patience. Be your strength.
Cathy Harrison, Account Director at Brains on Fire
Be open to change. Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Know that there’s no sense of balance, but if you are open to the inevitable lack of balance between life and work, you can find true rewards. It’s ok to ask for help. Everybody needs it.
Kim Hebert, Licensed Massage Therapist
Don’t let anyone get inside your head. Decide what you want to do and set
your mind to do it!
Mary Susan Henderson, Office Mom + BOF Glue at Brains on Fire
Perseverance is your friend. Don’t let the box that someone has put you in define you. We control how we are defined. And its not really a box…we’re people. We’re nice organic blobs!
Shannon Kohn, Community Shepherd Team Cheerleader at Brains on Fire
Always surround yourself with ‘sisters’ who get you and support the REAL you. Learn to see who those girls are in your life and seek out their friendship. They might not be the most popular in school, the most beautiful by society’s warped standards, the most academic or the best dressed, but they are REAL. ‘Sisters’ celebrate each other and help each other grow. They don’t judge. They encourage. We ALL need ‘sisters’ and we all should try to be ‘sisters.’
Moe Megan, Puppet Master + Community Manager at Brains on Fire
If there’s anything I can say to you, girls of the world, it’s this: be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, be true to yourself. Life can be a real monster. It gets up in your face, taunts you, pokes you, and the second you think you’ve got it all figured out, it’ll whip around, kick you in the shin, and blow a raspberry in your direction. Life is a bit of an annoying little brother. But you know what? Just like little Jimmy, you’re stuck with it. So love the life you’re given. It’s a miracle we’re even here, and what doesn’t kill us will make us even stronger in the end. When you get overwhelmed, take a break to step outside and explore. Observe the way the veins of a leaf branch off just so, the way the grass sways in the wind. Listen to the birds, stand in a creek, appreciate the feeling of being small. It will always bring you back to your calm. Take time to figure yourself out. Journal, write songs, run, sing, dance, rap, paint, play ball- whatever floats your boat. Don’t beat yourself up, either. There will always be some girl named Amanda with better grades, a cuter boyfriend, a killer job, a gorgeous house. Do yourself a favor and forget the word “better” entirely. So Amanda’s got it goin’ on? So do YOU, honey. You’re amazing in allllll your own ways. Own those ways and nurture them. Let them shine. Be happy for Amanda, be inspired by Amanda, hell, learn from Amanda. Shift your focus to elevating your own strengths & beauties rather than lusting after those of others. Once you find what makes you happy, be patient with yourself AND everyone around you. We’re all trying to tame this beast, and the nicer we are to each other in the meantime, the easier it will be to wrangle. We’ll all be happier in the end.
Nini Ordoubadi, Owner + Founder of Tay Tea
Sit still. Get to know yourself, love yourself and trust yourself. How? Listen deeply to your spirit voice (intuition), it will never fail you. Learn to say NO free of guilt and shame. This will save your life!
Amy Taylor, Chief Wordologist + Stoke of the Fire at Brains on Fire
Your life is the greatest story you will ever read and ever tell. Savor every word, every page, every chapter. Embrace and welcome the characters you meet along the way realizing that some may stick around forever and others will come and go. In the end, all of them will add their own unique magic to the pages of the story of you. Never forget that every great story has a conflict that ultimately shapes not only the plot, but also the heart of the protagonist. Some of the most difficult things we go through in life ultimately prove to be our greatest teachers in disguise. Don’t shy away from adventure when it presents itself; challenge yourself to say yes more than you say no. Don’t let your story write your life. Write your story by living it.
Libby Williams, Owner + Founder of Libby Williams Photographs
You are a girl. But you are never just a girl. You are a woman. I hate the word girl. It denotes damsel in distress – a girl leaning over a tower with her hair draped down waiting for someone to save her. You are not that. You will never be just that. You are a strong. You are capable. You are smart. And fast. You can get yourself out of anything and recreate yourself in a moment. You are beautiful – the most beautiful creature on earth. You are savvy and can multitask without skipping a beat. YOU. ARE. LOVE. You are your dreams and your fears. Most of all, remember that you are never just a girl.
Rachael Wingo, Controller at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Wingo’s rules for the next generation of awesome ladies: Don’t listen to conventional wisdom – ever. Make your own path and go figure it out for yourself. Learn how to anchor your personal value in meaningful endeavors. If you don’t know how to do this, go find a therapist and get on it. Learn about positive motivation and get with the program already. Stop hating things and don’t spread negative emotions in the world. Accept the fact that you’re really good at math. Put down the gender roles, and remember that respect goes both ways. For heaven’s sake, go to Asia. Europe is totally overdone. Asia will be huge in your lifetime and you need to understand what it’s all about.
Sara Bareilles, Pop Star I Did Not Interview For This Blog Post
YOUR TURN: What’s one thing YOU would like to tell the girls of the world?
Now…GO BE AWESOME!