After almost 16 years in the industry, last October I was promoted to Executive Creative Director. Very soon after, at an AIGA conference, my name, new title and our company name were posted on the big screen during a very short speech I gave introducing the Gender Equity Toolkit, the empathy building guide created for AIGA’s national Women Lead initiative. Later that evening, a woman I’m friends with pulled me aside and whispered, “Congratulations on your promotion. That’s huge. You’re the only one I know who didn’t give herself that title.”
The promotion is a point of humility and pride for me.
Pride because, if you do the research you’ll see that only 11.5% of creative directors in the industry are women — that’s a pretty disparate number as it relates to gender and leadership within the creative industry (especially since women control over 85% of consumer purchases). Humility because: if you do more research, you’ll see that I was actually promoted to Creative Director for the first time 11 years ago. After just 5 years at the firm where I started my career, I went from being the most junior art director to the most senior creative leadership position at that agency (besides owner). It has since then been a long lesson-filled road of hard work, sweat and tears to get to, as one LinkedIn connection messaged last week, “the big E.” In the years since, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from so many amazing teachers and experiences. The best and most challenging of which, have been at Imaginuity.
Even before I joined Imaginuity, I had been a leader in the community, at the various agencies I’ve managed and the organizations I’ve been honored to help grow. And throughout this leadership journey, my experiences as a mentor, my community involvement, my drive for social change, my passion and advocacy for design and its importance in business have been guiding forces. I have also been fortunate to have a tremendous amount of support from so many teachers and mentors both at work and also in my non-work circles.
Every new career milestone and promotion marks a whole new set of challenges and responsibilities. It’s a continual climb. And just when you’ve reached the highest peak of one mountain, you look up and see a brand-new apex ahead. But you didn’t get there alone, and you don’t have to keep hiking alone either.
When I arrived at Imaginuity, I was still on the ascent. I didn’t need, nor was I given, a leadership hammer to break the glass ceiling I’d been sitting under for the last 11 years. Here, the ceiling for me just didn’t exist. But I was given something. Within my first three days at Imaginuity, the ECD and the rest of the executive team gave me a gift I hadn’t been given at my previous agencies — at least not wholly and never so instantly — and they’ve never taken it away. Those magic beans: their Trust.
And that Trust is what I climb today.
The beautiful thing about Trust is that the more you nurture it, harvest it and spread the seeds, the more fruit it bears. The beauty is in the sweetness of seeing your teammates grow with you.
At Imaginuity, the Trust given to me gave every lesson I had ever learned about leadership much more meaning. Trust opened me up to learning lessons from everyone around me, not just my equals or those who may be higher up on the vine. Trust ripened my appreciation for the women around me and their own perspectives, challenges and accomplishment.
Trust is an essential element in achieving gender parity in leadership. Trust turns us from being intimidating or being intimidated to being empathetic; Trust transforms our competition into comradery. And Trust grows our focus on our own personal professional goals into our advocacy for the success of those around us and those who might follow in our footsteps.
Imaginuity is full of amazing women. Those who are leaders in the company are as integral to the success of the agency as they are to the color of our culture. And every woman at Imaginuity has even more potential to be whatever they want to be because of that leadership. Across every department, I continue to be in awe. Not only in the individuals on each team, but in how we all work together.
If the experiences and insight the women at Imaginuity bring to the table every day signifies what the future of women’s leadership — and leadership in general — in our industry might look like, then together I’m confident that we’re more than poised to rise even higher.
And lastly, thank you to this group of amazing women for your support, inspiration and making my job even more enjoyable: Alyx, Cassie, Chelsey, Christine, Debbie, Elda, Erin, Hanna, Kady, Karen, Lindsay, Liz, Lydia, Naomy, Maggie, Missy, Jacqueline, Jenn, Jessica, Julie, Samantha, Shay, Summer, Tammy.