2017 Womens Leadership Forum: HerStory. Stories told. By women bold.

Earlier this March, more than 1,000 individuals attended the Ad Club’s 2017 Women’s Leadership Forum to hear empowering, uncensored stories from inspiring women across different industries. While these speakers are lauded in their fields, their stories brought to light common struggles many women face: self-doubt, fear, shame, and criticism.

In advertising, specifically with regards to technology, it’s difficult to avoid these sentiments. A predominantly male field, the advertising industry has not always provided women the same path to the top as it has for men. While in recent years there has been a cultural shift to acknowledge the disparity and vocalize these feelings, it’s surprising how few female leaders there are still.

Leadership Forum

For many of us working in this space, we believe we need tough skin in order to get a seat at the table. We shed our emotional vulnerabilities to seem strong and collected, which is viewed as an ability keep up and “roll with the punches.” However, Dr. Miriam Meckel, a speaker at the forum and an expert in media economics and communications, challenged us to embrace our emotional complexity and compassion as a sign of strength, not weakness – a sign that we are fully present, living, and experiencing. We need to reestablish the way we think about our feelings from something we need to deal with, to something we should use to our advantage. In an industry that values creativity, we have a perspective that 50% of the population is not privy to. Allow the struggle to be emotional, let it impact us, and use it as a difference maker to create inspired work.

More often than not we’re told to persevere through the “no’s” and refuse to take it for an answer. However, Madge Meyer, former EVP Chief Innovation Officer at State Street Corporation, approaches it from a different angle. Throughout her career, whenever faced with opposition, she didn’t persist with the same tactic. She instead seized the opportunity to think of creative ways to maneuver around her roadblock and ultimately accomplish what she initially set out to do. When we run into an obstacle, we don’t need to get tough, we need to get smart. And by doing so, we are flexing different muscles to find solutions – an exercise our male counterparts may not need to do. In the long run, we are developing skills to create new ways of thinking and different ways of problem solving, which lay the foundation for innovation.


In the agency world, being innovative is the gold standard. When you’re trying to be heard in a saturated space, innovation cuts through the noise. So, next time you’re faced with a “no,” pivot it as a chance for growth and keep in mind that breakthrough only happens when there’s resistance.