Being a Woman in Advertising: The AKA Roundtable

As part of our celebration of Women’s History Month, AKA sat down with some of the incredible women on our team to discuss everything from mentoring in our industry to how career choices impact the rest of our lives.

Who inspired or mentored you at the beginning of your career?

Christine Walsh, Director of Insights: My older sister.  She’s about 10 years older than me, and I was always able to go to her with those questions you have to ask when you’re trying to grow. “How’s my résumé look? When should I follow up?” It’s nice to have somebody who’s already gone down that road.

Elise Podell, Content Producer: I spent my first five years at an ad agency that was started by two incredible women and grew from eight people to 250. All six department heads were women. To me, that was very inspiring. I’ve been at other agencies that were boys’ clubs, but to start my career at a completely women-run agency was really valuable.

Laurel Schneider, Director of Media Investment and Custom Content: I had a boss who would sit down and say, “How are you doing? How are you feeling?” And she did that with everyone, no matter what level. I remember on one of my first days – she knew I loved dance, and she let me go to this shoot we were doing with a dancer I loved. I wasn’t even on that account, but she knew it would be meaningful for me.

Emily Poworoznek, Senior Account Manager: In a similar way, when I first started here at AKA, we had just won Les Miz as a client. That’s my favorite show ever, so being put on that account was incredibly exciting. And over time, as I developed relationships with the clients, Elizabeth Findlay [AKA’s VP of Client Services and Media] encouraged me to grow. She empowered me to take the lead on things. It was really special.

Laurel: That attention to the human aspect of things is important, and I don’t think it gets rewarded enough.

Christine: And I think there can still be some of that mentality that being kind or generous or understanding with your employees can be a weakness.

Emily: On the whole, as women, being nicer to each other is something that needs to happen. The reason I look up to my mentors is because they were kind and supportive. They made sure I had a platform to stand on. They made sure I had a place.

Do gender dynamics impact your daily professional life?

Julie Lewis, Partnerships Manager: I look around and see a lot of women at every level of the agency, and there are so many women in high-level positions at AKA who have totally different personalities. That’s cool, because you don’t have to be any one kind of person to bring something to the table.

Elise: The conversation here is never dominated by the straight men or even the men in general. I noticed very quickly in two different meetings that someone said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to speak over you. What were you saying?” I just thought, “Wow. That’s great.” It’s definitely not always the case.

Christine: Yeah, I’ve got to say that I’ve never felt any kind of gender divide.

Julie: I feel like everyone here is heard, no matter who you are.

Do you feel that being a woman has had an impact on your career?

Christine: I’m fortunate to say that I’ve never had to think of myself as “a woman in my career.” I’ve always just thought, “This is my career. This is what I want to accomplish.”

Laurel: I would even say my career path has helped inform me as a woman. It has impacted how I am a woman, and I’m proud of who I am.