Estimated reading time: 18 minutes

We’ll pick up with Part Two of our Women In Media roundtable discussion. If you missed part one you can read it here.

Christie Massey

So let’s talk a little bit about the challenges we’ve faced in our careers as women in marketing throughout the years. Does anybody have any experiences they would like to share?

Mari Sanchez

I can kick this one off because I was already kind of alluding to it earlier. I have definitely been caught in the conundrum of a woman in charge for a couple of years now.

I’ve had people tell me, Oh, you’re too aggressive; you’re too assertive. And then I get other people who told me you’re too easygoing. I don’t think you could lead a team. Even some people who thought of me as like a child, like or like a kid sister. So, it was kind of this damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Well, what is it? Am I too assertive or am I not assertive enough? And kind of being constantly caught in that battle has been very emotional for me over the course of my career.

Sometimes I speak out about something, and I feel guilty. Sometimes I don’t say anything, and then I also feel guilty. And so that has been an incredible challenge for me to overcome. I can’t say that I completely solved it, but one of the things that I’ve started to realize is that, just based on the society we live in, these feelings are probably going to be around because I think there’s still a lot of conflicts and contradictions that come with a woman in charge.

But creating your own personal compass, asking yourself very intimately, what do I believe in? And not only for standards of excellence of the work that you produce but also what do I want for myself? What kind of life, mental health, rest, and relaxation do I want for myself?

And then at the end of the day, even when you’re feeling guilty from a situation, you can walk yourself back from that and say, at the end of the day, I stood up for what I believed in, or at the end of the day, I chose not to pick this battle because of what I believe in. It really helps to reconcile those feelings. Again, they don’t go away, but knowing that you have a personal compass to guide you through, it makes it a little bit easier to feel a little bit more at peace with yourself.

Song Heo

Wonderful perspective and sage advice at any age. Similarly, but in a different context, just out of college, as I mentioned, I worked overseas. As modern as Seoul is, it still had at that time one foot back in terms of its culturally traditional Eastern paradigms. As a young female entering my first new career, my whole team was male, so there were no other women that did outside sales in that capacity. All the women in that Korean office were admin and support.

So I was trailblazing in many ways, but I didn’t think of that as necessarily anything different than I would be doing here in the States. Just the environment was different. In one instance, I had my business card crumpled before me by one of my new customer accounts. Underlying that would be…Hey, you have no business being here as a female, and why am I even talking with you? That kind of attitude.

But I have to do my job. And anyone that knows me knows that I’m going to do my job, and I’m going to be steadfast at it and fierce in my abilities and be confident in that. And having those blatant things happen in front of your eyes could have been shattering in many ways. But you move on, and you do what you need to do. And I took it as a personal challenge to win over my customers. Said to myself, I’m going to have you eating out of the palm of my hand before I’m done. And he ended up being one of my top accounts.

But ultimately, I think the lesson really is, like you said, Mari, to help cultivate that inner voice that we are confident in. We just have to be steadfast in our confidence about our abilities and our skills and take those soft skills that we have and really let those skills shine in those challenging points.

Kerrie Sovelove

Mine is very similar Song. I think the early part of my career was probably the most challenging, so I came into media, right? I’m 23, and at the time, it was mostly print. We’re meeting with all these sales reps who are men in their fifties and sixties, and the communication, trying to hold a conversation with people from another generation’s differences, could be very intimidating. Most of them were very kind, and there were a lot of women sales reps as well.

I think one experience that I remember was with an account person. I had put my media plan together. I was confident, and he wanted me to talk him through it before I went to the client. I started to go through it, and he was just picking it apart to no end. And all I could think of in the back of my mind was, – but my boss approved this. She thought it was fine. We know media.

Women in media Kerrie

He said I want to have another conversation. I want you to go back and rework some things. I went back to my boss, and she said, “You’re not reworking anything.” Well, we met with him again together, and she explained to him,  Kerrie has a rationale for all of the things that she put on the plan. Would you like her to walk you through it? I walked him through it, and of course, with the media director next to me, he didn’t say anything. Okay. Sounds like a great plan.

I’ve learned not to take things personally. If someone’s there to beat you down, it’s not you. It’s anyone who would be in the position that you’re sitting in. It just happens to be you. So don’t take it personally; shake it off. There’s always somebody out there they’re having a bad day or they’re having a bad life. They’re looking to do that to you too, and you just have to shake it off, get over it, get your confidence back, and keep believing in yourself.

Christie Massey

That’s great advice. I feel like I share a similar experience from my earlier days in media planning, and I do feel that maybe a decade, a decade and a half ago, our industry particularly was more male-dominated A lot of the sales team that I worked with were male account executives, and on our vendor partner side, they were male as well. And thinking now about how they would interact differently with young women in coordinator and planning roles versus young men, it was different, and they would talk to us differently, even have nicknames, you know, which is so cringe to think about.

But I have to reverse engineer that. Think how that made me better, that made me stronger. That may have rocked my confidence at first, but it made me even stronger in the end. Through them, it made me speak louder and get my voice heard. And I was shy coming into my first job and just starting my career. It feels cringey to think back on it. It was a good experience for me to be able to push past that and succeed.

Song Heo

So yeah, it galvanized your inner spirit.

Helen Kim

There’s one experience that really stands out in my mind.

I had a manager during one point in my career that I felt treated another female coworker and me differently than a male counterpart and held him to a different standard. He was shown preference not just from a work perspective in terms of feeling that he was being watched out for better than I was, he was also included in key meetings, given more high profile projects, and more leniency with things, but also socially. My manager and this male counterpart became very much like buddies ora pair, and my female counterpart and I felt like the outsiders.

He would be chosen by my manager to join him at select work and industry events and conferences. They’d always be going out to sporting events and out for drinks together after work. But it was really obvious that he was being held to a different standard than myself and my female counterpart. I think back to the confidence level that I had at that time, my confidence level was very low and I was intimidated.

I might have alluded to some things here and there, maybe even jokingly, but I never had the guts to go out and actually say what was on my mind. I sort of let it roll off my shoulder until it eventually got to a point where I took another job at a different agency. But I’ve learned a lot since then and have built up my confidence since then, so I would definitely handle that type of situation very differently now.

Ashley Malone

I would say that one of the challenges for me coming up in my career was, with the exception of Baby list, not really seeing women like me in top leadership and executive positions. So it’s like back to the confidence thing that you were saying, how you get the sense that maybe your skills aren’t the right skills or you’re inadequate. You’re almost like this whole theory of imposter syndrome, I can’t possibly do that because that’s not that’s not what I look like or what I think?

Women in media ashley

I have aspirations to be a chief marketing officer. And so, seeing someone represented in a role like that, that looks like me, that has a background like mine, that has a similar home dynamic that I do with young kids. I think it’s just easier when you see someone like yourself represented in a role, especially when you’re starting your career, because if that’s the aspiration that you’re chasing you want to say that’s achievable for me because, look, that person did it. So, I say that’s probably the challenge.

Christie Massey

Now that we’ve all shared some of the challenges we’ve experienced, have we built tools that we’ve used in our career to overcome some of the challenges we faced along the way?

I’ll go first on this one. I didn’t mention this because I feel like it’s so common. But that work-life balance for working women, for working moms is a challenge every single day. As simple as it may sound, staying organized is the key for me to have a successful week. On Sundays, I do my calendar, organizing both my personal calendar at home and also my work calendar. And then, Monday morning, I’m in a much better spot; not only am I staying organized, but mentally it gives me the feeling that everything is manageable for that week.

I thought that when my kids were young, that was going to be the hardest part of being a working mother and having babies and juggling that. But having kids in 25 sports teams is worse. It’s very hard to juggle nighttime schedules. So for me, it’s just “calendar-rising”. That’s a word – organizing, prep call planning. Any type of preparation I can do is just so key for me in my role and in my role as a mom at home too.

Ashley Malone

I’d say, a tool that I’ve developed, not necessarily a tool, but maybe a skill over time, has been trusting my instinct on things. It’s almost like that, that inner voice now that I’ve been doing it for so long. Song I think you mentioned that like that inner voice that tells you like, you know, this is the thing that you should say or that you are right if you’re going to weigh in on this thing like that, you know that is the right way.

Just trusting my instinct, having a voice, and showing up, I think that’s a lot harder when you’re starting your career, especially as a woman. But over time, you build that that muscle, if I could just speak up or weigh in or have input on this, ultimately it’s going to make the business stronger. So I would say that’s probably one skill that I’ve developed just very slowly over time as you kind of exercise that every year.

Mari Sanchez

One of the things that I did early on in my career, but honestly sometimes still do, is I have a little folder of thank you notes from colleagues of clients, or projects that I worked on that I did a good job on; got good feedback on that I’m proud of. And sometimes, when I’m feeling down, or I feel like I messed up, it’s a really nice thing to go and remind myself, like, I’m a badass. The evidence is here. Whatever thoughts are swirling, the evidence is here.

Christie Massey

That’s incredible. I love that.

Kerrie Sovelove

I think one of the skills that I’ve developed over time is that there’s only so much you can do in a day, and you really, really need to let go because everyone on this call could work all day and all night, every single day still wouldn’t be done. I used to stay at the office till seven, eight, nine even when there wasn’t a deliverable because I was trying to get everything else done.

You really have to create boundaries. You really have to push back. We’re reading a book together, a couple of leaders at work. It’s called Essentialism, and it’s what is essential? What do you have to get done? And one of the things in the book that it mentioned is that the word priority was singular until the 1990s.

So, you shouldn’t have priorities. And that was the thing that that led us to this book. If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have priorities. You have got to narrow down to what you should be focusing on. I think that happens in that you suddenly have 15 different priorities, and you can’t focus on anything. So, I’m really trying to narrow down what I focus on.

I actually wrote myself a mission statement this week to what I should be working on, and what I should be contributing to. And if it falls outside of the mission statement, I need to not handle it, or get someone else to handle it.

Song Heo

You know, for me, it’s just the balancing, obviously, to make time for myself because I can work around the clock. There’s always something to be done. And Christie has heard this through the years, and I say this to my team all the time as well. They’ll start to get sort of frenzied and freak out. Oh, my gosh, it’s too overwhelming. I’ll just tell them – no one’s going to die. Everything’s going to be fine. Focus on the one thing that has to get done right now. Do that, and you’ll feel better.

So at that moment when things start to feel emotionally overwhelming that I think one just needs to pause and kind of walk away. For me, I like cooking… anything related to food. I focus on those things that take me out of work mode. I love cooking, travel, and being with friends. Again, it’s just those things that are outside of work that I really need to make sure I make time for…replenishing my soul and my energy and taking the time to do that.

Helen Kim

I agree Christie and Song about work-life balance. I’m working fully remotely so I could be on the computer forever. I set myself time in the morning before getting my day started to organize my thoughts on everything I need to get done for the day.

I also put reminders in my calendar to take breaks.  I live in an apartment building, so even going down every day to go get my mail, or taking a walk to stretch my legs, and take a mental break – I’ve learned to make sure to make those points happen throughout the day.

And then also, having that confidence to speak up and advocate for myself. Over time, I’ve gotten more confident in calling people out, not so much in a public forum, but telling people that something they did or said made me, feel a certain way. So they’re aware of it and maybe will think twice before doing it again. Not only speaking up for myself but on behalf of others as well – when I see behavior that’s not conducive to a healthy or fair workplace environment, instead of ignoring things or letting things go.

Christie Massey

I think it’s really important for me to that every morning I schedule time, whether it’s just 20 minutes before the craziness of the day for mindfulness, whether it’s just sitting alone with my cup of coffee, reading a book, getting my workout in, even if it means losing that half hour of sleep. I’ve recognized it myself. How important that is for my mental health and balance throughout the day and throughout the week, just to have that quiet time before everything starts to happen.

I know we have 5 minutes left and I don’t want to miss getting to ask this question, which is what advice would you give to young women entering into the field today?

Mari Sanchez

I’ve definitely had some thoughts just listening to us talk and reflecting on the journeys that we’ve been through. I know some of my challenges have still been ongoing, but a lot of us experience that early on in our careers or maybe in male-dominated spaces. And for better or worse, they made us stronger.

But how wonderful would it be to create a space for future generations where we didn’t have to have this trial by fire? And it sounds like particularly those of us who work in these supportive environments with women who understand what it’s like to balance different needs has really created a place where we feel we can thrive. And maybe we experience fewer of those challenges than we did.

So for me this is partly for young women, but also partly for all women, is how do we advocate for the kind of workplace and working environment for other women that we want to see, knowing that there’s a lot of confidence issues, knowing that there’s these conflicting expectations for women early on in the career, but also sometimes later on in their career.

Women in media Mari

How do we sort of create a more nurturing environment where we can support other women who are speaking out, who maybe don’t feel as confident and also take that to the next frontier? You know, women in our industry are really making gains, but it’s not always intersectional.

Christie, Song, Helen, you’ll know this from the work that we just did. You know, we’re seeing many more women hold leadership roles, but that doesn’t often include Asian, Latina or black women. So thinking about sort of the next frontier of changes that we want to see, which is just more women of color, more intersectional representation, so that we can start to, generation by generation, little by little, person by person, moment by moment, start to reduce these challenges that all of us have experienced and made us feel small in some way. And sure, we had to overcome, but love to not have that be a thing anymore.

Christie Massey

So well said. Thank you.

Song Heo

Yeah, so well said. I think recognizing that there’s a history for us, that there have been women who obviously paved the way to allow us not to experience the degree of obstacles we might have otherwise. And really challenging ourselves, as Mari said, to bring to life the kind of environments, whether professional or personal, that really allow young women to flourish. It starts with challenging ourselves in our own smaller communities and how we can make change happen within those and expanding from there.

Helen Kim

In talking about our mentors and how much significance their advice and support has impacted us throughout our career growth. I think it’s also really important for us to be mentors ourselves for other people. In order to create change, we need to apply our learnings and knowledge to others.

And for me, Mari, as you were saying, it’s really important for people coming up in the industry today to have strong female leadership and diverse leadership.  I have many women who have reported to me at various jobs who I have mentored.  And myself being Korean, I especially think it’s important for us as a diverse community to have other diverse women to look up to. So that’s one thing that I strive for – to be a mentor to other people, especially within my background as well.

Kerrie Sovelove

And I think that’s lovely. Being a woman of color is something that I have never experienced. So, I mean, that’s even more of what you can experience from being on an outside level.

We’ve used the word fierce a lot. I would love to tell them to be fierce and be bold. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to push others if you’re not getting what you need. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Don’t be afraid of a challenge that comes along in front of you, grasp it instead of saying am I up for this? You’re up for it. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

These are all things that I was afraid of for so long. I mean, ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t have taken part in something like this. And I feel like now, I take every opportunity I see, and it all turns out to be wonderful. Everything that you do, everything that you take, it turns out to be a great experience. And if it doesn’t, it’s still a good experience because you didn’t have a great experience. So be bold, be fierce, and push everywhere around you, including yourself.

Christie Massey

Right? I was going to say, build your support network, find your mentors, lean on them, but give yourself some grace. You know, keep your goals in mind, but take things one day at a time. But now I kind of want to scrap all that and just say, Be fierce.

Song Heo

Yes…Kick ass. I love it.

Christie Massey

Don’t be afraid, be fierce.

This hour was incredible and inspiring. And I’m so grateful to you all for taking the time to do this roundtable. And I’m so appreciative. And thank you so much.