An insider’s view of life as a working mother in the ad industry

As brands advertise their commitment to women ahead of International Women’s Day, creative director Charlotte Adorjan points out the real changes the industry needs to make to ensure equality. And how they will benefit men too

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday. But let’s talk about men for a moment.

I’ve been on lots of training courses and seminars through my life to help me ‘get on as a woman in advertising’. Some have been amazing. Others less so – but I’ll take as much training and advice as I can get because I’m lucky to be offered it and if it helps, then bloody great.

But perhaps now it’s the turn of the guys to go on some good ol’ courses? Ones that empower them to ‘work like a working dad’, just like we have to learn how to be ‘working mums’. Then perhaps send them on some seminars on flexible working and how it can help both parents continue their careers after having children. Then a little workshop on how to have the balls to ask for it at work. How to leave loudly to get the kids. How to work alongside women who are doing all these things because they’ve been on courses that have helped them do it.

We can only really make things better for women if we also help men change too. Otherwise it’s the women that have to adapt and bend and squash themselves in to the square hole of advertising. Which can, at times be as uncomfortable and difficult as it sounds.

We can only really make things better for women if we also help men change too

Where are the bosses inspiring and encouraging their male creatives to take shared parental leave? Many don’t even know they can take it. I’ve heard lots of guys say that fear is stopping them taking too much time out to share the childcare, worrying it reflects badly on their ambition somehow. I also hear how they couldn’t possibly leave their creative partner for that amount of time. They’re just too important to leave, even for a second.

But what about us girls? We do it. I’ve done maternity leave twice. Spending a year each time out of agency life did wonders for my ideas. It also showed me just how easy it is to pop off the treadmill for a bit. Nothing moves on, the same briefs are still in the system when you get back and most people barely noticed I’d gone: “You back already? Christ, you’ve created an entire human life in the time I’ve taken to kern this headline….”

It also gave a valuable shake-up to the creative partner I left behind. A break from the intense creative team relationship was a breath of fresh air for both of us, especially as legally the agency are obliged to replace you with a freelancer. What better way to try out some new thinking with a new partner without that awkward ‘shall we go on a break, your chewing’s really bothering me’ conversations?

I’ve heard lots of guys say that fear is stopping them taking too much time out to share the childcare, worrying it reflects badly on their ambition somehow

This International Women’s Day I’m sure there’ll be many agencies celebrating the lives of kickass women that have helped shape the world. But the next day, once the perfume’s settled, maybe it’s time to celebrate the kickass men that have boldly taken up a four-day week. Or erect a statue in reception to those guys who are currently off on extended parental leave gaining valuable insights for their clients. And a special blue plaque perhaps, stuck up to honour those dads that went home regularly for bathtime.

Until then, us women will keep on taking the courses. To be equal. It’s not enough to say it anymore. We all need to learn how to do it.

Charlotte Adorjan is a creative director and writer. She’s also co-founder of Woodism, a neurodiversity design project created with her son and partner; woodism.co.uk

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes