“She should be smiling”

Douglas Montague
Oct 27, 2019 · 3 min read
CEO portrait for Microsoft Office — © Microsoft — Photo Credit Bobo Olsson

Did you know that, up until just a few years ago, most campaign/brand photos of women in business were rejected by the client if the woman had her mouth open and speaking?

It’s true.

The client would reject the real and choose the vapid because they believed that a woman looks “angry” when she speaks. Back in the day, I’d even hear, “She should be smiling; do you have one of her smiling?” The same picture of a man speaking would be fine because he looked “confident.”


In the last few years, I’ve seen more and more creative work that represents women in true and accurate positions of authority. I’m happy for that. Maybe the shift is happening because we have more powerful women in government leadership. Maybe it’s because corporations are seeing that a diverse and inclusive culture creates a better product and workplace. I’m sure there are many reasons. But, as a creator, I feel like there’s still a lot of work to do. It’s nice to see the progress that we’ve made, but I think it’s time to be a little more brave. (I’m speaking to myself and to my fellow creators.)

Part of my job here at Microsoft is to be bold in representing our commitment to diversity and inclusion to the world through our creative execution. It’s an honor and a privilege. For this reason, I’m very excited about the photoshoot that I and Kelly Anderson, a creative director on my team, just wrapped.

Kelly and I hired photographer Maggie Hallahan — equality advocate, and part of the United Nations’ work in gender equality over the past 25 years — to bring her unique talent and perspective to the camera. Her involvement helped us ensure that we were accurately representing powerful women leading enterprise companies. I learned so much from Maggie and her inclusive team. They picked up on nuances that I, being a man, would never have seen. It was inspiring to watch Maggie create, empower, and teach.

Maggie (Center) behind the scenes at the San Francisco Photo Shoot

If you’re a creative leader, you have an opportunity to change public perceptions around gender equality in the work that you make. I encourage you to seize this opportunity. Be fearless about bringing in diverse perspectives and makers who don’t look like and act like you. Be a learner, be humble, and challenge your own assumptions.

The results might just make you smile.

Original content repurposed here from my Instagram feed. For daily content from me follow @dnmontague on Instagram

Although I work for Microsoft, views and thoughts here are my own.

Douglas Montague

Written by

Microsoft Brand Creative Director. I don’t believe creative that has commercial success tags it with an odious suggestion that is stinks. Views are my own.

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