This Is Our Chance
How men—especially advertising/creative agency executives—can play a role in this week’s Day Without A Woman.
I like to joke about my fellow CEOs. The joke is best when my imagined peers include Tim Cook, Larry Page or any executive from a large advertising holding company. Generally, I’ll say something mundane and then imagine a big-time executive in the same situation. An example:
“I’m taking the family to Disneyland next week. Staying at the Springhill Suites next to the Anaheim Convention Center… Pretty sure Elon Musk was there last week. The free breakfast includes a waffle bar and there’s a CVS on the ground floor. Super convenient. It’s a real CEO hotspot.”
It’s a dumb joke. The comparison is ridiculous, but it belies something true—I think about what those leaders would do, almost all the time. I compared the note I sent to the people at Struck to the ones that other executives sent to their employees after last November’s election (mine was more tame than most). Changing our parental leave policy was spurred by actions of executives and leaders whom I respect. In a job without strict responsibilities, I’m constantly looking for ideas and inspiration wherever they might be found.
Wednesday is International Women’s Day. It has been designated by the organizers of the Women’s March as a Day Without A Woman. I’ve wanted to say something about this event—to provide support for the women who work at Struck. So, as usual, I’ve looked to my peers (who I acknowledge are mostly white and mostly male… just like I am) for guidance. I haven’t found much. There’s no guidebook—formal or informal—to handling our current situation. Politics in the workplace has long been a taboo, but this doesn’t feel political. Advocating for a better, more equitable, and more welcoming workplace shouldn’t be a bold political stance. I’ve been a vocal advocate for improving the gender diversity at Struck… So the chance to put our money where my mouth has been—to support our women even as they choose to step away from our agency for a day—is a powerful opportunity.
Do we have the courage to embrace it? Or will we only talk about diversity when activism makes us look good? That’s part of it, right? It’s cool to talk about diversity. There’s a part of me that knows I might get a few likes (recommends!) on this post. And that will feel good. Whether you’re an agency, a bank, or a big-box retailer, diversity is hot right now.
Wednesday is different. It’s our chance to do something when it won’t benefit us at all. There’s no practical upside in having a large portion of your workforce walk out for a day. And that’s why it matters so much.
This is a list of what we’ve decided to do—and I encourage my peers, real and imagined, to do at least the same… Or hopefully much more.
- Send a note to all women employees letting them know that they have support now matter how they choose to engage with the activities on Wednesday. I have committed that there will be no negative repercussions for choosing to strike. I am also committing that PTO balances will not be affected by their actions.
- Wear red. Not my best color, but I‘m giving it it a shot.
- Encourage all employees to support their co-workers. Men can wear red, shop only from women-owned, local businesses, and (especially) lean into responsibilities at home, work and anywhere else they can.
- Order lunch from women-owned restaurants. We’ll do it for all three of our offices. Recommendations in SLC, PDX or Venice? Drop them in the comments.
If you’re afraid of violating some sort of HR standard, get over it. If you’re afraid that the men in your agency/company are going to be offended that they don’t get a Day Without A Man, then you’re either not giving your men enough credit or you probably need to find some different men. If you’re a little bit nervous that this could end badly for you, remember—it’s not about you. Stop worrying about what this day will mean for you. Focus on what it means for the women who make our businesses better every single day.
I’m counting on you, my fellow CEOs… Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, John Wren, Maurice Lévy, Martin Sorrell, Dan Wieden, et al. Don’t let me down.