By thelaegotist / / In June, Michelle Obama hosted the first United State of Women Summit at the White House. The summit was a collaboration of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of State, Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute and Civic Nation. Brandy Cole, ACD at advertising agency/interactive development company Hook, was one of the honored few selected to attend the summit. Below are her thoughts on the state of women and the ad industry. One morning, while staying at my friend’s house in Washington, D.C., I lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, smiling and thinking, “How did I get here?” Soon, I am going to be in the same room with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah, and many of the most globally powerful people. This is such a different world from the one I grew up in. I was raised on a ranch in Weatherford, Texas, and I never really watched TV. To this day, I haven’t seen an episode of Seinfeld, and there still is no internet on the ranch. I grew up cooking, cleaning, changing the oil in cars, cutting down trees, and baling hay. I love my hometown and my childhood. I worked my first agency job before I graduated college and have worked at several throughout my career. I have learned much about myself in my advertising tenure, and the farther I advanced in my chosen field, one thing struck me as odd: Where are all the women? The way to answer that question came several weeks ago. I received a call from Lylette Pizarro McLean, marketing maven and culture connoisseur for RPM GRP. She wanted to tell me about the powerful initiative she was involved with and explained that my career leading up to now and who I am is exactly what this event was created for. I was invited to the inaugural United State of Women Summit at the White House. From Weatherford to the White House. From playing dress-up as a child—having important tea parties in my doll house with Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake—to dressed up in Melissa McCarthy designer clothes and having tea at the United State of Women Summit at the White House with trailblazers such as Gloria Steinem and Shonda Rhimes. My question went from “Where are all the women?” to “Let’s celebrate how far we have come!” and “Let’s see how much farther we can go.” Some of the most incredible, determined, and successful women, with goals of making the world better and sharing their stories, were all together in one place. I was in awe as I looked around, in every sense of the word. We (women) have so much to offer to ourselves and to the world. When President Barack Obama proudly announced at the summit that he is a feminist, the place went wild. He said the days of Mad Men are over and articulated the White House goal of 50/50 (women to men on staff) by 2030. The advertising industry was referred to several times throughout the summit as the worst industry for equality. This is a reality, but there are women like me who are helping to change this. Robert Liodice, President and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, said we are a storytelling industry that needs feminism, multiculturalism, and a new platform for how we conduct business. He announced a new initiative: #SeeHer, a campaign designed to eliminate bias against women from ads and media. Glen Mazzara, TV producer and writer, feels most writers’ rooms are boys’ clubs. “You could say that the term diversity is a sexist, racist term in itself,” says Mazzara, “because it implies diversity to a white, male perspective.” To move forward, we have to acknowledge these issues. I have had my share of challenges as a woman in advertising; my share of sexual insults. But, I never focused on the negative. I knew for things to change, I needed to lead and work at places where people and equality were priority and celebrate and champion the men who are our allies. I work at Hook Studios and places like this is where the change begins. People supporting people. I have been empowered and treated as an equal by some of the greats such as Rob Schwartz, Jayanta Jenkins, Josh Mandel, Christian Wojciechowski, my brother John Cole and, of course, my dad. When the big day to attend the United State of Women Summit finally arrived, I jumped out of bed, put on my dress, zipped up my stilettos, and styled my mohawk. Once there, I was escorted through the Secret Service detail, who stopped and stared and gave occasional head nods. I was overwhelmed and a bit emotional at times. Every step I took, I realized that being there was a symbol of every challenge women face. This was for my parents, my niece, my brother, my sister-in-law. For Weatherford, Texas. For everyone who has supported my female co-workers and me. For a woman lead singer and band who supports her. For my female friends who always make the best cupcakes. For every person who has been discriminated against. This is bigger than me. This is The Movement. This is equality. This is what a modern woman looks like. This is how a woman of today leads. Not by talking—by doing. As a child, my dad said, “I want to hear the pitter patter of your feet around the world, living my dreams.” Mom and Dad, I am pittering and pattering.
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