The 4A’s “See It & Be It” series asks female industry leaders and those from traditionally underrepresented groups in the ad industry to share their personal stories, advice and observations on how to succeed in an industry that is overwhelmingly led by white men. Kat Friedman, Senior Vice President of Crosby Marketing shares her thoughts in this edition of our series.
In 2017, why do you think it’s still necessary to talk about opportunities for women in the industry, and how women are portrayed in advertising?
I’ve had the great privilege to work for organizations that value the voice of women in the workplace. However, in nearly every case, the workers have primarily been women, and men have held the top leadership positions. This is not unusual in marketing, but that doesn’t make it right. While things are changing—for example, the number of women in advertising creative leadership positions has risen from 3 percent to 11 percent—women remain underrepresented in executive leadership. Not just in advertising, but also in the organizations that employ us; only 8 percent of CMOs are women.
At the same time, family decision makers are overwhelmingly women. According to the Department of Labor, women make approximately 80 percent of healthcare decisions, and a Pew Research Survey found that women are the primary decision makers around finances, big purchases and even what to watch on TV. We account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, and 43 percent of people with $500,000 or more in assets are female. With all that decision authority and buying power, why aren’t we also driving more marketing decisions?
Do you think women, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities face similar issues in the ad industry?
My mom is a rebel and a role model. She was a first among firsts in a generation of women who broke barriers and opened opportunities for those who came next. She taught me to dream big and go after what I want with integrity and respect for others. In my experience, advertising and marketing have been more open to diversity than many professions; certainly, more than economics and finance were for my mom. But, she also taught me that we always need rebels and trailblazers to help make room for those that are underrepresented, under-supported and misunderstood. Right now, in this moment, those voices must make themselves heard. The current public discourse is scary. But, I have faith that our industry can continue to be a leader in diversity so long as we all stay a little rebellious.
What advice would you give to a 20-year-old woman on succeeding in the advertising industry?
- It’s OK to be scared, in fact, it’s a good thing in moderation. Just don’t let fear be what holds you back.
- Take advantage of all the different experiences you can manage. Learn to see the world through others’ eyes.
- Find a mentor and learn, learn, learn.
- Don’t expect to get what you don’t ask for.
- Make opportunities and seize them.
Would you want your daughter to pursue a career in advertising? If not, why not?
I don’t have a daughter, but if I did, I’d be delighted to have her pursue advertising. Marketing and advertising can sell products, change behavior, and spark movements for change. They can even inspire people to greatness. My career has been focused around programs that help make positive changes in people’s lives, and that’s a big part of why I’m so proud of the work we do at Crosby. I grew up wanting to save the world and I found a way to do just that.