Being an Iconoclast

A 2018 Ad Age article reads, “Women who start agencies are iconoclasts. We’re doing something radically different than the industry standard.”

It’s funny: as a woman who owns a Chicago-based integrated marketing agency, I never think about my gender in the business world. The uniqueness of having a minority-owned communications agency is usually lost on me, as I genuinely don’t focus on gender, race or age. Instead, I look, listen and observe the thinking, ideas, and contributions of those who surround me. And I believe that hard work and ambition propelled me to open my own firm, not something about being a woman. My attitude of, “If not me, who. If not now, when,” is why I am where I am.

Regardless of my journey, there are two mysteries:

Why aren’t there more woman-owned agencies?
And why aren’t they bigger?

Some studies show that women entrepreneurs are on the rise, yet not necessarily in the creative space. A 2016 Forbes article touched on the subject of why women aren’t starting their own agencies. It reads, “Women lacked opportunities to go on their own.” And that women are “Entering the corner office of the creative department,” alluding to graduating to the C-Suite instead of going out on their own.

Woman-owned agencies remain smaller than their male-owned counterparts. Chicago is a perfect microcosm of that point. In the Windy City, there are some firms that are women-owned, but they seemingly haven’t soared outside of the “boutique agency” category.

International Woman’s Day Event

The 3% conference and other diversity initiatives from the PR Council (SHEQuality), PRSA, PCC, and other associations can help awaken women to the opportunity of agency ownership. But I think we’re long overdue for a shift in this. So, The Motion Agency is hosting a special event on International Woman’s Day, specifically geared towards woman-owned agencies – to connect with other female owners of agencies on management issues and to share best practices. The hope is that we can generate ideas to make Chicago woman-owned agencies stand out and grow in this competitive landscape.

Women shouldn’t see their gender as a handicap or as an advantage. Women should rely on their intellect.

Of course, lifting awareness of woman-owned agencies is just the start. Connectivity to RFP’s, coupled with educational sessions to foster new, female owners are other pieces of the puzzle.

A few years ago, I conducted an interview that has always resonated with me. I was asked to promote a technology company owned by an African American female entrepreneur. I set up a newspaper interview for this entrepreneur with the topic of how to get more women to enter the tech field. One of her answers to the journalist’s questions was simple but memorable: women shouldn’t see their gender as a handicap or as an advantage; women should rely on their intellect.

Yes, Motion is a woman-owned agency. I’m very proud of that. And I’m looking forward to being a leader for more women to own agencies. Agencies whose clients work with them not because they’re woman-owned, but because they are great.

Go ahead, call me an iconoclast.