Shayne Millington on Why She's Fighting Mother Workplace Bias in the Ad Industry
In honour of Mother’s Day, StrawberryFrog, a Manhattan-based agency known for sparking cultural movements, is giving mothers a “moms up” that takes a stand for more moms in the workplace.
Karin Drakenberg is from Sweden and together with her team they run the NYC headquarters of StrawberryFrog. The video, seen here features the agency's own mothers in leadership positions. It is themed around the idea “mom is not a bad word.”
“Mothers are an extraordinary resource for businesses, they're in tune with what is important. Why should mothers need to choose between having a leadership position or being moms. Why can't they be both? Looking at the advertising, marketing and media business, a lot of women start at the entry level but there's a leaky bucket and a significant number leave their jobs when they become parents...why is that?”, asks Karin Drakenberg, mother of two boys as well as co-founder and COO of StrawberryFrog. “We want to help identify this problem and do something about it. There is the need for moms in leadership positions but the reality is that without systems and structure in place to enable women to have both a professional career and be fulfilled parents, it’s difficult for women to stay in the workplace. I'm originally from Sweden, and when you have a baby, parents receive over a year of parental leave, and both parents take it. This is good for the children, good for parents, good for mothers and it is good business sense because mothers have a lot to offer.”
Drakenberg continues, Making structures work for moms in the work force makes a lot of sense given women make up 50% of the population but drive an estimated 70% -80% of consumer spending through purchase power and influence. In fact, 50% of products marketed to men are actually purchased by women. Globally women control $20 trillion in annual spending – in the next five years it’s expected to rise to $30 trillion.”
The topic of moms in the workforce has sparked endless discussion and promises, yet most industries have yet to fully commit to moms, neither in terms of recruiting them nor creating a work environment where moms can thrive.
This two-minute video features interviews with working moms at StrawberryFrog. In addition to the video, there’s a website with, articles, and also two "Uprising" podcasts (also available on iTunes), all of which can be accessed here.
The podcast episodes feature Scott Goodson interviewing Nancy Hill, head of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As), and Lisen Stromberg consultant with the 3% conference, on the challenges women and moms face in advertising, marketing, media and technology industries and how to overcome these obstacles.
Holly Gordon, the founder of Girl Rising, observes, “The ‘mom is not a bad word’ movement by Karin and her team at StrawberryFrog, is a timely and vital call-to-action to keep mothers in the workforce -- and in leadership positions -- especially in culture defining sectors like advertising, marketing and media. Too many women start promising careers but leave when they have children - not because they want to, but because traditional workforce structures don’t work. The system has to change. The result will be good for companies, good for customers and good for society."
StrawberryFrog Executive Creative Director Shayne Millington adds a personal perspective: "I put off having both of my children because I was afraid of how it would impact my career. Women creatives have to work so hard not to be pigeonholed and I didn’t want to give that up and be ‘mommy tracked.’ I think there are a lot of women like myself who want to be an involved mom but also want the opportunity to hold executive level positions on challenging brands and create award winning creative. We just need a supportive and flexible environment. I’m able to make my situation work because I have that support system at home and at work."
Millington continues: "Advertising can be a tough career with long hours and unpredictable schedules; those are two things that are difficult to juggle when you're a mom. We think it's important that people realize what an essential role moms play in an ad agency. Not only do we have the buying power within a household, but we also have a front row seat inside the minds of children, teens, and young adults. This gives us first-hand knowledge when it comes to cutting-edge trends, technology, and pop culture. Besides being steeped in current culture, moms have become experts in productivity; ask anyone. Moms are doers; they don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. They make it happen. Moms are amazing problem solvers and keen negotiators. We possess a patience to see things through and exhibit a stern side when leading. All of these skills naturally translate into the craziness of the ad world.
Millington adds: "Many of the perks of ad agencies: free beer, happy hours, and nap rooms are geared to keeping you at the office. As a parent, that works counter to being able to balance both work and home. I think it's different at StrawberryFrog because we work in an environment that is more flexible, making us more productive. When you are offered a schedule that works with your life you become a better time manager. The time in the office is spent focused and driven to get things done and accomplished. If you give people the flexibility to work within their lifestyle, they feel valued and respected and that strengthens company morale. The more valued a person is, regardless if she is a mom or not, she feels appreciated and will work harder and be more dedicated to the company. All of this helps to avoid burn-out and prevents a higher turn-over, two things ad agencies struggle with constantly."
When talking about what advice she would give to soon to be moms in the advertising business, Millington says: "The advice I would give for soon-to-be moms in the ad industry is to speak up; don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You need to be your own biggest advocate. It may not be easy at first, but then again nothing in motherhood is."