What the 2018 3% Conference Meant for a Latina Creative Director
Evita Puente is a creative instigator who breaks boundaries and the status quo. With over 15 years of experience in both agency and corporate creative environments, Evita Puente is an executive-level creative leader specialized in helping teams apply their creative ideas and individual insights to broader emerging trends, especially as culture rapidly shifts. She is a creative strategist for progressive leaders/causes like delivering the Latino vote and serves as part-time faculty of Trinity University in San Antonio. She is a strong voice for creative minorities and deeply inspired by the business (and art) of advertising.
About 15, or maybe even 18, years ago (the beginning of the 2000s seem to fade into one another), I thought it was normal to hear the guys joke about “tetas” and “pitos” while we brainstormed beer ads. I thought having to grin and bear so many instances of sexual double entendres — more commonly known as “albures” in my culture — was just Business As Usual. I was under the impression that being told by my ACD that my “barriga” (my womb) was detrimental to my creativity was okay...and maybe even true. After all, he was a creative authority, awarded and revered by my agency, and I was definitely sleepier since getting pregnant, less able to think creatively.
But still, it sounded wrong, and weighed on me.
I saw 3% Partner and COO Lisen Stromberg tell us a moving story that reminded us things have changed in the industry. But, if it has been that slow for white women, then for Latinas, we must be moving at a tortoise's pace. Having just returned from moderating a panel at the 3% Conference, I’m sitting here crying. My tears conceal a range of emotions and stories. They are the 20-year-old lágrimas of a journey marked and tainted by joy, pain, fear, and endurance.
What moved me to tears?
The joy of being a creative. I love what I do, passionately. I’m literally in love with my profession: my peers, copywriting, art directing, ideating...hell, even killing an idea for the promise of a better one. I love it! The hours I spend writing and rewriting copy always make me smile. I am lucky to have wrinkles on my forehead earned from years of thinking about the payoff in a TV spot or a headline that was wrongfully edited. The joy of learning about creativity, of seeing talented people find their voice, of fostering collaborative environments where magic happens.
My tears of pain. I continue to hear the same stories from Latinas in both agency and in-house creative departments who are facing the same issues I did over 15 years ago. They are like flashbacks from the danger zone. Unwelcomed, derided, and name-called by the “chicos” who, BTW, never even bothered to say “chicas.” Who mockingly criticized creative ideas that actually drove business or customer value, simply because they were pitched by Latinas. The pain of being invisible, of having to call out and threaten industry leaders because there was an “oversight” in including my name on awards submissions for work that I lead or created.
The fear of being fired, of being ousted, of not being respected by a community of male leaders. As a single mom, and subsequently a head of household, I used to live in fear of losing my job, a job that I knew all too well depended on the CCO liking me. It didn’t matter that my work drove revenue, or that it was customer-centric before that was a thing. My focus on messaging that was culturally relevant, socially-aware, ethically responsible, or simply on budget was unimportant; likability and fitting in to the prevailing agency culture was all that mattered. Nevertheless, I carried on with my fear, learning to act fearlessly even as my inner-self ran scared.
Finally, my tears of endurance. Although admittedly exhausted and lately even regretful that I have come close to throwing in the towel on the ad industry more than once, I always (again, because of that love for advertising) choose to stick it out. I get up and fight, like the brave border girl I am, because I always feel that there’s one last creative round left in me.
I heard, time and time again, from other women in Chicago who were also told that they were “too emotional,” and I finally realized that, perhaps, this is one of our greatest assets as female creatives, not our biggest weakness.
What I have the conviction to say now, post-3% Conference, is this: “Don’t you see, it’s our emotions that make us the leaders we are? That it’s our emotions that allow us to be empathetic and vulnerable to the needs of our team, our partners, and our customers? How it’s our emotional IQ that enables us to collaborate and elevate even those who might think they have little to add, uncovering unexpected creative gems? That, sometimes, it’s our emotionality that allows us to be good leaders, and to passionately fight for great advertising?”
Having spent the last few days listening to these brave women, and some men, express their thoughts on the state of our industry, I’ve realized that I want to put my voice to good use, and to shape our narrative going forward.
HEY, CREATIVE LATINO LEADERS, WHERE ARE YOU?
Don’t you pride yourself on being caballeros?
Well, then give us our rightful place and space in leadership within your agencies, respect and value our accomplishments, and rise up with us.
I am directly calling on the Latino Creative Directors in both US Hispanic and General Market agencies. I did not see you at the 3% Conference. Where are you? Step up.
Join your counterparts and make a pledge for pay equity. Create safe spaces for executive-level creative Latinas, call out your peers who deride pregnant agency staff as “taking themselves out of the workforce,” be inclusive, have females on your juries, in your panels, and in your inner circles.
Latinas in the ad industry are smart. They are talented. They are luchadoras, fighters. When you fight with us to improve the lives of women in the industry, you’re improving the lives and livelihoods of all of us, men, women, agencies and clients alike.
Want to contribute to Voices? Check out our submissions guidelines.