In honor of Women’s History Month, we are launching a three-part blog series highlighting three women who influence every C-Ker every day. We were reminded on International Women’s Day that everyone has a part to play to create a more balanced and better working environment for women and for men. In addition to celebrating our friends’ accomplishments, we can also learn from their years of experience! Because balance is not a women’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue. It also makes good business sense.

Betsy Brown has worked at C-K for more than 25 years. She is the executive vice president and general manager of the Milwaukee office. Betsy has a reputation for providing consumer insights and the ability to form strategic partnerships with clients. She also strongly believes in giving back to her community. She serves on the board of the Sojourner Family Peace Center and the Penfield Children’s Center but also makes community service part of the culture at C-K. She’s been instrumental in creating breakthrough pro-bono partnerships that have elevated important issues in Wisconsin and beyond.

How many years have you been in advertising? 

31 years- gulp!

Where did you begin your career? 

I started out at a small shop in Chicago called Jack Levy and Associates as a junior media buyer

How have things changed since you were in advertising? 

When I first started there was no internet.  All of our client communication was over the phone or in person. You would never send a proof to a client via email or send a rough cut through Skype. Things move so much quicker now from communication with clients to production of work.

How have things stayed the same? 

Clients still expect you to understand their business like they understand their business. Get immersed deep. You will never be able to shortchange this step in any client relationship.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career? 

Holding on to good talent. There so many reasons why someone might leave and you can’t control all of them. Trying to keep staff happy when there are other career options today is a challenge, especially in today’s market. When I first started out, it was pretty common to move from shop to shop but now it isn’t uncommon to see people move to completely unrelated fields.

What are you most proud of in your career? 

Being the GM of the C-K Milwaukee office. I would have never guessed this is where I would be when I started my career.

What do you think about the movements within advertising to help advance women in the industry? For example, the 3% Conference that has helped bring awareness to the lack of female Creative Directors in the industry. Since it started a few years ago, the number of female CDs has gone from 3% to 11%. 

I think it’s about time this happened. We need to not only recruit more females into creative roles, we need to give them the ability to have balance in their lives as they ascend into leadership roles.

What advice would you give young women in advertising?

If you want to get into advertising, then do it.  If you want a family, then have one.  You can find the balance between the two…and definitely shouldn’t hold you back.

While women are around 50% of the advertising workforce, that number isn’t as high in the executive level and C-suite. Outside the industry, just over 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by a female CEO, while only 19 percent of their senior management positions are held by women. What do you think needs to happen to ensure more women reach top positions? 

Give women flexibility to have families so that they don’t have to sacrifice their career for family life and vice versa. Job sharing, part-time and working from home are all options.

How do you, as a leader at C-K, strive to ensure gender equality throughout the three offices of C-K?

At C-K gender equality is just not an issue. [C-K is 60% female with 50% female in the C-suite.] Regardless of someone’s race or ethnicity we treat people the same. In the Milwaukee office there is a real sense of family and as a family everyone brings an interesting quirk to the table. We embrace the differences and realize that it’s these differences that allow us to think differently. And thinking differently means we can come up with interesting, unexpected work.