W is for Woman: A Reflection on Women’s History Month 2021

Aspasia Tsampas

By Aspasia Tsampas, Intern, DEI & Communications

April 8, 2021

“Once you earn your seat at the table, how do you keep it?”- Lisa Reid, managing director, VMLY&R

This year, Women@VMLYR took the International Women’s Day motto “Choose to Challenge” in stride, creating W is for Women, a campaign that spells out exactly what it means to be a fierce female at VMLY&R. As an intern, a student, and a women new to VMLY&R, I learned a lot about exactly what being a fierce female means right from the source by listening to the “Courageous Conversations” events in partnership with The Luminary, and from the inspiring women of B.EAST in their Tea Session about being an Asian American Woman in 2021.

As a field long dominated by “Mad Men,” the industry has come a long way in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all. And now on the backdrop of 2021, and more specifically March 2021, the call to action to push forward and further is apparent.  An event that stayed with me long after it had ended was The Tea session presented by Brave Questions, Safe Spaces (BQSS) titled “Being an Asian American Woman in 2021,” a conversation that eerily took place just a week before the horrific attack on six Asian women in Atlanta.

With over 300 attendees, the VMLY&R community gathered together to learn, grow, and listen to colleagues who shared their experiences navigating America both professionally and personally as Asian Americans. While all women share a level of experience, it is important to recognize that ethnicity also plays a role in how the world views women. Furthermore, it is crucial to emphasize that even these experiences, while largely shared, are nuanced. For a community that is often stereotyped as a monolith of harmful generalizations, I was able to learn how to become a better ally from VMLY&R’s very own Lisa Reid, Judy Lem, Jennifer Kohl, Natasha Ygsi, Suba Nadarajah and many more who shared their unique experiences.

Next, I learned about community in the workplace and received career advice during the Luminary event “Courageous Conversations: Women in The Workplace” from Maria Elisa Carvajal, Colgate, Claudia Alday, U.S. Navy, and Lindsay Radkoski, Wendy’s. This discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities of women in the workplace. While each of the women had such diverse experiences, there was a common thread of overcoming the challenge of speaking up and letting your voice be heard. These women taught me that I shouldn’t hold back my thoughts, the more you speak and the more you repeat, the more likely you are to be heard. 

Additionally, mentorship and sponsorship were big topics that stuck out to me as a young professional. A mentor doesn’t have to be a higher up, there is still plenty to learn from your colleagues and peers. Besides career advice, a mentor is there to be your support system. Challenges are unavoidable, but it is crucial to have someone you can lean on professionally.

In the last event of the Courageous Conversations, “The She-Cession and Caregiving Through A Pandemic” I learned about grace and support from Jennifer DaSilva, president, Berlin Cameron, Shali Wade, Executive Director, VMLY&R, Debbie Ellison, global chief digital officer, VMLY&R Commerce, and Tasha Gilroy, executive director DE&I. While the session was focused on parents and caregivers during the pandemic, something I am neither of, I think we can all learn from the grace, flexibility, and support these women practice.

While juggling work, caregiving, and everything that comes in between (something Debbie Ellison referred to as the triple burden), the pandemic has exasperated this struggle as we are now working from home. In fact, many women have had to leave the workforce during the pandemic due to caregiving issues, and more women than men now say they have less workplace confidence.

Nonetheless, there is perseverance and adaption. These female leaders are paving the way for future generations like myself. Debbie Ellison states, “This is our time to be innovative and change the landscape of our workplace as leaders to make space for everyone.”

While there will always be work to be done, it is open and honest conversations like these events featuring fearless women of all walks of life that are opening the doors for more women to come. Thanks to these inspiring women and more, more women are invited to the table and are able to stay.