"Did my being a man help me be more successful in my career?" he
He attributed that partly to feeling more confident and happy
after his transition; people even told him he looked taller.
"The creative department is a boys' club," he said. "It wasn't
until I was in the club, inside looking out, that I realized how
uncomfortable it could be for women."
He described one ghastly out-of-town business dinner after a
pitch with seven men and a lone woman, at a restaurant the host
said he chose for the Hooters-like waitresses; a visit to a strip
club followed. From his new perspective inside the boys' club, Mr.
Edwards said they didn't deliberately ostracize the sole woman and
make her uncomfortable.
"It was unintentional," he said. "The takeaway is that for this
dynamic to change, more women need to enter and stay in this
industry. If there had been an equal ratio [of men to women], that
conversation and strip club never would have happened."
He also shared a secret for getting plum assignments, raises and
promotions: Ask. He said he never felt empowered to do that as a
woman, but that if a guy wants a job or a promotion, he just asks
for it. "You don't get everything, but at least I knew I wasn't
holding myself back."
Mr. Edwards' polished, witty delivery of an emotional, painful
story told with humor underlined his key takeaway for the
enthralled audience: "Be a great presenter!"
"I managed more than 50 creative teams, and women consistently
let men take the lead when it came to presenting their work," he
said. "It's not just about creating the work, it's about selling
In another session, SapientNitro announced the launch of
Returnships, a program to offer women returning to the workforce a
fast track back into agencies, and its website invisible.careers. The idea is to identify skills
agencies are looking for and provide re-training in those skills
followed by an agency internship of one to three months.
"We think this will be the secret sauce to help people get back
in the market," said Helene Cote, program director for the 3%
Returnships program. Ms. Cote appealed to audience members to
consider being a candidate, a host agency or funding a
At a CMO Roundtable moderated by Lisa Cochrane, Allstate Corporation's
former senior VP-marketing, Gail Tifford, Unilever's VP-media and
digital engagement for North America, appealed to creatives in the
audience to help her come up with a better name for the Unilever
group she co-chairs, Womens' Interactive Network (WIN).