Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018, Jackie Lau

"If we keep creating meaningful policies that encourage women in the industry and continue to empower one another, we can inspire generations to come."

Jackie Lau
Executive Director of Project Management Situation Interactive

Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018

Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
My name is Jackie Lau and I’m the Executive Director of Production at Situation – a NYC-based digital agency specializing in creating amazing experiences for brands. I have been with the agency for over eight years.
I began my career as an Account Executive and worked my way into Project Management – where I found my true passion. Prior to Situation, I worked at Dawson Hackley and MMGY Global and I have been in the industry for almost 20 years.
I graduated with a degree in tourism marketing and have a proficient background in travel, hospitality, and experiential marketing. My love of travel continues to shape my spare time.
Originally from Kansas City, I have made New York City ‘home’ for my family for almost eleven years. I live vibrantly for experiences of my own and help make them a reality for brands through my role.
Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
In college, I worked at an insurance agency. I was originally hired for a behind-the-scenes role but quickly moved up to working the front desk. There, I had the opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with all different kinds of people. Looking back on it, I learned so much about how to think on my feet and how to respond to all kinds of situations – qualities that are directly related to my day-to-day today!
What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
Though the industry is by no means perfect, it’s been so exciting to me to see the conversation around diversity (of thought, gender, ethnicity, you name it) become front-and-center. I am privileged to work at an agency where we don’t shy away from these conversations – even though we often don’t have the answers. In my experience, just creating an open, safe environment for dialogue is the most important piece. I’m so grateful to work with women and men who support and contribute to these conversations.

And as it relates to challenges that women face specifically…As the Mad Men era continues to dissolve, the perception is shifting away from the idea that women will get burned out or leave (and not come back) to start a family. We’re going from being included as “one of the guys,” to now simply being “one of the team.”

However, this still comes with its challenges. We, as women, are still under more scrutiny than men and must actively overcome negative perceptions around our own level of commitment. The foundation for overcoming this lies in self-assuredly understanding our worth and having the tools to manifest what we deserve out of our careers. With confidence, poise, and surrounding ourselves with the right people, there is no challenge we can’t overcome.
From Like A Girl to Fearless Girl, a raft of advertising campaigns have set out to empower women. How do you feel about these campaigns? Can they change attitudes within the industry?
From my experience, I believe it’s more about a lack of consciousness. People tend to believe or act within the confines of their comfort zone. It’s campaigns like these that bring up the uncomfortable truths we tend to ignore – even if it’s unconscious.

Outward change must – first and foremost – begin from the inside, and I’m proud that I work at an agency that’s helping be part of the change. Even recently, we encouraged all the women in our office to attend a women’s focused event during work hours that was produced by a long-standing agency partner. The idea of inclusion and empowerment is important to our leadership and we see this from the top down every day.

As organizations themselves become more aware and become leaders in the conversation, we’ll naturally see more campaigns like these that are fostering positive change.
Initiatives such as Free The Bid are trying to create more opportunities for women in advertising. But what could be done at a more grass roots level to attract women in the first place?
I have three nieces entering college with aspirations of working in advertising. My fear for them is that they’ll get sucked into an unforgiving environment. We all know that advertising can be a demanding career path. Which is why, as a female leader in the industry, I encourage policies that support flexibility, genuine professional development, and a spirit of trust between employees and the employer.

I have to say that I’m so proud to work for our President/Founder, Damian Bazadona, who enthusiastically champions these types of policies in our agency. I’ve always been proud to call him my boss, but particularly in light of the crazy headlines we’ve been reading lately, it’s become something that I’m even more thankful for. Outside of the agency itself, he founded and runs a 501(c)(3), Situation Project, that supports high-performing, under-served students in our local communities. I love that we have this vehicle as an agency to help make our industry more accessible and attainable to communities that might otherwise not be exposed to them.

In addition to organizations at large, it comes down to individuals themselves. By speaking out about our own experiences and thoughtfully encouraging others – without dismissing opinions we may not agree with – we can increase the value and the satisfaction of pursuing a career in our industry.
Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Very early on in my career, I was approached about shifting from the Account Team to the Project Management team. At this stage, digital was still in its infancy and “Project Management” wasn’t an official discipline. I had a mentor then who took the time to get to know me both personally and professionally. He encouraged me to always seek new opportunities, even if it forced me out of my comfort zone. In this case, I ended up taking his advice and that choice led me to where I am now.

Once I moved over to the new department, he could tell I was struggling to find my way among a male-dominated team. He told me earnestly, “Jackie, you won’t get what you don’t ask for.” While this may seem mundane to many, it really stuck with me at a time of ambiguity. As a 20-something woman, I naively assumed that good work would naturally be rewarded but realized quickly that it would also require action on my part.

Many years later, I still consider it a powerful piece of advice. It’s a framework for having a voice but also doing it in the right way. Which in turn is why campaigns similar to “Like a Girl” are so important in instilling a more empowered way of thinking – a mindset – in young women that introduces the same life lesson early on.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
I would offer that we lead by example – by speaking up and opening as many doors as possible for the next generation of women. If we keep creating meaningful policies that encourage women in the industry and continue to empower one another, we can inspire generations to come.

As for advice, I’d say you should be open to change and to get outside of your comfort zone. We cannot be afraid to fail or be afraid to take risks – the biggest risk I took ended up changing my entire career for the better. The one thing to remember through it all is to never sacrifice your personal goals for your career. When those two things align, which will look and feel different for all of us, you’ll know you’ve made it.
Jackie Lau
Executive Director of Project Management Situation Interactive