“See It & Be It”: Tara DeVeaux, CMO of BBDO

In 2017, why do you think it’s still necessary to talk about opportunities for women in the industry, and how women are portrayed in advertising?

Tara DeVeaux, CMO, BBDO

Although women make up 51-percent of the advertising industry, we make up only 27-percent of the C-suite. We’ve made progress over the past decade, but gender parity is still a long way off. For things to change and for our industry to evolve, it’s not just enough to say we have more women in total—we need to have more women in power.

In our business, having more women touching the work has an immediate, long-term effect on young girls. Continuing to see positive images of yourself, no matter who you are, is a confidence booster and propels you to excel. Our latest initiative, “Put Her on the Map”, aims to encourage cities and corporations to name streets, statues and buildings after influential women. The hope is that by changing the face of our communities, we can inspire future female leaders. It’s an example of hitting that point directly in an impactful, measurable way.

Do you think women, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities face similar issues in the ad industry?

Yes, and no. Anytime you have a group that is classified as “other” because they are the minority, that group is going to face unconscious bias. Those biases are not based on fact, nor on an individual’s ability. Being self-aware and present enough to acknowledge that you have unconscious bias is a powerful step in driving change. But, as a black woman, I face issues white women and men (black or white) don’t. It’s just a fact. It doesn’t happen every day and when it does you recognize it and keep moving forward. Onward and upward.

What advice would you give a 20-year-old woman on how to succeed in the advertising industry?

Be yourself. The days of women trying to contort themselves into men are over. Bring your whole self to the job—your interest, passions, femininity and your strength are what make you a unique and valuable contributor to your organization.

Another piece of advice I would give is to be relentless. Don’t be afraid to demand what you’ve earned, and always push yourself beyond the immediate or most obvious next step. Women tend to see advancement as one step at a time, but we shouldn’t be afraid to take a leap.

Would you want your daughter to pursue a career in advertising? If not, why not?

I want my daughter to do whatever she’s passionate about. I have a 19-year-old daughter and my advice now is what it’s always been. Choose a career that would make you happy, even if you weren’t being paid. You will spend too much time at your job to do something you don’t love.

What did you do to survive and thrive in advertising? 

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and be exposed to some of the most iconic and well-respected people in our industry. I looked up to those people and when I saw something in them that I liked, I would make it my own. I didn’t mimic their behavior, I learned from their example.

Ultimately, when I recognized that I have something unique to contribute and chose to be myself (and it is a choice!), that’s when I started to soar and more importantly, love what I do.