An Agency With No Ceilings

In a media landscape that’s constantly evolving, Mistress lives at the front lines of cultural change. Mistress is proud to say that inclusivity is less of a catchphrase and has always simply been a part of our DNA.

With that, Mistress’s Kristin “KB” Busk, Director of Social Strategy, and Lixaida Lorenzo, Creative Director, share a women’s perspective on culture, work, and what it takes to succeed in advertising.

 

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?

KB: Mistress prides itself in culture. There is not a separate female culture but a stance where everyone is equal, no matter your gender, age, nationality, title or history. We pride ourselves on being ego-less. Everyone has a seat at the table and our company lives by the “all ships rise together” motto.

Lixaida: The overall culture at Mistress is one of zero egos, openness, positivity with an “always up for the challenge” attitude. Here, everyone is empowered to be drivers of their own destiny. It’s a pretty special place. In terms of the female/male culture, I feel very lucky to work at a place that makes me forget that I’m a woman. There is no division or distinction whatsoever. There is no moment where you feel like, “oh, this just happened because I’m a woman.”

In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?

KB: The biggest change in the industry, in my opinion, is the fact that women empowerment is now an oversaturated market. Each headline that I read is focused on “First Female CEO In 75 Years”, “Youngest Female to XX”, “XX% of women in C-Level positions all grew up playing sports” and so on. A new challenge we are facing is our gender used as clickbait. While the press, awareness, and recognition are rightfully deserved, the headlines are written to call out that a woman has done something, versus a human being.

Lixaida: The biggest change that I’ve seen is that women are now are feeling more encouraged to unapologetically reach for higher leadership positions. It has started to minimize our own mental barriers we’ve had in the past.

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

Lixaida: Although progress has been made, I do believe there is a looooong way to go. The proof is in the incredible shortage of female creatives in leadership positions. I think we are still facing the same challenges we’ve always been facing. Now it’s just that people are more aware of those challenges and the industry is taking steps to minimize them.

KB: The age-old story of being strong compared to being a “bitch”. Industry women are talked about due to their assertiveness, yet they are talked to more casually if their tonality is softer no matter the title or background. While catering your conversation based on a pre-set tone is acceptable, most industry leaders ‘forget’ the authoritative position the woman has if her tone is softer. Mistaking someone’s kindness for weakness, or seeing them as lesser, is a challenge I hope the industry overcomes one day.

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

Lixaida: This is a tricky one. But the rule I try to keep is to treat personal family time with the same importance as a work meeting.

KB: Setting boundaries is nearly impossible, especially when working in Social. However, the best way to manage a work-life balance is to always express your work style upfront. Everyone works at their own pace and they should be celebrated for doing so, as long as they continue to produce with the highest quality of work possible. My brain power works best from 7am–2pm and 7pm–9pm; and my agency does not punish me for my working style but embraces it.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

KB: I am most proud of maintaining my reputation and self-worth. You can lose yourself in an industry focused on celebrities and top-tier brands by focusing on the wrong things. At the end of the day, it is not about the status of a client, but the work you produce. Keeping my head on my shoulders and always staying true to who I am has led me to the award-winning work and recognition, but being proud of who I am as a person throughout that process is my top professional achievement.

Lixaida: I don’t think I have one that I can truly say is my proudest. It’s a compilation of my achievements that I’m proud of.

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?

KB: There are many people who have helped me get to where I am today. Patricia Dao took a risk on an inexperienced employee, Elissa Ayadi got a junior team member into rooms filled with powerful people, and Joe Staffel always fought for what was right.

However, Kiley Taslitz has been a mentor to me without ever knowing it. I have worked with this strong, powerful, independent women at three different companies. Every single challenge I feared I wasn’t worthy of facing was met with laughter from Kiley. Throughout my career, she continues to remind me that there is no challenge or task I can’t face. Kiley sees brain power and is always forthcoming to remind women in the industry that they are more than enough, they are better than.

Lixaida: My past CCO was the one that truly shaped my creative career as I worked with him for 14 years in JWT. Although I was only a Jr. Copy he believed in my potential and threw me into every challenge he could think of. He made sure I never stayed in my comfort zone and I will be eternally grateful for that.

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

KB: Women are playing catch up. Even with the progress that has been made in the last decade, we can’t take the roles we deserve, because the people sitting in the positions we are worthy of are still filling those seats. I plan on being as open, honest, humble and human as possible to show women that you do not need to conform to the typical CEO stereotypes. It’s not about your sex, it’s about your drive, attitude and innovative thinking.

Lixaida: By being the best Creative Director I can possibly be. Because when other women see you shine and succeed it makes them see that it is possible. That it can be achieved.

 

Read KB and Lixaida’s full interviews in AdForum.

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