There’s something about Women’s History Month that always makes me proud but also deeply pissed off. It’s a welcome reminder of the achievements of women in history and contemporary society and also the extent to which they have been overlooked. Worse, though, is the extent to which they still are overlooked in many areas of life; notably, creative fields and especially the ad business.
Toward the start of my career in advertising, I was asked to change my name to Mickey Maguire on a script because a client didn’t want a woman working on the business. Since that experience, I’ve made it my mission to vocally rail against the notion that there should be any division between what men or women creatives can work on, fighting against outdated ideas that women are particularly good at creating ads for femcare and baby products.
While I don’t think that any client would get away with such a request now, it’s time for every woman who’s ever sat back and allowed male colleagues to take the credit for their idea to speak up because it’s been going on too long.
Everybody’s heard of the design legend Dieter Rams, widely hailed as the godfather of design for the work he did for product design. Few people would be hard-pressed to name his photographer wife, Ingeborg, who was his creative director and a crucial part of his successful design aesthetic. Doesn’t she deserve some credit?
She’s not alone. From Caroline Herschel, sister of German-born British astronomer William Herschel, to internet pioneer Ada Lovelace, there are countless examples of women who have had their contributions overlooked, or stolen, like those of French author Colette and American artist Margaret Keane.
Interesting parallels also exist in other creative industries. In film, for example, many notable female creatives are known and honored thanks both to their own creative contributions and the extent to which the men they work with feel secure enough about their own talents and reputations to share the credit.
Film editor Thelma Schoonmaker has been a close collaborator with Martin Scorsese for 40-plus years on movies such as Goodfellas and Raging Bull. Her three Oscars make her the only female alongside three male film editors to hold the title of most awards in this particular Academy Awards category. Yet this is the same industry in which Rachel Morrison, who worked on Mudbound last year, became the first female cinematographer to get an Oscar nomination in 90 years.
For me, the message here is that in this day and age, the first woman to win or to be nominated for something should be recognized for what it is: a disgrace.
In our own industry, there are many women that do the graft but rarely get the credit for it and often end up feeling blocked out. But to what extent is it their or our fault? As women, are we too recessive and too happy to tuck in at the back? And if we are, what will it take for us to start pushing back to make a stand?
I’ve always worked well as part of a group of people. And yes, there have been times when I contributed ideas that have not had my name on them because they came about as part of a group creative brainstorm. Looking back, should I have been more vocal about my contribution? Definitely.
Am I more vocal now? Hell yes.
It’s not just equal pay and equal opportunity that matters, but equal credit. Becoming tomorrow’s role models for the next generation of female creatives won’t just depend on creativity but also being recognized for it. It’s time the industry stopped taking the “Mickey.”