Many people ask how or why I got into triathlon. Some people get the short answer, “It was on my bucket list; I fell in love with the sport, and the rest is history.” Some get a much longer answer. But the more I answer this question, the more I’m realizing how my life in advertising mimics triathlon.
Triathlon takes on three disciplines—swimming, biking, and running. Being an art director, I’m an artist, a magician, and a mind reader, not in that order. Triathlon pushes the level of endurance for any athlete; in parallel, advertising pushes our creative endurance to new levels, each and every day…you get the idea.
I look to the professionals for inspiration as I train for my NOT-very-professional races coming up, and I couldn’t help but notice an age-old conundrum had come up for one of my heroes. Maternity leave.
Gwen Jorgensen isn’t a household name, but if you watched any of the 2016 Summer Olympics, she surely caught your eye. She is the USA’s first-ever Women’s Olympic gold medalist in triathlon. Read all about her here: http://www.gwenjorgensen.com/ #Girlcrush
This January, she announced via social media that she would be taking time off from training and the sport to start her family. As you can imagine, the comments poured in from fans excited to see an Olympian baby. However, as I scrolled through the many congratulations, I could not help but notice a few comments that made me frown. “Your career is over,”—”You’ll never race again,” just to note a few.
While the Internet trolls are out there, and every comment should be read with a grain of salt, I couldn’t help but be sad for Ms. Jorgensen. A time that should be filled with such excitement and anticipation was darkened by the age-old internal battle for women: Career or Family.
Voices whisper, “You cannot have both. Choose one over the other. Those that dare to do both will fail.” I even had a professor in college urge the women in her advertising classes to rethink child-bearing all together, or consider a new career if they ever wanted a chance of getting ahead. Is this really what we are taught?
Just as Ms. Jorgensen was getting trolled by the Internet, I couldn’t help but think of the whispers and pressures that many of my friends must hear and feel as they start their families here in advertising. Just as Ms. Jorgensen’s community was not 100% supportive, I can only imagine that some in our advertising community are not exactly jumping up and down for my dear colleagues.
So while here at Cadient we have a great support system for those people who want to build their families and their careers, I do wonder: As an advertising community, are we supportive enough? Do we encourage our women leaders to return to work? Do we rally behind the women doing both?
Finally, I should mention that one of Ms. Jorgensen’s sponsors, Specialized Bikes, has renewed her contract, and announced on their website that she plans to continue to ride with Specialized. They are supporting her 100% as she becomes a new mom and returns to her career. Read the full post here.
Just as Specialized has renewed their confidence in an Olympic athlete, let us remember to renew our confidence in our own employees (male and female) as they take on new roles as parents. From all of us here at Cadient, congratulations and good luck to Gwen and her husband as they welcome their new triathlete to the world.