The new superwomen
I have a group of amazing female friends, they're wandering America making films, writing books, being published, Instagram famous, or running amazing businesses.
My best friend is playing Ronnie Scott's next week. A mother of three, with four part time jobs, and a husband who works overseas.
And that's par for the course, all of my incredible female friends are tough as nails, organised as hell, and love what they do so much they will move mountains to make it happen.
All the women I love are superwomen.
I would never have said this twenty years ago.
You see, most of my friends are over 45 and a strange thing happens when women lose the ability to reproduce. It's as if all of the energy that used to create the miracle of life turns into superpowers.
THE POWER OF INVISIBILITY
Seriously, look around, do you see us?
I was on a rush hour train the other day, it was crammed, but I could only spot one woman my age. An exotic creature in leopard skin, Doc Martens and short, bright red hair. It was so obvious that I was the only person looking at her, I couldn't help but wonder if I was the only one who could actually see her?
(I have a friend who won't go within two feet of the yellow line, she isn't fearing a Frank Underwood throw her off the track moment, she's genuinely scared that some young person will bump into her.)
Invisibility is not a delusion, for a woman of our age it's an everyday occurrence, from being ignored in a sales queue to rarely being seen on a rush hour train.
You see, for a whole host of reasons, there aren't exactly millions of us in full time employment.
And (almost) none of us work in advertising creative departments, where a woman over 48 is as rare as Astatine. Which is totally ridiculous considering 85% of the UK's buying decisions are made by women – 4.2 million of whom are aged 45-55. That's a massive market to ignore or talk down to.
And it’s a problem that is not going away.
A recent survey discovered that 60% of women currently working in agency creative departments believe they cannot continue their careers and have a family. They're probably right. 97% of the world's creative directors are men, which has led to a macho, ego-driven, awards-obsessed environment that is only friendly to ambitious women under 30 whether they want a family or not.
The absence of mature women writing ads means the portrayal of women in advertising jumps from successful career girl/young mother, to white haired woman looking for funeral insurance.
Like in Hollywood there are few real, flawed and interesting female characters on our screens, especially in the ad breaks.
Occasionally a woman in the middle will get noticed by the ad industry, like the magnificent 56 year-old sports illustrated model shown above.
But when an ordinary woman throws off the cloak of invisibility the reaction is usually shock horror.
It's not the men's fault, they've been programmed for years to be afraid of frizzy white haired women. In the middle ages we were burnt at the stake, but now, thanks to JK Rowling, 20th and 21st century witches are cool, just look at the women's reactions as our herione walks to the podium in all her M&S finery.
She has the superpower they all wish they had:
THE POWER OF NOT GIVING A F**K.
You see, while no one was watching, women like Jenny Beaven have been doing incredible things.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. That’s 1,250 eight-hour days, 250 weeks, or roughly 5 years working full time.
So it's incredibly easy to fit in 18 years of child raising, hell raising, or whatever the hell you want, and still be masters of our craft or profession especially when you have…
THE POWER OF CONTROLLING TIME.
Any woman who has run a mortgage, a husband (or not), a kid or two, and still manages to get to the hairdressers occasionally, can usually accomplish more than a 30 year-old man. And that’s before breakfast.
Yet the advertising industry prides itself on its ability to waste time. The country’s greatest ad prize is even advertised as a fitting reward for all the 'long days and late nights'.
In agencies all over the country, young ad people burn the midnight oil trying to prove their genius.
I personally subscribe to the original meaning of genius, the indefinable energy that visits with brilliant ideas from time to time. I also know you never know what time that will be. So, instead of sitting waiting for her, I carry on till she comes to me, whether that’s on the fruit and veg aisle at Sainsbury’s, or just as I fall asleep at a sensible hour.
Not surprisingly, the ideas my genius provides are rooted in reality, from the people I meet, and the situations I find myself in, yet the people who write the words to sell to me and my friends, sit at a long table wearing headphones staring at screens for hours on end.
Of course solid time is required to turn ideas into realities, but sitting down and getting them out is the easy bit when you’re a master and have…
THE POWER TO STAY YOUNG.
I have wrinkles, an almost permanent silver band at my parting and my knees aren’t so crash hot, but I still have the same passion and work ethic I had in my twenties.
I’m also totally obsessed with Onision and grime.
A few weeks ago I was put forward for a freelance job, but was turned down because they wanted a young person who knew all the Youtube stars. Um, I have teenage daughters, and if I want to be part of their life I have to be part of their world. That’s Youtube, indie music, being constantly filmed for snap chat and being front and centre at Zak Abel gigs.
As a creative person I have been ahead of every trend since klackers (and have the arthritis to prove it!)
I have a better vinyl collection than any hipster and didn’t have to Google when Bowie died (I was along for the ride since the Laughing Gnome). Yet for some reason, an industry that’s currently wallowing in nostalgia, doesn’t want real punks in their ranks.
A few years back I was at an award do with a highly successful adman who was getting out of the game. We both walked round the exhibition laughing and came to the conclusion that few great creatives have careers past 40 because they’ve seen all the ideas before and aren’t afraid to call them out.
Which is when we call upon our most lethal power…
THE POWER OF SHAME.
This strange thing happens with your eyes (maybe it’s the wrinkles), but a slight frown can whip the most recalcitrant youngster into shape.
A friend of mine got a job in an ad agency. On her first day a young creative said, “Is it bring your granny to work day?” She didn’t react, she just gave him an old fashioned look, sat down and got on with her job brilliantly, it didn’t take long for him to grovel in apology.
The ability to not react is probably the hardest of the new powers to master (and many never do) but a few deep breaths every now and again can make things better, sleeping on something always does.
Because you always wake up the next morning...
THE POWER OF INDESTRUCTIBILTY.
Life throws everything it can at you, when you've experienced nursing a loved one, losing a loved one, watching a loved one grow up, winning, failing and everything in between, you learn that 'whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger' is not a platitude, it’s true.
Unfortunately businesses, especially advertising, act like an Oscar winning film director, crossing their arms and scowling as we walk past, missing out on exactly what they claim to be looking for: Powerful, disruptive, creative leaders.
Jane Evans is a senior creative available for creative opportunities, consulting, and coaching in London and Sydney.