By: Caroline Dettman, Chief Creative Officer
While speaking at an event last week, highlighting our Have Her Back mission, a woman asked if I had experienced women sabotaging other women (this question comes up a lot). I responded that while I know that this does happen, my experiences with other women – by far – have been positive and supportive.
And over the last year I’ve learned first-hand (thank you 3% Conference, Megan Colleen McGlynn of Girlsday and Lisa Leone) that it’s important to show gratitude to the women in your life who have helped you.
So today, on International Women’s Day, I’m going to do just that for my colleague, champion and friend: Ellen Ryan Mardiks.
It begins with a story that falls squarely within the stereotype that “women won’t support one another.” And it’s a story I’ve never told her.
It was about five years ago that we first met. Of course, I had always known of Ellen – as she is one of the greats in our industry. But now, I was going to get the chance to work with her. When I announced I was leaving my former agency to join Golin, people were mostly happy for me and had nice things to say about Golin. But a few people took the opportunity to try to plant doubt in my mind. They warned me that Ellen might not love that I was coming to work at Golin. She was, after all, the top woman and all that. “Would she be happy to have me join Golin’s Board?” they asked. It was always a question; never a statement. But with just enough edge to make me wonder. Of course, no one ever said anything about my future male colleagues. Interesting, no?
Ironically, on my first day at Golin, I traveled with Ellen to Los Angeles. Your first day at any new job is filled with anxiety – and as if she sensed it, she immediately took me under her wing and introduced me to all my new colleagues and clients. I got to watch her legendary grace and smarts first hand – and even despite being under the weather, she shined bright.
And I knew right then and there two things: first, those people who had “warned” me were wrong. And second, and more importantly, this was going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Five years in, she has become an incredibly strong force for good in my life. We are a bit yin and yang – she is so poised and I am…not. She is one of the best client relationship people in the world and I am…not. As such, I find myself learning from her still and there is nothing I enjoy more than watching her do her magic – whether that is within Golin’s halls or on the Palais at Cannes. Simply put, she wows me.
If you know Ellen, you know she has a way with words. And her thoughtful words in times of personal and professional challenges are something I find myself looking forward to and revisiting again and again. She is also careful, sometimes guarded, about sharing her personal life. Once again, I am…not. But it’s all the more meaningful when she lets me in and I discover something about her I’d never known.
But maybe most of all I’ve learned that she is one of my strongest advocates. All of us have times when a decision doesn’t go our way. But with Ellen – without asking her – she intervenes when she believes in what I’m doing. And that has helped me immensely. And I suspect she does this more often than I will ever know about.
I know this is corny but I bought her a mug recently with these words on it: “Real Queens Fix Each Others Crowns.” She is a queen to me and I wanted her to know that I will always have her back. Because she has always had mine; long before our #haveherback initiative took flight. Thank you, Ellen, for showing me what real queens do.
And to those people who assumed we wouldn’t get along?
Well this story is for you, too.