Championing Female Leaders: Kara Coyle On See It Be It
Gabbi Bakeron 21 July, 2017 at 11:07
Cannes Lions launched See It Be It as a response to the gender imbalance in our industry—an estimated 25% of agency creatives are women, and only 11% will reach creative director level—with the ultimate aim of changing the ratio of women leaders in agency creative departments. This year, Ogilvy Associate Creative Director Kara Coyle was one of 15 women from across the world selected to participate (and even won a few Lions while she was there). We spoke with Kara about the importance of the program, her experiences, and her advice for other female creatives.
Gabbi Baker: Why is a program like See It Be It necessary (and important) for young female creatives?
Kara Coyle: For those who don’t know what See It Be It is, it’s a Cannes Lions program that aims to accelerate the careers of female creatives around the world. And it is truly a global program. This year, women came from Pakistan, Nigeria, Bulgaria. I was the only American, and this kind of exposure to a global community of like-minded women was one of the most amazing opportunities of my career. You spend three days together, fully immersed in exclusive panels, mentorship programs, and career-building network opportunities. We met one-on-one with Sheryl Sandberg, spent an afternoon at Google Island (yes, that is a thing) and even got to go inside a jury room and pick jurors minds. No other program gives female creative the access and opportunity that See It Be It does.
GB: What made you decide to apply for See It Be It?
KC: Not enough people know about See It Be It, but they should. While only in its fourth year, the program has quickly gained traction and built out a truly spectacular agenda. I became aware of it in 2016 when one of my biggest mentors and a former Ogilvy ECD, Liz Taylor, encouraged me to apply. I did…and heard nothing. Of course, I shrugged. Hundreds, if not thousands of women apply to the program every year. But when the application popped up again in 2017, I gave it another shot. And to my utter shock, I was accepted. The thing is, I heard this same story from almost every other woman who was accepted. Keep applying—it pays off.
GB: What did you learn from your fellow participants?
KC: Being surrounded by 14 of the most talented, high-achieving female creatives can be intimidating, but also so inspiring. I learned that I can always be doing more, especially when it comes to helping accelerate other female creatives. Many of the other participants in See It Be It have started their own non-profits, actively tutor or take part in formal mentorship programs. You don’t have to be an ECD to be able to help boost else’s career. If I learned anything from my fellow participants, it’s that we have a huge capacity to give. It’s just finding the focus to give it.
GB: What was the most meaningful interaction, session and or experience?
KC: In my opinion, the most meaningful interaction that See It Be It provides is one-on-one mentoring with some of the biggest leaders in the industry. I got to sit down with the Chief Creative Officer of Doner, the Global Chief Strategy Office of DDB, and a Creative Director at TBWA. You get to talk with them as a peer, pick their brains and learn from their experiences. When else are you going to be able to ask honest, unfiltered questions to c-suite leaders? It is unbelievable, unfettered access to people you generally only see on stages.
(The 2017 See It Be It participants with Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook)
GB: You were exposed to incredible mentors (like Madonna Badger of Badger & Winters and #WomenNotObjects). How has that been a valuable part of your experience?
KC: What See It Be It really ingrained in me was the importance of mentorship. Not just to find mentors, but to become one yourself. Karen Kaplan, who started as a secretary and is now the CEO of Hill Holiday, told us to “identify your personal Board of Directors.” Who are those five people that constantly push and champion you? Each plays a different role; each contributes something that helps progress your career. Identifying and treasuring those people is crucial to your growth, both as a creative and a human. And ultimately, we should all strive to become one of those people for someone else.
GB: What do you envision bringing back to Ogilvy from this experience?
KC: Well first off, I would like to bring awareness to the program and encourage every female creative at Ogilvy to apply. No one should feel they are unqualified or “not ready.” You are. On a more personal level, I would like to help live up to (and disseminate) the ideals that I learned there. Things like visualizing your journey. Working in an environment where you are celebrated, not tolerated. Embracing being a female, not shying away from it. And taking control of your vulnerabilities. Those micro-actions can ultimately be life changing.
GB: You’re also at Cannes representing your work with Ogilvy Chicago on “The One Moment” spot for Morton Salt, which won six Lions, including 2 Gold—congratulations! Tell us about what it has been like to be a part of the award-winning campaign and how you’ve been able to celebrate with the team at Cannes.
KC: Winning for Morton Salt was one of the greatest highs of my career. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing something you poured everything in to win big. For a full year, my partner and I sold, developed and produced ‘The One Moment.’ Lots of weekends were sacrificed. Lots of decks were destroyed and then built again. Even on set, half of the crew (myself included) came down with food poisoning. But it was all worth it to create this hugely transformative, viral piece of content for a 168-year-old brand. So to see the Morton work do so well for the brand, and then be honored at Cannes – there was nothing better.
GB: What advice do you have for other female creatives who want to apply for See It Be It? What about those who aren’t able to attend the program but aspire to be creative leaders?
KC: First of all, apply. Don’t hesitate or self doubt. Then when you’re applying, let your personality be heard. The application process is similar to college applications in the sense that it’s long form personal anecdotes. So when an evaluator is reading it, they’ve already read hundreds of applications before you. You need to stand out. Why is your background different? Why is your point of view unique? I wrote my application as a stream of consciousness. The grammar was incorrect; the punctuation atrocious. But it was me, uncensored and unapologetic. I think that made all the difference. And the best part about the program? If you get in, you’re going. The program pays for you, so there’s no excuse not to try. Cannes, here you come.