How Moms in Advertising Do the Balancing Act

Being a mom in the advertising and digital media world means having two very demanding full-time jobs: balancing the demands of clients along with the demands of family life.

Whether that means pumping breast milk while on a client call or knowing when to lean on others and set boundaries, being a successful mother in advertising takes a lot of juggling and confidence. That’s why Advertising Women of New York (AWNY), an organization that aims to empower, support and advance women in their advertising careers, along with Working Mothers magazine honor working mothers in the industry every year who stand out in their abilities to balance work and home.

Digiday spoke with a few of this year’s winners — who were announced last month — to ask them about what has been challenging for them and what advice they have for other young women and mothers in advertising.

Ritu Trivedi, managing director, digital marketplace, Mediavest
Age: 42
Children: two children, ages 4 and 16 months

When you were first going to have a child, what were you most nervous about as far as your career?
Just being able to excel on both home and work front and having control over my life and my calendar.

Did you ever consider taking a step back from your career for you children?
No. I worked too hard and too long to have this career, and frankly, I did not want to give it up and then regret it — or, worse, resent my child for it.

What is the key to making it work as a mom in advertising?
Know that you will not have control and it’s OK. Know that your middle name is guilt, and know when to say no. Now with my second child, I realize how fast they grow, so I don’t feel guilty saying I need to go home to get X done and then log on and do the work from there. I know this time with kids flies, and I give it equal importance as my career. I don’t want to regret either. It takes a village to raise the kids, so ask for help; remember, you can’t do it all, all of the time.


Kelly Wenzel, CMO, Centro
Age: 43
Children: 4-year-old twins

What’s the hardest part about being a mom in the advertising tech world?
By default as an exec, you are an overachiever. If you’ve come that far up the ladder in your career, you are used to going above and beyond — that’s what gets you promoted and into a leadership position — but it’s hard to be an overachiever and have two masters. Either you aren’t giving work the attention it needs or you feel guilty because you aren’t giving your kids the time and attention they need, and it’s really easy to fall into a guilty spiral and feel like you aren’t good at either thing. Also, there aren’t many women on exec and leadership positions in tech or in ad tech. It means there’s very few people that you can lean on or who have empathy for our struggle, and that makes it a challenge.

How do you manage being CMO and a mom?
My company has an incredibly positive culture for women. I am one of three women on the exec team — that’s a first-ever in my career. Because it’s a very supportive culture, I am very transparent about my role as a mom and the demands and needs of my children. The fact that I can be so open about it alleviates some stress. I am able to set goals and boundaries that my company respects. I leave work everyday at 5 p.m., unless there is a client dinner or travel, so I have time to read to my kids, do bath and bedtime routine. By default, I am helping other women in my company redefine a new normal. Now there’s a whole group of young females who see a female exec making this choice, and now they know it’s OK to say they need to go home to their families too and that there isn’t a negative repercussion.

What advice would you give to younger women in advertising or tech who aren’t yet at the executive level?
I’ve given one piece of advice consistently to women who have worked for me who have gotten pregnant: Take more maternity leave than you think you can or need. They are so afraid of missing something or the role changing around them, but my advice is take more time than you think you can afford. Whatever you think you can, extend it by 20 percent. It’s one of the best decisions you can ever make in your life. No amount of job security is worth missing out on those moments with your kids that you can never get back. Women have written me back after saying it was the best advice they’d gotten. No one ever regrets it.


Val DiFebo, CEO, Deutsch New York
Age: 51
Children: 8-year-old son and two step daughters who are in their 30s

How do you balance work and home life?
I find the best way for me to manage time is to embrace my leadership role and surround myself with outstanding talent. I’m very hands-on because I love working on client business, but I trust my team to do heavy lifting.

What advice do you have for other women in advertising who are already moms or are considering motherhood?
My advice to anyone juggling the demands and joys of family and work is to pick the things that really matter. You can’t do everything all of the time! Be there when your children are speaking in public, performing; pick the field trips that matter. At work, be present, have a voice, make a contribution.

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Joy Schwartz, president, Havas Worldwide 
Age: 43
Children: 7-year-old son

What are your tricks to managing work and home life? 
Focus. When I’m at the office, I really focus on the office and what I’m doing, and when I’m with my son, I focus on him. I used to have a Blackberry — before the iPhones — it would blink red at me with messages, but I used to turn it off until he went to bed, and then I would turn it on again afterwards. You have to be really present wherever you are. The second thing is, it takes a village, really. I have no hesitation reaching out to friends and saying, “I have this meeting and my nanny is sick; can you pick up my son?” Leveraging this village of friends and family matters, and I didn’t know that before I had him.

What has been the hardest part about being a working mom in this industry? 
Travel, especially as a singe mom. Figuring ways to do it. I gave my son an iPad Mini for his 7th birthday; I limit his screen time, but I got it so we can Facetime before bed when I’m away — I travel a few days a week. I’ve been at restaurants with clients where I’ve had to step out and Facetime with my child. It’s being away that’s tough. But I like what I do, and I made the decision that I wanted my child to see what a strong woman can do in business. It’s so good for your kid to see you succeed and be happy at whatever it is you do.

Image via Shutterstock

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