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Meet Advertising Masterminds, Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk

“Maybe you feel that if you put your head down and work really hard, you’ll get the life and career you dream of. We’ve been there, done that, and here’s the T-shirt: Hard Work Isn’t Enough.”


Meet Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk. They are the ad agency leaders behind Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign. After 13 years as co-Chief Creative Officers of Ogilvy & Mather Toronto, and releasing their first book, “Pick Me: Breaking Into Advertising and Staying There,” Janet and Nancy were named to Ad Age’s 100 Most Influential Women in Advertising. They are continuing to leave their mark with Swim – a leadership consultancy they co-founded to help produce effective leaders.

The title of their latest book, “Darling You Can’t Do Both (And Other Noise To Ignore On Your Way Up)” refers to a time in her early career when Nancy was told not to have children if she wanted top leadership roles. By proving the naysayers wrong and leading by example, Janet and Nancy are guiding women in business to challenge the “unspoken” rules that hold them back from reaching their potential. They took to our podium on April 8th to share their greatest lessons learned, including “motherhood is a crash course in everything you want in a leader.”

Excerpted from, Darling You Can’t Do Both:

If most women can’t have it all, we can have it a whole bunch, to quote Shelly Lazarus, chairman emeritus of Ogilvy & Mather. And we believe that a big step in the right direction is putting a blowtorch to outdated rules that don’t serve us. It’s time to think a little differently. What if you ignored office politics, took a solemn vow of authenticity and spoke your truth no matter how painful the short-term consequences? What if you asked your boss for what you need to succeed, even as you head out on maternity leave? What if you prioritized mentoring others, even, by all appearances, over your own personal advancement? What if the best people right out of school, packed with ideas and naïveté, could collaborate with the most seasoned for the perfect combustion of creativity to solve problems? And what if, once the leader, you created a culture of teamwork instead of fostering the typical model of “be the hero”? For us, doing these things has translated to long-term success.

We had to stop our self-sabotaging behaviours – rules of our own making – that tripped us up as surely as any external fource. Ever find yourself cleaning up after a client meeting, playing out the woman-as-caretaker role, while your male counterparts snag a few extra minutes networking in the lobby? Maybe you hold back from expressing a strong opinion because you’re worried that people will think you’re too aggressive; after all, nice girls don’t get in your face. Or maybe you’re run ragged, not firing on all cylinders at the job because you do the lion’s share of the housework an child care – even if your partner offers to do more.

Maybe, like the younger version of Nancy, you don’t think gender bias is an issue in your career. Maybe you feel that if you put your head down and work really hard, you’ll get the life and career you dream of. We’ve been there, done that, and here’s the T-shirt: Hard Work Isn’t Enough. There are other forces at play in the working world, and women need to get a better handle on them if we have any hope of creating careers and lives that truly fulfill us.

Interested in getting access to role models like Janet and Nancy? Visit our upcoming events page and see which speakers we have lined up this season!