Big Jane is Going Large
By Jane Evans
I met an old friend’s wife for the first time the other day, she looked horrified when another mate greeted me with “Hey up, Big Jane.” Yes, I’m a big girl. I was easily nine inches taller than my copywriter ‘Little Jane’. Jane Caro and I got our nicknames when we worked at JWT. At the time we won so many awards even the agency got a new moniker for a while – Jane Walter Thompson.
But we still got screwed by a little man. We come from a different time.
When I was hired at JWT I wanted a female copywriter, there weren’t many and the best one in town was off having babies. I managed to persuade the agency to hire her three days a week for five hours a day which was absolutely unheard of at the time.
Of course, we rocked it, my diary was blanked out for our precious 15 creative hours a week and I took the briefs, presented the ideas and did the agency bullshit the rest of the time. Everyone was happy, especially management, they got a rock star team for the price of a couple of average middleweights. Unfortunately, we got a new creative director and his ego could not cope with the fact that two women could call the shots, he gave our award-winning campaign to the juniors after we failed to turn up for his first team get together on a Sunday afternoon.
We’d just got too big for our boots. But there’s one thing about Jane Caro and me, we don’t shrink for anyone.
She went on to have her marvelous career. I started my own agency and popped out a couple of kids, had the coolest clients and won a ton of awards—I had it all. Only joking, you can’t have it all, no matter how hard you try. Not at once anyway.
I had money, amazing clients, a big flash warehouse, I even had a Maserati for a minute (not massively baby friendly!) I had the most incredible work-life balance, nannies, holidays, everything! But I also had a man who abused me emotionally, financially and, increasingly, physically.
I gave away all the unimportant stuff to get my babies to safety. It was tough, but there was one thing that got me through. My talent.
And amazing clients. The agency may have moved to smaller, scruffier premises but they weren’t going anywhere because they knew one thing would never change—the quality of the work. Some are still with me to this day. But something changed in me. Stuff that used to seem so important just faded into the background. Going on holiday with my girls was far more important than paying a fortune to enter awards and playing the stupid ‘bragging’ game with the trade press and the bullshit networking didn’t compare with being home when my kids got home from school.
My agency stopped growing and I was happy just keeping it small. But I brought my girls up to reach for the stars and they had bigger plans.
My eldest, a very talented singer-songwriter, had a chance to go to the Brit school in London, my youngest was about to start high school, so I took a leap, sold up and moved us back to London. And I took some time off. I studied screenwriting and storytelling and sold a kick-ass TV series. However, screenwriting doesn’t pay like advertising and I found the solitary life of a screenwriter a tad depressing. Cindy Gallop was rattling her sabre on a new debate, the absolutely appalling lack of female creative leadership in the industry. After much deliberation, I answered the call, I had no choice but to go big again.
I’m sorry girls, but to me, all that talk about the future of creativity being female was just all talk. Actually, it wasn’t even that, I was met with silence.
An industry that was just waking up to the fact that it had fucked up consistently on creative women’s careers for the last 30 years wasn’t the slightest bit interested in a creative woman with real leadership credentials.
I could write another three pages on the bullshit I heard from the few people in the industry that did actually speak to me over the last three years, but the long and short of it is this.
They expected me to lose my ego, diminish my achievements, change my work to look like theirs, and just shut the fuck up and take the cheque (not that any were actually offered.)
A sensible woman probably would. But I love going to industry networking events—especially the women’s ones, (OK, so I only go to the women’s ones—I can’t contain my mirth at the others!) and I am so inspired by the women in the industry—you are all amazing! You’re confident, creative and funny as fuck! You latch on to me like limpets asking me a gazillion questions.
I wish you wouldn’t, I’d much rather hear all the cool things you’re up to rather than rehashing the horror stories of my career, but it breaks my heart to realise so many of you have never even spoken to a female creative leader.
There simply aren’t enough big girls. And we need to change that.
The first thing we need to do is completely redefine creative women’s careers. There’s one thing I will give us ‘radical’ feminists, we understood choice. When being a career-mother was the exception rather than the rule, we totally understood our friends who wanted nothing but motherhood, as well as our friends who wanted nothing at all to do with it.
I find it totally unfair that the point in a woman’s career that leads to a creative leadership position is pretty much the point where the biological clock is ticking its loudest.
Regardless of what you think or plan to do about it there are some weird as shit chemical reactions going on. I say this because you really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I’m not going to lie, menopause is hell, but like Winston Churchill said, keep on going!
On the other side is something amazing. You wake up every single morning of the month feeling exactly the same, you just feel normal, quiet, peaceful almost. From the age of 13, I would occasionally get this weird guilty feeling that I had done something wrong, spoken out of turn, made a mistake, missed something. It really bothered me, all told I probably spent weeks of my life worrying over it. It wasn’t tilI I was 40 that I realised it was PMT. And don’t get me started on baby brain. But when that shit is gone, first of all, your admiration for women goes through the roof.
When you’ve got a crystal clear head you realise just how incredible women’s brains and bodies are and just how much information, signals and chemical reactions we process while functioning at the highest level. It’s astonishing.
What’s even more astonishing is all that creative energy your body was generating to create humans turns into a wave of creative energy and inspiration the like of which you have never experienced before.
Add to that a heightened sense of ‘couldn’t give a fuckery’ and you’re ready to take on the world. Actually, to be honest, you finally experience what it’s truly like to feel like a man. But instead of being jaded and cruising for retirement like your male peers, you’re raring to start again afresh.
I guess no one’s ever seen a woman revive her advertising career post-menopause (I think Nike would probably call that a crazy dream). But I worry the way things are creative women are losing a very important choice. To some of us, there isn’t a brief in the world that could match the incredible creative challenge of raising unique and brilliant human beings. There isn’t a job in the world that could ever come before them. And yes, we still want to work, but to some of us, we just don’t want to do at full pelt, not then anyway.
But you know what? If you succeed at motherhood, you create clever, independent and driven humans which give you all the time in the world to create whatever the hell you want with a gazillion additional superpowers
In just a few weeks Janee has gone from being a small virtual agency making a lot of noise on social media to being part of a machine of brilliant minds who are reinventing the agency model.
Janee has just joined Group of Humans, a distributed curated network of the best designers, strategists, technologists, and creatives in the world, all of whom share a belief that technology should be harnessed not for efficiency but for the benefit of people, society and the environment.
They share my passion for promoting women over 50. We are the most invisible group in society yet we control most of the world's purchasing power.
It's time we were heard. And it's time creative women have another career option.
I see too many of you making life choices out of fear of losing your place in the patriarchy's timeline.
I want to prove the last twenty years of your career can be the most rewarding and successful. Big Jane's getting bigger.
Check out Jane’s website and see the awesome shit she’s done to earn her wrinkles at janee.london