Women In Media’s Jane Evans: “I Was One Of The First Girls In The Creative Department, My Whole Career Has Been A Fight”

Photography by andre&dominqiue
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

One of ad-land’s most decorated creatives, Uninvisibility’s founder, Jane Evans, is calling time on a culture that, she says, sees talented women vanish from the industry in mid-life.

During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.

Over the last few weeks, B&T has been corresponding in different time zones with perhaps the symbol of those three qualities, Jane Evans, who is based in the United Kingdom.

We spoke about some of her biggest career highlights (and by golly there are many), as well as some of the darker moments of her life, and the many strides that must be made for women to receive their rightfully equal piece of the creative pie.

Jane, what does your average day look like?

Is there such a thing as an average day these days? We’re still in lockdown in London so I wake up early to write my book before the kids get up.

I’m here with my two daughters and my eldest’s boyfriend, if it’s sunny I try and keep the day free to enjoy the garden with them, if it’s more normal London weather, I take the dog for a walk then sit and write.

I have a book coming out at Christmas, isolation turned a lot of my hypotheses into facts, which means a complete re-write to an impossible deadline.

What drives you?

The narrative around midlife women needs to change.

When I ended up a single mother on benefits and at the food bank—yes, you read that right, the woman who created the Tim Tam Genie campaign and James Squire beer could not even get an interview for a mid-weight writer job—I knew there was an epidemic of invisibility and unemployment for the women of my generation.

The first women allowed to have careers were only allowed a short one. And if this is happening to us, it will damned well happen to every generation of women below us.

So I started the Uninvisibility Project to lead us all out of it.

What is your proudest professional moment?

The obvious answer is that within six months of starting the project I received the B&T ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ and a few weeks later I was at St James’ Palace receiving a ‘Kindness in Business’ award from the Duchess of Wessex.

But still my proudest professional moments are when a divorced woman rang Channel Nine in tears after seeing our Drive ad in 1995 saying, “Thank you for running that ad. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen myself on television.”

Or the report of a woman running into a 1626 store in Waitangi, clutching a small black and white ad of mine, she hugged the shop assistant and said, “Thank you, thank you, that’s what real boobs look like!”

Oh, and my own agency creating Australia’s biggest craft beer after a career of being told “Girl’s can’t work on beer” was pretty satisfying too!

What is the difference between being ‘brave’ and being ‘courageous’?

Bravery is when you fight for yourself. Courage is when you fight for others.

When in your career have you been most courageous? When in your career have you been bravest?

I was one of the first girls in the creative department, my whole career has been a fight. Many battles were glorious. Many battles were lost. And a few times everyone thought I was out for the count. (Including me.)

Coming back from a very public breakdown and a terrifying stint in a mental hospital to get a good job and win practically every award on the planet for Drive took every ounce of bravery I had.

Or that’s what I thought until my reward from my new, unremarkable, creative director for creating the ‘campaign of the year’ was a new office the size of a broom cupboard, a pay rise in line with inflation, and the prize-winning account handed to the junior team.

After my second visit to the mental health ward, starting my own agency took more than an ounce of courage. But re-starting my career in my fifties has taken every ounce of everything I have, I had faced opposition for being a woman in advertising my whole career, but I had never faced opposition for being a woman by the whole of society before.

Why should women or men in the media, marketing and advertising industries be courageous when pushing against gender inequalities?

First of all, you need to STOP ending women’s careers when they reach midlife. That will save the generations of women behind us. Then, you have to actively go out and find the remarkable women who have been lost to the industry and bring them back as mentors and consultants.

But most importantly, if you are serious about rebuilding the economy you can’t ignore the consumers who buy 47 per cent of everything! If you are REALLY serious, you’ll call on the greatest creative women of our generation to rebuild your relationship with them.

Uninvisibility is a diverse global network of creatives, strategists, filmmakers, photographers and change-makers who are working with brands, agencies and media companies to effectively reach the women we have always been talking to. Us.

And Australia has a very fine representation in the network. Believe it or not, in the 80s and 90s Australia had more women in their creative departments than London and in 1995 we DOMINATED the award scene. Even with all-male juries as proved below:

©Jane Evans personal archives

© Mara Marich personal archives

Have the women and men of ad-land been courageous enough in our fight for gender equality?

NO! If you were serious, you would demand the gag orders be dropped so the women can tell their stories to expose the sexual predators, sexist pigs and bullies that are still at the top of the industry.

This year’s theme for B&T’s ‘Women in Media’ is courage and bravery.

What would an awards focused on this theme look like, to you, and what kind of person do you visualise should be up on the stage receiving an award?

BEC BRIDESON and all the survivors of sexual abuse and career bullying in the ad industry.

All the women whose careers were stymied by a group of men who didn’t think women’s careers mattered.

What should that person represent?

After the glory years of the mid-nineties, and the strides the first 60 or so creative women made, Bec Brideson was a rising star in the next cohort of women to reach seniority in the creative department. These women bore the brunt of a nasty backlash and had no-one above them to help.

After the COWS article, Jane Caro and I were told by the leading head-hunter in town (who incidentally was married to the unremarkable creative director who had just been placed above us) that the ‘boys’ had got together and decided there would never be a female creative director in Sydney and to forget about it.

Seemed the same was happening at every level where the best of the best female creatives were shipped offshore and the ones who wanted to stay in Australia were disappeared.

I ran AWARD school in the mid-90s and managed to get eight young women into the top 24. You can imagine my horror when in 2015 five white guys from those years got senior roles at Leo Burnett and the industry claimed it was because they chose the best talent available.

You can read the whole story of what we did in 2015 at ‘https:jane.london/portfolio’—click on the unf**kable link. The response from many men in the industry was vicious and personal.

Queue another few days in a mental ward. (Starting to see a pattern here?)

Fortunately, #MeToo came along a few months later and I knew I wasn’t mad, well, yes, I was mad, but not mad, mad! Like millions of women around the world we thought the troops had arrived.

Then came the backlash on a global scale from old (usually fat), white, right wing men and their gang of complicit women. And it’s vicious. It’s now time to fight like never before.

Because we’ve seen it all before.

Bec and many like her have NEVER been given the opportunity to shine. And they have never stopped shining. Drop the gag orders and let them tell their stories! We all know them! Protect these women! Find the others with experiences just like theirs. Do it!

Then you’ll know why everyone believed there were no such thing as senior female creatives in 2015. And why there are so many five years later.

Is the slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic an opportunity for ad-land to rethink how it approaches gender issues?

Look, until 70 per cent of men gain equality in household chores and shopping, women will always have control of the consumer spending index which is what the whole country’s economics rely on.

Any agency that doesn’t take the economy seriously will fail. It’s time to shake up the whole structure and the guys need to adapt or go.

It’s time to represent and collaborate, but most importantly, listen to brilliant women. At this time we need all the Jacinda Ardern’s we can get and there are a lot of us out there!

And finally, who is the bravest or most courageous person you know and why?

All of my black women friends. We think we’ve had it tough? It’s been a walk in the park compared to their experience.

Don’t be shy, be proud of your achievements and enter B&T’s Women In Media! Submit your entry here.

You can also buy tickets to the event here, which will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).

And, if you’d like more information, head to this website.

Other key information 

On-time deadline: Friday 21 August 2020 (5pm AEST)

Late entries deadline: Friday 28 August 2020 (5pm AEST)

Shortlist announced: Wednesday 23 September 2020.

Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible! 

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  • Anne Miles 7 months ago

    Thank you for your bravery and fighting for us all Jane. Even though I know older women are the most impacted and I’ve also experienced much of this abuse and discrimination too, this also opens the path for everyone. This is the whole reason Suits&Sneakers was created – one place for the best people regardless of age/stage/colour/neuro/ability. Thank you for raising the flag.

B&T women in media awards Bauer Media bec brideson Jane Caro Jane Evans women in media awards

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