#WomensMonth: ‘We need more women in untraditional positions of leadership’ – Thandeka Gilbert, The Odd Number

Thandeka Gilbert always loved creativity and wanted to do something creative with her life, which lad her to the world of advertising through studying at AAA School of Advertising. In 2020, she was part of the team at The Odd Number Johannesburg who was awarded the prestigious Umpetha Award at Pendorings 2020 for three radio ads.

You’re a copywriter at The Odd Number. Tell us more about your role here

I am teamed together with an art director we are tasked with coming up with creative solutions for business problems. In this partnership, I am responsible for the copy throughout all bodies of our work, from writing scripts, taglines, captions and body copy. We get a brief, crack a big idea or three, put together a beautiful presentation that is comprised of work that would best bring the idea to life and solve for the business problem and elevate the brand.

Can you briefly share your journey of how you entered the media industry?

I’ve always loved creativity, from literature, art, design and visual communications. However back in the day, creativity seemed tainted when it came to making a reliable source of income and parents weren’t as welcoming of this ‘career’ choice. So all I wanted was to do something creative with my life and still get paid for it and advertising seemed to be the best fit. Through studying at AAA School of Advertising I was able to build a good start in the industry.

Have you faced any challenges in the industry? If so, how did you overcome them?

Wow, there’s plenty to go around; every industry has its fair share. I’d say for me, it’s been confidence. Generating it, maintaining it, managing it because it comes and goes in various doses. So I try to make the best of everything, not giving up and keeping my lamp full so I can draw some magic and strength from it whenever I need to. 

Can you comment on the transformation (or lack of) of how women are represented in the creative industries?

I think it’s very much a work in progress that needs to be part of the industries daily agenda and not only when it is relevant to a cause like a public holiday or whenever GBV stats increase. I think, to some extent, that a portion of advertising is still stuck in the boys club era of adland and can be very cliquey which can lead to being quite intimidating.

We need more women in untraditional positions of leadership, not positions that are more ‘attuned’ to femininity, emotional intelligence, nurturance or sensitivity.

Women deserve to be the key decision-makers at the table and not only exist in a supportive role, and that needs to be actively and visibly supported by the male counterparts of the industry.

Are women, and specifically women of colour, still a minority in adland? How and what should be done to change this?

Yes they are. I’m no financial expert but I think that the gender pay gap and slow career progression for women of colour in advertising (more so creatives) play some roles in this reality. 

The disparities across the board can be disheartening and demotivating to be honest and without the right support or access to the right people or mentors etc. one can lose the patience to wait to gain that momentum further down the line. At the end of the day, people want to be valued and seen and money and promotions are tangible representations of that. Women of colour need to be treated, received and recognised better.

What advice do you have to share with the future generation of female creatives like yourself?

  • Your opinion of yourself and your work matters just as much as of those who will be exposed to it. So always speak up for yourself.
  • Take nothing personally, the next person’s behaviour towards you has nothing to do with you, it’s their own shit, not yours.
  • Being unapologetic doesn’t require you to “be rude”. It means undeniably trusting in yourself and what you bring to the table.

As we celebrate Women’s Month in South Africa. Do you have any words of encouragement for all the women out there?

I wish “words of encouragement” weren’t needed. But with that said I urge all women to be good to themselves. To be gentle with themselves, to put their needs first and to keep feeding all that feeds them in both mind and soul.

What is your involvement in the Pendoring Awards 2021? and what are you looking forward to most about the awards this year?

I won the 2020 Umpetha Award for a Heritage Day radio campaign I did for the Massmart store Game. I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing South African stories, work that is steeped in our cultural insights and celebrates all our cultural similarities and differences being expressed through a fresh lens.

EVAN-LEE COURIE:Editor: Marketing & Media; Head of Content for Entrepreneurship
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