Culture at Mullen

Thriving in a band of brothers

October 6, 2009 MullenLowe

Senior Copywriter Kerry Shea leads a brainstorming session

As the only girl in a large extended family, most weekends of my childhood were spent trying to keep up with the boys and defending myself. I took my fair share of teasing and got more scrapes and bruises than I care to remember. And though I occasionally shed some tears, I always brushed myself off and came back swinging. Little did I know that my boys—as relentless as they were—were actually doing a damn fine job of preparing me for a career as a copywriter, where being “one of the guys” is as big an asset as being capable of clear, thoughtful communication, or being able to present in front of a roomful of clients.

So how did my being on the losing end of a seemingly incessant game of “why do you keep hitting yourself” better position me for success as a Creative? It could be because the boys’ club mentality of Mad Men is still alive and well—aside from all that afternoon martini drinking and secretary ass-grabbing, anyway. But in my version, Don Draper and his team have been replaced by my brother, my cousins and that kid Peter who used to pull my hair in the second grade.

Before I dive deeper into that thought, let me cover off on some important housekeeping stuff. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea here. Being a female in a boys’ club does not mean that I am discriminated against in any way. I am given the same opportunities that any of the guys get. At least I think I am. It also doesn’t mean that I only get to work on anything and everything related to females. Although if we ever pitch a tampon account, I hope it won’t be assigned to a team of dudes.

What being part of this club means is that I’m a recipient of big-brotherly behavior. And I don’t mean the covert, government-sponsored kind. More like the kind where two people might conspire to scare you senseless by flickering the lights on and off while you’re working late in a building rumored to be haunted. Or the kind where someone might sneak up behind you and poke you, just to watch you jump out of your chair. That happens almost daily. Or even the kind where someone mimics you and repeats everything you say word for word, but with a sneer and a high-pitched voice. But I can take it. And I have absolutely no problem giving it right back.

Just to be clear, I’m not standing on a soapbox whining about the inequities of being a woman in a male-dominated world. This is simply one Peggy Olson’s account of how building forts from couch cushions and being a victim of the occasional Spiderman-web tackle with a fart-soaked blanket helped shape me into the Creative that I am. One who is equally comfortable talking about the improbability of a spontaneous pillow fight erupting in a roomful of hot girls, why Brett Favre should have stayed retired, or the horror that is the shart, as I am talking about rainbows and unicorns, babies and puppies, or the magic that is mascara.