Connor Christiansen joined the Foundry as a Public Relations intern in May 2015. Connor focuses on writing press releases, coordinating interviews and, his favorite, posting to online community calendars. Occasionally, we let Connor break out of the intern corner and write for our blog. In honor of International Women’s Day, take a look at what his time in the office has taught him about gender in the PR industry.
PR OFFICE, Baus. (03/08/16)— Jon Hamm’s award-winning run as Sterling Cooper’s macho-man Creative Director in AMC’s critically acclaimed Mad Men creates the false perception that the advertising industry is a boys’ world filled with lavish business trips and debauchery. Well, it’s true. All of it… The force, the Jedi… Wait. Wrong movie.
Although Mad Men is amazing and righteously shed light on the less glamorous aspects of our industry, we are light years ahead of the alpha-male led agencies of the early 1960s and late 1970s. In reality, the advertising world is more diverse, with 60 percent of the industry workforce being comprised of women according to data compiled by The Atlantic. Luckily I work in public relations… which is estimated to be 63 percent women.
So when I started at Foundry, I wasn’t surprised to find myself the lone Y chromosome in the PR department. Like anything in life, the lack of masculinity has its ups and downs. Here’s a not-so-quick rundown of five pros and cons of a one-man PR show.
You feel socially obligated to eat healthier
When you watch your co-workers bring salads and Whole30 approved meals to work every day, you start to think “Hmmmmm. Maybe a diet of Carls Jr., Jack in the Box, Jimmy Johns, and Qdoba isn’t the healthiest of lifestyles.” You feel an inner thirst to fit in that can only be quenched by low-fat vinaigrettes and sugar-free almond butter. In no way have I started eating healthy, but I have stopped taking the veggies out of my burritos and burgers. And my coworkers can attest that I brought a HOMEMADE salad for lunch the other day. Baby steps, people.
A newfound appreciation for Ellen DeGeneres.
It’s pretty safe to assume that nobody in Ellen’s production meetings is targeting me as a potential viewer of the daily talk show. And prior to my time at BG, I was okay with being left out of the Ellen DeGeneres bandwagon. However, once my internship with Foundry started I was reluctantly indoctrinated into Ellen mania during one of the PR Department’s weekly video breaks. First a video of Ellen terrorizing her production assistant and wait, watch this 5-year-old say apparently 60 times, and this video of—just like that I am eagerly awaiting the next video break filled with gems from 13 years of talk-show genius that I have missed. Even while writing this very listicle I was distracted by Ellen once again humiliating her producer with another haunted house tour. Apparently.
Appreciation for Mean Girls is validated.
Mean Girls is a classic. You can quote me on that. Never has this been clearer to me than after my first Mean Girls reference in the testosterone-deficient halls of the PR office. What was typically met by jeers and disdain from my roommates was celebrated with harmonious laughter in the supply closet housing the PR department (it’s a literal closet. New office couldn’t come sooner!). No longer do I have to refrain from wearing pink on Wednesdays or hide my weather-predicting breasts from the world. True freedom. //
Lauren Radio. First off, if you haven’t had the distinct pleasure of working with Lauren Huneycutt, pr coordinator, then you are missing out. Why do you ask? Lauren Radio, that’s why. Lauren Radio is an eclectic station that first hit airwaves in the summer of 2015 when international rhythm and blues artist Aloe Blacc graced Inn of the Mountain Gods with one of his shows, spurring Lauren to emphatically belt out “I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need (Hey hey) Well I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need (Hey hey)“ an average of 27 times a day in the office while writing the press release. Lauren Radio has since pivoted, catering more to fans of contemporary country music, broadcasting tracks from the likes of Thomas Rhett, Lee Brice, Chris Young, and Brett Eldredge with harmonious humming and impromptu performances. Lauren Radio does take requests due to repetitive play of singles (seriously we heard Aloe Blacc for five weeks), however, Lauren Radio reserves the right to ignore any and all requests. Once in a blue moon, Lauren Radio produces original compositions, most recently collaborating with Jen Eastwood, pr director, on the hit-single “Hercules (The Luff Muffin).”
I have experienced firsthand that gender plays no role in a person’s ability to perform his or her job
As a kid, you buy into the idea that America provides equal opportunity to everyone regardless of race or gender. As you age, you sadly realize that this is simply not true. Despite making up more than half of the industry, female PR professionals still make an average of 14 percent less than their male colleagues, according to a 2013 PRSA study. My experience at Foundry is a testament to the absurdity of that statistic. For starters, I make considerably less than my co-workers, although that may have nothing to do with being male and everything to do with my lack of a college degree. More importantly, the 2015 Silver Spike Awards proved that a man is not needed to produce top-notch PR work. The Bauserwomen took home five awards including a Bronze Spike for their work with the Reno Rodeo and a Silver Spike and “Best in Show” for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe grand opening. Clearly, the lack of masculinity didn’t bring down the team, so can someone please explain to me why men make so much more? Because I am drawing a blank.
Girls don’t fart, and neither do you.
Let me start by detailing the eateries that surround Foundry: Del Taco, Jack in the Box, Qdoba, Round Table, KFC, Carls Jr., Doughboys Donuts, and Quiznos. With the exception of (maybe) Quiznos, none of these restaurants forecast pleasant bowel movements. Now imagine wolfing down five value tacos (judge me If you will, I have no shame) from Del Taco and returning to your confined closet/office with your two mature, female colleagues. At that moment you face two outcomes; spontaneous combustion or unprecedented levels of disdain and embarrassment for organically stink bombing the work environment. Yeah, you’d hold it in too.
Having to hear a certain female copywriter praise Attack of the Clones because she had a crush on the actor.
There’s something about the second installment in a film franchise that causes production managers and scriptwriters to seemingly ask one another “How can we ruin something people love in under 100 minutes?” The answer for Attack of the Clones is very simple: Hayden. Christensen. (HE DOESN’T EVEN SPELL CHRISTIANSEN RIGHT). It is no secret around the BG offices that I am the resident Star Wars nerd. You will catch me sitting at my desk typing releases, sipping from my ceramic Chewbacca chalice as a Darth Vader piñata perched on the corner stares into my soul (thanks to fabulous secret Santa gifts from senior account exec Erin Pieretti!). While the prequel trilogy is still comprised of classic Star Wars characters and scenes, it’s an extremely far cry from the adventures of Han, Luke, and Leia. Naturally, my immediate reaction to rave reviews of what I see as the worst thing to ever happen to Star Wars since George Lucas discovered CGI was nothing short of astonishment, yet I kept my cool. As she explained her reasoning, that she wanted to be Ms. Hayden Christensen (I literally cringe every time I have to type his un-phonetic spelling of my name), I felt a sudden urge to go full Kylo Ren on my desk. So help me god if she uses Randy Quaid as a crutch to praise Caddyshack 2…
I suddenly feel an unwavering need to be complimented on my shoes
When I interviewed for the internship position at BG, it was made abundantly clear that shoes were often the topic of conversation in the PR halls. In fact, our old PR Manager, Ellyn, even requested that I display the shoes I was wearing, mid-interview. While the frequency of footwear related conversation has simmered down, there is an echo in my head of all the statements of “Oh my god, I love your boots” or “Those shoes are s’cute” combined with an aching reminder that no one has expressed such love and adoration of my boots and shoes. So where are my compliments? Maybe my shoes aren’t up to standards? Have Vans gone out of style? Are six-inch stilettos not meant to be worn by men? I don’t have any of these answers, but I can say I hate how much I yearn for a shoe appraisal. I’ll just take my Heelys® and go I guess. //
I sometimes envy the web team’s “Man Cave”
Men do men things. We go on riverboat gambling trips. We make our own beef jerky. We talk about—stuff. Being in the PR office with my wonderful lady co-workers, I occasionally find myself daydreaming about a different Connor, one who writes CSS and HTML instead of press releases and anecdotal listicles. This web-savvy Connor would have a place within the “Man Cave,” the trio of cubicles in the BG offices housing three of our web developers, all three males, all three in their early to mid-twenties. Could you imagine anything more wonderful? I can picture it now, the four of us laughing, talking about man-stuff like Star Wars, snowboarding, whiskey, cocktail recipes, the best Whole 30 meals, Adele’s newest album, sales at Trader Joes- shit. What do men even talk about? //
My masculinity is questioned. Often.
One problem when going into public relations, other than the incessant ability of the general public to believe HR and PR are the same ( “Oh you’re in PR? So you like to deal with interoffice stuff and sexual harassment right?”), is the idea that it is a job for and only for women (thanks a lot Samantha Jones). However, I am not always out of the office when my job makes me question my fragile sense of masculinity. Sometimes it’s being asked to assemble and hang the new whiteboard in our office/closet that causes me to question myself as a man. I should have no problem putting this together ‘cause I am a man damn-it. Not much of a man, but a man nonetheless. Yet when I failed and we had to call in reinforcements (AKA Jen’s much more grizzly husband), I knew my status as the man in the PR department was wavering. This wasn’t the first instance of being reduced to emasculating chores. Just ask Ryan Kern at channel 4, who got coffee DELIVERED TO HIM ON A LITERAL PLATTER, by a pretty, long-haired, pink-shirted PR intern at the Reno Rodeo.