Why I love working with women

I could talk for days about my job at a creative agency in Portland. But if I only have five minutes, I typically say, “I work with some amazing creatives, mostly women. It’s awesome!”

I’ve worked as a designer or with designers for 10 years, and I’ve worked with men and women, young and old, (continue to list more trite adjectives here), and I have found that, in this industry, women really are the secret weapon. Here’s why:

“Bitches get stuff done,” Tina Fey famously said on an episode of Weekend Update on “Saturday Night Live.” “That’s why Catholic schools use nuns as teachers and not priests,” Fey said.

But seriously. Thirty-something women today grew up having to prove ourselves. For those of us with brothers, it started with simply showing we could hang with the boys, get messy and play sports. We couldn’t just be as good as them, we had to be better to get noticed and recognized. This idea continued into middle and high school, too, especially with team sports. Growing up, it was the boys soccer team that got all the attention and fans for Friday night games. It didn’t matter who was competing at the highest level for state titles, it was who was under the lights and able to sell tickets.

The women I’ve worked with have had similar experiences in school, as well as having mothers who worked. We’ve grown up in an era where we’re closer to gender equality than our parents or grandparents, but it continues to be a struggle and a constant exercise in doubling down and proving our worth.

There really is a noticeable difference here. In a professional environment, it can be very easy to talk but not be heard. Many women I work with are skilled at reading between the lines. There’s an aspect of intuition that’s at play, and it’s wonderful to watch my coworkers translate unspoken thoughts and key in on what a client might want but can’t articulate.

I’ve seen my coworkers flustered, but they never lash out. Instead, the women I’ve worked with tend to be very good at taking a breath and getting back in there, calmer than ever. Women are determined. We’re not afraid to pivot and rework an idea either. There’s no shame in working at something until it’s right (see point No. 1).

OK, this could just be the fact that so many women I know worry about everything and can never seem to shut off their brains, but I see it as a great selling point. In my experience, women think 50 steps ahead and have already thought of every possible scenario and outcome before it ever happens. It brings a dynamic energy. When working with women, I truly feel like we have our bases covered.

Oh, that old chestnut. This is not just about the women I work with who are mothers or who hope to have families someday; there’s a nurturing feeling fostered between each other, too. Despite the very sexist labels that women are “irrational” and “emotional,” I find it’s the women in my office who suggest a one-song dance party and crank up the music or who suggest we go for a walk to help calm the group during hard or stressful times at the office. It’s self-care and looking out for one another.

Women also nurture the creative gifts within the team. We’re collaborative and often build stronger ideas working together than alone. I am amazed by the thoughtful details in designs from the women I worked with previously and currently.

I am very grateful to have been surrounded by women throughout my career. The camaraderie is what I always speak of first and the integrity and drive of the women I’ve worked with is unparalleled. When I see the quality of the work being produced by my fellow women, it’s shocking that women are still paid less. Maybe I’ll be able to write about the glass ceiling shattering and pay equality being a thing of the past in next year’s issue about women in business.

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

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