EA Creative collaborated with a member of Chief, Sandhya Jain-Patel, for a round of questions with women in leadership positions who are making history today.
Sandhya Jain-Patel: What was a defining moment in your career that has led to your current role?
Fiz Olajide: Starting off as a film producer, I would regularly work on video campaigns where racially insensitive creative decisions were being made and the casting of talent didn’t feel reflective of the real world. There was a moment when working on a video project for a cruise line, the client wanted us to cast couples with diverse backgrounds, I suggested a dark skinned couple and I remember people around the room said the ‘look’ wasn’t right and they ended up choosing a much lighter skinned couple. It was intimidating to speak up as a junior member of the team, so I knew then the only way to change this narrative was to be a decision maker. I knew I had to focus on getting to the top where I would be heard and be in a position to challenge people in examining their implicit biases.
Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult?
Fiz: Clients are used to seeing males as lead creatives and directors while the females are oftentimes account managers or project managers. In our New York office, all of our creatives are actually female. Our work portfolio is strong, but we know as soon as we step into the room, we have to work at 200% to get the full buy in that yes, who you see in the room is the creative team behind the work they love, and yes we have the talent to execute to a very high standard.
Sandhya: Have you had a mentor who has helped you in your career? How have you been able to do the same for others?
Fiz: I am blessed to have two badass female mentors who advise me as I progress in my career, encourage me to step out of my comfort, and hold me accountable. One longtime mentor is Stella Onuorah who has been in the advertising industry for many years. We worked together at MTV in London over 10 years ago and currently she heads up a group at British broadcaster Channel 4. I am always inspired by her personal and professional journey, there are not many black women in London doing what she does at a high level with so much vibrancy, creativity, and knowledge of the industry.
I know how important it is to give back and ladder down, so I am honored to be a part of Soho House’s Soho Impact initiative for 2020, where I currently mentor a young female who is incredibly talented and finding her way as a photographer and cinematographer. I get so much out of being able to support the next generation of talent.
Sandhya: Who is a historic woman that has inspired you?
Fiz: I am inspired by Bozoma Saint John who is a black female marketing executive. I love that she is unapologetically herself, an African woman who is fearless, bold and speaks in her authentic voice.
Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?
Fiz: I would say to my younger self that all my instincts are 100% right. It’s not ok that I’m not a part of the conversation, it’s not cool that gender biases exist, but it will change. Keep pushing, keep being hungry, and don’t be afraid to speak up because In 20 years the wheels will start to turn.
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