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Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women in Marketing and Communications

Michele Szczypka

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Dotted throughout history are numerous women who have helped shape modern marketing and communications. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor those who blazed trails and those who continue to break new ground in the exciting world of branding, marketing, and communications. Female pioneers and innovators in these sectors continue to have a lasting impact on the industry, and we are highlighting a few of our favorites to appreciate how far we have come.

Elizabeth Arden — Cosmetics Pioneer

Among the earliest examples of a woman in marketing is Elizabeth Arden, who founded her cosmetics company in 1910. She transformed her scientific research as a nurse using burn creams and skin salves on patients into a brilliant brand, creating her own skincare products that appealed to women. Her first Red Door salon opened on New York City’s Fifth Avenue in 1910, becoming a global icon by the 1930s. Arden innovated the makeover concept, offering free consultations and demonstrations at her salons. In 1916, Revlon purchased the cosmetics company for $870 million.

Helen Lansdowne Resor — Advertising Mogul

Helen Lansdowne Resor was the first female copywriter at the prestigious ad agency J. Walter Thompson in 1908. Her advertising prowess revolutionized advertising by appealing to consumers’ emotions through storytelling. Described by the New York Herald Tribune as the greatest copywriter of her generation, she went on to become vice president of the J. Walter Thompson Company. We all have Resor to thank for championing social causes and women’s rights in her campaigns, and for introducing sex appeal into advertising with her then-infamous and racy “A Skin You Love to Touch” campaign for Woodbury Soap.

Mary Wells Lawrence — Mad Men’s Real-Life Peggy Olson?

Mary Wells Lawrence founded her agency, Wells Rich Greene, in 1966. Memorable jingles and taglines originated from her agency, including Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop Plogg Fizz Fizz ” and Midas’ “Trust the Midas Touch”. Wells Lawrence, the first woman inducted into the Copywriters Hall of Fame, was truly a trailblazer in her industry.

Barbara Proctor — Legendary Agency Owner

Barbara Proctor was an African American advertising executive and entrepreneur. She was a trailblazer in the advertising industry, notably as the founder of Proctor and Gardner Advertising, one of the first advertising agencies owned by an African American woman. Proctor made significant strides in breaking down barriers for women and minorities in the advertising world. Throughout her career, she was known for her dedication to diversity and inclusion in the industry. Her legacy continues to inspire future generations of advertising professionals. Her credits include helping to introduce Beatles records to America through a deal she sealed while working for Vee-Jay Records.

Barbara Walters and Opray Winfrey — Media Mavens

Barbara Walters became the first female co-anchor of a network news program in 1976. From the Today Show to ABC’s 20/20 to The View, she was famous for her in-depth interviews with the world’s leading personalities, politicians, and activists.  

Oprah Winfrey is perhaps one of the most influential media personalities of all time. She started her career as a local news anchor and talk show host, and later launched her own network, magazine, book club, and philanthropic foundation. She is widely respected for her inspiring and empowering messages and humanitarian efforts.

These are just some of the many women who have made history in marketing and communications. Their legacy inspires us to continue to innovate, create, and communicate with passion and purpose. Who comes to mind for you first as a Woman in Marketing and Communications? Past or Present?  

Related Reading: Inclusive Branding for Diverse Audiences