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Award-winning Creative Director Sarah de Joya shares 3 things she learned as a woman in the ad industry

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Sarah de Joya, one of the top creatives to come out of the Philippines, is a creative director with years of experience under her belt, and a portfolio of award-winning campaigns on her repertoire. In this adobo Magazine exclusive, Sarah lists down three things she learned as a woman – an Asian woman at that – in the local and regional advertising space. 

Read her piece below: 

We live in an age when women are finally being recognized for their contributions and achievements. More women are stepping out of the shadows and are claiming leadership roles in the marketing and communications industry. There are also countless efforts and programs to help women rise, such as Cannes Lions’ “See It, Be It” initiative, The One Club for Creativity’s Gender Equality Programs, the Gerety Awards, which views creative work from the perspective of all-female juries, and more that help women navigate and, hopefully – eventually – eradicate the biases against them.


As an Asian woman who has been working in the advertising industry for the past 13 years, I’ve witnessed and experienced this gradual shift. I’ve also learned a few things along way that I’d now like to share with everyone:

1. “Let your work do the talking” doesn’t always apply

I used to believe that self-advocacy and self-promotion were unnecessary and pompous. But us women usually tend to shrink and silence ourselves. I have learned the hard way through the years that when we dull our sparkle, we do ourselves and the world a disservice. Great things happen when we allow ourselves to shine because “Let your work do the talking” doesn’t always apply – especially to Asian women. When I became more vocal and visible, my career skyrocketed, and this is why I now advocate speaking up for ourselves. 

It’s important to be servant leaders and be men- and women-for-others, but neither should we forget to give ourselves grace to grow, shine, and thrive.

In our industry, entering award shows is also the norm. Agencies and brands do what it takes to let the world know about successful work they’ve created. They move mountains to make sure their work gets discovered. This is something women in the workforce can take inspiration from and do more often. We can always try to do and be our best, and then talk about, sell, and promote ourselves.

I’ve also learned that when doors close on you, you have what it takes to create your own opening.

2. Business is female

The world has been seeing more female-led and female-focused advertising campaigns, movements, companies, and products. The world economy is also run by women. Not only do we decide what products and services to purchase for ourselves, but also those that are meant for the entire family, such as which detergent, food products, or car to buy. Women are the household’s dominant decision-makers and the world’s most powerful consumers, so brands must create meaningful connections with us by telling women’s diverse stories. The more brands showcase women’s authentic and diverse stories, the more we all benefit, because representation truly does matter.

3. See the feat, not the gender

I noticed that when an accomplished woman does or creates amazing things, people are amazed not by the feat itself, but by the fact that it was done by a woman. People usually don’t focus on the feat, but on the gender. This opened my eyes to the many labels society and even women have put on themselves: Female Director, Female President, SHE-EO, BossBabe — there’s always a qualifier to call out one’s female gender. We put labels on ourselves because unfortunately, we still have to prove that women can do it. We have to keep reminding others, and ourselves, that we can lead teams, create powerful work, and influence others.

My hope is that eventually, people and even we ourselves will start seeing and focusing on the feat, not the gender. That we can appreciate one’s success without having to highlight one’s gender. We still have a long way to go, but one thing we can do is to keep talking about amazing work, amazing feats women do until women-made, women-led projects are no longer surprising.


Sarah de Joya, Creative Director

Sarah is a copy-based Creative Director who has been in the advertising industry since 2010. She now provides groundbreaking business-generating solutions for agencies and clients around the world. She was the Regional Creative Director at F5 Shanghai, where she led the agency to its first Cannes Lion win since 2017, its first win at Campaign AOY Awards in 2021, and its first Grand Prix in 2022.  She also worked with DDB Philippines, MRM Manila//McCann Worldgroup, and freelanced for various agencies in Singapore and Australia. Her projects have launched across China, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, and have left a lasting impression in the local and international advertising scene. She was also featured on Cannes Lions Live Q&A, CNN, has consistently ranked as one of the top creatives in the Philippines, and has also served as a juror in various international creative award shows.

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