Okay, the following post is admittedly a tad sloppy—yet it was inspired by recent commentary and observations.
Business Insider spotlighted Deutsch NY CEO Val DiFebo, clarifying a quote the adwoman made in a 2009 New York Magazine article. DiFebo now insists the statement in question—“I don’t think of myself as a woman”—should have read: “I don’t think of myself as a woman, but a businessperson that is a woman.” One has to wonder if DiFebo didn’t mean to say, “I don’t think of myself as a women, but as a businessman that is a woman.” After all, other high-level female advertising executives have shown that succeeding in the field often demands becoming “acceptable” by White adman standards:
• Socialistic CEO Colleen DeCourcy confessed to being “one of the boys” throughout her career.
• Former Leo Burnett Chief Creative Officer Cheryl Berman stated in a 2009 Wall Street Journal story, “I guess you could say I was Peggy Olson in the 70’s, when I walked into an agency called Leo Burnett. When I walked out 30 years later, I guess you could say I was Don Draper.”
• Former BBH Chair Cindy Gallop encouraged adwomen to “Be the bitch. … It’ll get you more places and more of what you want than receding invisibly into the background in a charmingly feminine way will.” Plus, Gallop constantly flaunts her fascination for younger men and pornography.
• Why, even DiFebo ultimately displays the gender-morphing phenomenon. It’s no secret that Deutsch has historically been a boy’s club—and a wild one to boot. Founder Donny Deutsch is notorious for his womanizing, as well as his penchant for dropping F-bombs. The Business Insider story made a reference to a bright orange sign attached to the white board in DiFebo’s office that reads, “Tell it to me fucking straight.”
It could also be argued that White women have an easier time meeting such assimilation requirements. Diversity experts and market researchers clearly recognize the differences between professional women across racial and ethnic groups—especially the varied attitudes and behaviors regarding work. White women probably greatly outnumber non-White women on Madison Avenue for a reason—and it may be rooted in their ability to relate with White men, transforming themselves and gaining acceptance.
In the end, DiFebo likely succeeds because she is a businessperson that is a White woman.
Why Deutsch’s Val DiFebo Said ‘I Don’t Think of Myself As A Woman’
By Samantha Felix
Deutsch NY CEO Val DiFebo wants to set the record straight: She does, in fact, think of herself as a woman.
The truncated quote that has haunted DiFebo — it comes up in Google searches — was originally published by New York Magazine in 2010 as: “I don’t think of myself as a woman.”
But she told Business Insider that it should have read: “I don’t think of myself as a woman, but a businessperson that is a woman.”
While sitting with us, DiFebo remarked that ever since the article ran, anytime she meets with someone new, the first thing out of their mouth is, “So, I heard you don’t think of yourself as a woman?”
DiFebo has been with Deutsch since 1992, playing a key role in shaping the growth of its New York office. Her up-beat personality reflects the culture and energy of the office.
But DiFebo is no softy. The bright orange sign plastered to the white board behind her desk says it all: “Val DiFebo; CEO, Deutsch, New York; Tell it to me f--king straight.”