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  • Jeanel Carlson

Founder Confessions: I Lied About My Title

Updated: Apr 30

I lied when I announced on LinkedIn my recent career move as a consultant at OakBloom Marketing.  A friend called me out on my half-truth posting, “Congratulations, but why didn’t you say CEO?” 

My heart sank. She was right: I downplayed my role in my new venture as a startup founder. Perhaps it was a knee-jerk reaction of imposter syndrome, a fear of announcing and then failing, a way to keep myself small. I needed to reexamine why I failed to stand up proudly and say:

I am the co-founder of OakBloom Marketing.

I realized that I had to shift my mindset. Why do I desire to become a female founder and build a marketing agency, OakBloom, and what drives us? 

Once I regrounded, it was crystal clear: the passion at the core of why I’m building a business is to make an impact and to break barriers. No half-truths — I need to be all in. To walk the walk, the first step is to own my title and #inspireinclusion before International Women’s Day.

Breaking Barriers and Impacting Change

Did you know over two-thirds of U.S. marketers and advertisers identify as female, yet women own less than 1% of North American marketing and advertising agencies?  Every time I say this stat, I cringe — it’s a gut punch for every woman.

After all, women make up a large fraction of the employees driving the incremental success of agencies. We’re often the ones rolling up our sleeves to take the meeting notes, catching the small details for stellar client work, and wowing with big creative ideas. We drive marketing but miss the step to owning the marketing agencies we work for. At OakBloom, we see an opportunity to shatter these invisible barriers and foster a more inclusive environment for how all women show up to lead in marketing and advertising.

Our Journey: Facing Reality of Bias

OakBloom’s transformative journey began with the desire to uplift others and dive into entrepreneurship. However, throughout our careers, we’ve seen corporate layoffs disproportionately affect women—a common scenario when companies perceive marketing as a luxury, not a necessity. A recent study reported that “women in tech are 65% more likely than men to lose their jobs.  Examples include recruiting and marketing, two areas hit hard by the cutbacks.”

It also became evident that while women dominate marketing departments, leadership opportunities remain elusive. Women leaders are bypassed, minimized, or pushed out of advancement due to bias from senior leaders as well as those in the lower ranks. According to an interview in the Harvard Gazette with Iris Bohnet, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government and co-director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School, women get sandwiched from bias below and above - it is a broken rung, not just a glass ceiling when it comes to advancement. She says, “There’s quite a bit of evidence that we don’t like female bosses; we don’t like to be told by women; and we tend to be harsher with women. I don’t think we talk enough about bias from below.” She continues to explain the bias from above: “Executives often discounted our contributions, perpetuating the subtle and blatant ways corporate culture devalues female-dominated specialties.” The glass ceiling and the broken rung toward advancement are real — the double bind is real. 

Despite awareness built by the #metoo movement, bias still prevails, often insidiously covert and unconscious. Senior leaders can tout inclusivity while simultaneously reinforcing the tightrope of “too nice” and “too harsh” women must walk undermining confidence and value — even if results are concrete and significant. It’s time to remove the blinders and be frank about the challenges women face in even the most progressive office environments.

Motivation Behind OakBloom Marketing

The catalyst for becoming female founders for our marketing agency, OakBloom Marketing, emerged as a tool to own our destiny and break barriers in the process. We envisioned an organization where how you were born doesn't overshadow professional worth. Our mission is clear: to help clients succeed and deliver value while fostering an emotionally intelligent environment grounded in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We aim to champion genuine talent, nurture growth, and redefine the narrative surrounding the value of marketing. Our experience has taught us that great work and tangible results should speak loudest— even if they come from the quietest person in the room. We hope, eventually, that tech and business culture follows suit.

Navigating Challenges: A Fresh Perspective

Our journey has been challenging, but we see it as stepping stones toward lasting change. The market potential for marketing agencies is enormous—$390 billion in the U.S. alone—with less than 1% run by women, there’s a lot of opportunity for a fresh perspective and a new status quo. The road may be challenging, but we aspire to network with advocates and pave the way for meaningful change.

At the end of the day, OakBloom Marketing is not just a business venture; it's a commitment to breaking barriers, challenging norms, and empowering women in marketing and advertising. We aspire to turn this vision into a reality and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive future for our industry.

OakBloom Marketing helps startups and technology companies stop swirling and grow marketing success. Contact us here or subscribe to our blog.


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