my mom was a boss lady before that was a thing

mom head shot

I want to tell you about what an amazing corporate bad ass my mom was in the 1980s and 90s. When I was young, my mom worked 60 or 70 hours a week downtown in a big advertising firm in Vancouver. My brother and I used to visit her at her office and when we arrived, it was like we were royalty. They rolled out the red carpet for us. The first time we got there, I really didn’t understand what a big deal my mom was. But when I saw her office, I understood. She had a huge corner office that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and mountains across the water in North Vancouver. I couldn’t believe how massive it was, like bigger than our living room at home. My mom was the Don Draper of her office, the Vice President and Director of Creative Services. When I was a little girl, I didn’t really get what this meant except that she was the boss and people listened to what she had to say. It was incredible to watch as people came in, asked her advice, gave her things for approval and then treated her with so much respect. She treated everyone like family, like they were one of her own. She was kind, warm, empathetic. She cared deeply about the people who worked with her. They called her Mama Cass for a reason.

I didn’t understand how influential she was in her industry until after she died and the BC Marketing Association named an award in her honour. I got to present the award for the first time in 1995 and I was so proud to be there for her. Over the years, I have seen that her work lives on, in the ads that she created for the BC Tourism, first in support of Expo’86 but then it became much bigger than that. Anyone from BC remember the, “Super, Natural, British Columbia” ads? Yup, that was my mom. She had her faults but being a bad ass boss was one of her greatest strengths. She was one of the first women in a leadership position in the advertising agency world in Vancouver and I can’t imagine what a toll that took on her. When she was first diagnosed with cancer in 1990, she had to stop working downtown, it was just too much pressure, too demanding given how sick she became. I never stopped being incredibly proud of her, of what she had accomplished. Not just what she accomplished but also how she accomplished it. By being kind, caring and loving towards the people who worked with, and for, her. I take my job as a leader really seriously, probably too seriously some days. But I really care about the people I work with, I learned it from my mom. xo Janet

Published by Janet Gwilliam-Wright

Feminist and queer. Professional teller of truths. Slayer of personal demons.

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