R/GA Austin’s office lead utilizes mentorship and a companywide inclusion program to help bridge the gender gap in the tech industry.
By Kaiti Evans, Photos by Romina Olson
Candice Hahn, senior vice president managing director at R/GA Austin, has worked alongside men through her entire career. Her complex understanding of gender’s effects in the workplace continues to mold her views about mentoring, managing and the technology industry.
According to Hahn, work at R/GA, an interactive agency, involves the intersection of technology, behavior and culture. In short, the agency helps clients brand their companies for better interaction and success with customers.
Unlike most in her industry, Hahn’s background is in chemistry and economics. An analytical mind and composed problem-solving skills carried her to R/GA, but not before she worked in other male-dominated fields, including automotive construction and the pharmaceuticals industry.
“To be truthful, I never really thought about gender that much when I was coming up,” Hahn says. “And I think what’s unique about me, relative to other people I’ve spoken to, is that I’ve never actually had a female boss. Every single official boss I had was male, even today. So, I often found myself in situations where I was the only woman in the room.”
Despite this imbalance, Hahn took every day as a new learning experience in these male-dominated environments.
“I never focused on my gender in those [jobs],” says Hahn, the first U.S. female office lead in R/GA’s 42-year history. “I was always confident that I knew what I was talking about. … I was always very conscious of the fact that I was unique and lucky in having great male bosses who were great mentors. Really, they taught me how to be a great mentor and manager to my people, regardless of gender.”
At R/GA Austin, one of the fastest-growing in R/GA’s North American office network, Hahn and other women are working toward creating a safer and more inclusive workspace. In 2018, Hahn became one of 180 senior female advertising-agency executives involved with Time’s Up/Advertising, which aims to address workplace harassment, discrimination and abuse within the executives’ associated agencies.
“It started with one person and the seed of an idea,” Hahn says. “She tossed it out to a couple other women and the others signed on, and so, it was really a commitment to something that we were already doing, which was creating a safe environment for people to grow and learn.”
R/GA also implemented its Woman Up program, which aims to attract, retain and grow the most talented women in the industry.
“It was originally launched in our London office and it was all about promoting women and creating a safe environment for women to evolve,” Hahn says. “Recognizing the needs for women were different [was important].”
Hahn, who sees the value in mentoring other women in the field, despite never having received such mentorship herself, has helped create a work environment in which women thrive. Building up other women is her way of giving back while also making a long male-dominated industry more inclusive. In fact, R/GA Austin’s management team is comprised mostly of women.
“The Austin office is the office with the highest percentage of female leaders and the highest percentage of females director level and above,” Hahn says. “So, I think [Time’s Up/Advertising and Woman Up] obviously brought more awareness.”