Ellen Ryan Mardiks, Hall of Femme 2020

Vice chair, Golin

Ellen Ryan Mardiks, Hall of Femme 2020

What word would you use to describe your childhood and why?
Lucky. I had great parents and three siblings who were and are my friends. My mom and dad inspired me in very different ways, and both are my heroes.

Tell us about your most embarrassing fail. How did you recover?
There was a particularly challenging client situation years ago that I thought I could handle on my own, but I couldn’t. I needed help and I asked for it too late. I tried not to make that mistake again.

What fictional female character (in a book or movie) has always inspired you?
She’s not fictional but her story is so incredible that she could be. Beryl Markham is the lesser-known of the two most accomplished female aviators from the early days of flying. Her memoir, West with the Night, proves that grit and determination can beat down just about any obstacle. I love her story.

Any real-life women or men you look up to?
There are so many, starting with our founder, the late Al Golin. Al’s special blend of confidence and humility set him apart — and set a standard I work to live up to. Today, I look around my office, my agency and our industry and am struck by the talent — and simply the caliber — of humans I get to work with and learn from.

What’s something about you no one knows?
When I was a teenager, an instructor told me I had the talent to dance ballet professionally. I’ll never know if she was right, but I have no regrets about hanging up my toe shoes. I’m better suited for this life.

Favorite song and why?
If Glenn Frey or Bruce Springsteen wrote it, I love it. And if Brandi Carlile’s "The Story" comes on the radio, the people in the car behind me can probably hear it.

Tell us about your hobby.
My “hobby” is hanging out with the family in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, an Old Fashioned in one hand and a good book in the other, watching the eagles and listening to the loons. There really is nothing like it.

Finish the sentence: To ensure career advancement and pay parity for women, I will...
…continue to develop, mentor, sponsor and advocate for genuine talent.

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you?
I love this business and consider myself tremendously fortunate to work in it. We make an impact every day for clients in every industry. What’s frustrating is that we haven’t fully figured out how to prove that impact to CMOs and other stakeholders. But we’re making progress.

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
In the early days of Me Too, Golin took a stand — and a risk — by going to every office to have open, honest conversations about sexual harassment. We didn’t hem and haw about it; we just did it. These important conversations led to new policies and protocols about what’s acceptable and what’s not at work. I’m always proud of our agency, but never more so than I was with our response to this movement.

What is your golden rule at work?
Expect a lot from people. And support them with enthusiasm and vigor as they work to deliver.

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