Jane Caro’s new book, Plain Speaking Jane is out now, it’s a memoir of exceptional humour and rare insight from a woman who has seen it all, and isn’t afraid to talk about it. From her crippling anxiety disorder, to the sexism and general debauchery she experienced during her career in the advertising industry, the memoir covers everything you expect (and don’t expect) from someone we all know as a refreshingly honest, fiercely intelligent and wryly rebellious role model for women of all ages.
Jane will also be joining us at the Sydney Women’s Agenda breakfast for a Q&A. It’s going to be everything you’d want – hilarious, poignant and unmissable. Grab your tickets now.
Finally, Women’s Agenda is thrilled to give you the prologue from Jane’s book, enjoy!
I stepped out of the lift; the foyer was a hive of activity. People were rushing about with boxes and equipment. The receptionist was busy slotting files into her filing cabinets and shoving things into cupboards. Someone was drilling holes so they could hang the shiny new agency logo on the wall opposite.
‘Morning,’ I said. ‘It’s looking good already. Where’s my new office?’
The receptionist gave me a bit of a look. ‘Down the hall,’ she said, inclining her head to the left. ‘Right at the end.’
We’d spent the previous week packing the contents of our offices into boxes for the move from one office building in Sussex Street to another. The removalists had come in and moved everything over the weekend. Our new premises were only a couple of doors up the road but it was a newer sky scraper with better views so I was looking forward to seeing my new office.
I walked to the room she had indicated. It was small, windowless and dark. One desk stood at the rear of the room. At that desk sat my art director, Jane Evans. Boxes were piled up everywhere, filling almost all the available space.
‘Is this your office?’ I pulled a face. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. ‘So where’s mine? I thought they said we’d all have team offices like we did in the old building.’
‘Yeah,’ said Jane. ‘They did and we do. This is our office.’
‘What?’ I looked around me. The room was hardly big enough for one person, let alone two, and there was only one desk. ‘Where am I supposed to sit?’
‘There.’ Jane pointed at what I had assumed was a guest chair. ‘They said because you’re only part-time you can just sit there on the days you come in.’
Jane shook her head.
The year I had spent working at JWT was one of the most professionally satisfying of my life. I had come back into advertising after five years at home caring for my small daughters. Despite the fact that I was part-time (having – as far as I have been able to discover – virtually pioneered part-time permanent work in creative departments in ad agencies), Jane Evans and I had created a campaign for Drive laundry detergent that had won international acclaim and garnered prestigious awards from all over the world. I think it was probably the most awarded campaign created in Australia that year. It had certainly done wonders for JWT’s creative reputation and there was daylight between the number of awards Jane and I had brought into the agency and those the other teams had managed. The two of us now had strong creative reputations and credentials in the world of advertising. This gave us some clout. Yet here we were, being relegated to a poky back room, and here I was, being asked to work without a proper office or even a proper desk. The insult was gobsmacking.
Fortunately, I was no longer the easily cowed young woman I once was. I was a parent. I had been through some really tough experiences and survived them. I’d been in therapy for years and I had learnt a great deal. I was tougher and stronger as a result. There was no way in the world I was going to accept this disrespect without a fight.
I did not even put my bag down in that poky little room.
‘I will not work in here.’
I gathered my computer and a box of my files and walked to reception. Although noisy, what with the drilling and people rushing hither and thither, the reception area was spacious. It was also light, airy and had a spectacular view of the harbour. I found a power point near the coffee table and plugged in my computer. I put the box on the floor and went back to get more of my stuff.
‘What are you doing?’ asked the receptionist as I unloaded another armful of papers.
‘They don’t appear to have allocated me a proper work space, so I’ll be working from here until they do.’ I gave the poor woman a big friendly smile.
‘But . . . you can’t.’
‘Oh, I’m sure I can. There’s much more room here and we don’t often have many people in reception. I’ll get much more done than I will camping out in Jane’s office. Just look at the light and that view…much more stimulating.’
As I went to fetch more of my stuff I noticed that the receptionist had picked up the phone. Good.
I continued to move all my boxes and files into reception. I was blithely typing some copy when the lift doors opened and a senior manager got out and walked towards me.
Only a year back in the workforce and I was causing trouble again.
Plain-speaking Jane by Jane Caro is published by Macmillan Australia and available now