Sara Anhorn of Critical Mass Talks Women's Equality


How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?     

Critical Mass has built itself to be the respected agency that it is, and has established a very open, collaborative and welcoming culture—we are fueled by the inspiration and passion that our employees bring, and we use this energy to produce work we are proud of.

We respect and preserve a culture fueled by diverse ideas and create spaces where honesty, humility, and authenticity are fundamental to our interactions.


In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?   

There’s a greater awareness of the need to really listen to our customers, to hear the voices that might not have had the volume that they do now. The time of ‘telling our customers what they need’ is well past, and while there are certainly many more voices that we need to be paying attention to and actively engaging in our work, having women involved has set the precedent for other groups that had previously not be included.


What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

2 areas:

Welcoming flexible schedules that allow new parents to return to working in our fast-paced industry continues to be a challenge.  We’ve seen a lot of progress here, but there’s still a long way to go. We’re embracing new virtual ways of working and  starting to see the need to be more accommodating of competing pressures on our time. Ensuring new parents feel supported to be fully engaged in all aspects of their lives will allow them to be as invested in their professional role as they can be.

Mentorship—building a team of your own personal, trusted advisors is key at any stage in your career. The people you can safely and honestly go to ask for real advice when making big life decisions are going to be the people who you can trust to help you determine what’s the next move. This is important for everyone to have this network in place, but maybe more important for women still feeling a bit more vulnerable and uncertain.

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

The idea of balance is different for everyone and having confidence in that is important. What feels balanced for a co-worker might still feel completely unsustainable for you, and being comfortable accepting that is the first step.

We also work in a time where there is an organic flow between the various aspects of our life—we can always be ‘on’, even when we’re not physically in the space where work normally happens. Establishing some kind of limits that allow you to be as focused and engaged in whichever aspect you’re in can be helpful to finding the balance that’s right for you.

I’ve also found that protecting time every day to move is tremendously helpful- some days that’s just a quick walk outside in between meetings, and other days it’s an engaged yoga practice—whatever it is, some kind of focused movement every day can’t be bad.


What professional achievement are you most proud of?

My most recent promotion to SVP, Talent is one of my greatest professional achievements—being in a role that feels ‘right’ is amazing. Being challenged and inspired, while also feeling supported and trusted is a pretty spectacular place to start each day.


Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?  

Critical Mass CEO, Dianne Wilkins, has been a mentor to many women in our industry, and I feel so fortunate to work closely with her at CM.

Dianne has an incredible ability to recognize potential, and to both bolster and challenge people to realize and exceed this potential.

She is honest, confident, caring, and incredibly driven herself, and truly wants the best for the people lucky enough to be a part of her teams.


How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

Someone gave me the advice once to really define what ‘having it all’ meant for me—there’s no shortage of what others think this looks like, and getting caught up in others’ definitions as represented by perfected social media profiles can be intimidating and defeating.  There has been, and will likely continue to be, pressure for women to prove that we can do/have/achieve/build/etc it all. We’re so grateful to the amazing women who’ve so bravely removed so many barriers for us and for future generations. Realizing how many blockers have been toppled, and how many battles have already been fought in order for us to have the voices that we have today is what fuels me to continue to elevate my own voice, to recognize others who need a voice, and to ensure that my children have the voices, and the ability to listen.