Mur de Verre


In the months since the Cannes Advertising festival in June I have been mulling over the state of our industry.  As a self-proclaimed champion of diversity in senior management, how was gender diversity represented there this year?

I wasn’t staying in Cannes so needed cabs to and from my out of town room and I’m pleased to report that, for the first time, I was driven by some women taxi drivers, so clear evidence of gender diversity in transportation.   At the WARC future of strategy debate I was one of three women speakers with Suzanne Powers and Lucy Jameson.  When the third speaker Hristos Varouhas had to leave us for a client meeting, WARC head of content head David Tiltman was left with a “Wanel”.  (Women only panel).  The session was standing room only.

Cannes organisers had picked more women for the judging juries .  Kate Stanners,  chairwoman and global CCO of Saatchi has remarked that being on a judging panel with a balanced gender split made its decisions more robust, and celebrates this change for the better:  “Historically male juries have selected and awarded work through a male bias.  The work we’ve traditionally out there, put as best in class, has unwittingly had a gender bias.  It has had a gender lens filter on it.”

Has the gender issue gone away then from Cannes as its organisers are doing more to ensure an even mix?

Not exactly. At the MediaCom fireside chat Madonna Badger commented that team after team that picked up the Lions at the awards ceremonies were mainly or exclusively men.  As one member of the audience (who doesn’t want to be named) subsequently privately observed, since these are the outstanding successes of creativity why would anyone think that change was necessary? (I cannot comment on the proportions of the media agency teams picking up Lions as this is statistically insignificant.  The Media Lions predominantly were awarded to creative or pr agencies.  Only 10 out of 95 were won by media agencies as the lead.) 

There’s been loads of research into the profit benefit to business from mixed gender boards but I’ve seen nothing to substantiate that creative teams would win more awards with more women on them. However with more than 80 per cent of marketing efforts aimed at women you’d think that it couldn’t hurt to try, and might give an agency a competitive edge. Award winning movie director Gillian Armstrong featured on a SAWA “Women and Cinema” session at the Palais (another Wanel).  She stated that while the proportion of movies directed by women is still only 14 percent it looks good compared to the proportion directing commercials.  Which is just 9 percent.   She wryly queried: “I guess the last thing you’d want is a woman’s point of view?” adding: “ It’s just not good enough… it’s the men in baseball caps that get picked every time.” If you buy the idea that you have to see it to be it then you must worry for young women in agencies who frequently don’t even see a single woman as a part of the team running up to accept the Lion. You must also consider if this is the optimum way to build your team to market successfully to women. 

Cannes this year leads me to conclude that our industry still has plenty to do in terms of gender equality and smashing Glass Walls  It is time.  The conditions are right.   Time to walk the walk not just talk the talk.



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