Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A shockingly awful gender discussion at Cannes Lion

Today, the first ever gender discussion was held at Cannes Lion, and I must say I watched it in rage. If this industry wishes to evolve and create great work, it needs to shape up its attitudes. 97% of all top jobs in advertising are occupied by men, and this should be seen as embarrassing.
There is a culture protecting a certain type of people, inviting and accepting only those who fit the box, and putting up a barrier towards those who are different.
It´s a room that stinks, and we need to open the windows to get some fresh air in.
I have a three main reflections:
1.   The gender issue is not a problem for women. There were five women on stage discussing what to do about this “issue”. But it is an industry problem when the work is created by clones, a boys club with tight values and ways, and when smart, interesting people are cut out. I would have preferred a mixed panel; I wished for the “issue” to be taken so serious that there were men there trying to solve it.
2.  Stop blaming the women. The women on the panel all claimed that THEY had never had a problem... They even insinuated that women don´t get the same chances because they don´t put in the hours, are not as good as men or are not articulating what they want. The ladies had not even reflected on why men are dominating, but came to the panel unprepared and ignorant. The advice from Martha Stewart was “just go after it”. Yeah right...
3.   It´s not about adapting to fit in. The other type of advice we got from the successful ladies was to get a mentor to learn to become like you are supposed to... But the solution can´t be to turn women into men to make them fit the boys club. The solution must be to close the boys club down and create a new creative environment where ideas can grow. By inviting people with different attitudes, perspectives and mindsets you improve the industry, you get closer to the consumer and to the true insight. Not because you wish to reach women – you don´t hire seniors to create a campaign for baby boomers do you? – it´s about tapping into the lost intelligence, skills and knowledge that women have. The man can´t be the norm if you wish for change.
This is not about rights; it is not an issue raised out of pity. It´s not about us getting jobs because we deserve it or because it´s more fair. It is about the survival of the creative industry. When the windows are closed you will run out of air and suffocate. We need to breathe.

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