But this season, alongside all the usual cocktail-fueled networking, client-stealing, and wee-hours frolicking (now resulting in obnoxious Facebook photo postings), a less fun reality has surfaced: how shockingly few women are on award show juries in general. That’s probably a byproduct of the fact that 97% of creative directors in advertising are male.
Yup, 60 or so year since the fictional Peggy Olson first put on her copy hat in “Mad Men,” that’s an actual statistic. That’s why Kat Gordon, an agency copywriter, has formed “3 % Conference” in San Francisco, a creative equality fest that will take place for the second time this October.
Clearly, the more this world does not include women (not to mention non-whites), the more it becomes a self-perpetuating closed loop: men speak on the panels, judge the work, and (by and large) pick up the trophies. And the cyle continues.
The gender disparity is true not only at Cannes, but at the industry award shows across the board.
For data’s sake, let’s just pick on the Clios, which were held on May 15. The show had 10 juries led by 10 men. Just 16 of the other 69 jurors were women.
But nothing made the blatant dude-centrism of the evening clearer than the Clios home page, which featured a tall cartoon man modeling “what creatives wear to the ceremony.” One item: “Hideous jacket designed by hot but untalented girlfriend.”
(I guess a woman could have a “hot but untalented” girlfriend, but let’s fight one battle at a time here.)
When Cindy Gallop, former BBH exec, founder of IfWeRantheWorld.com and MakeLoveNotPorn.com, got up on stage to present at The Art Directors’ Club Awards in Miami earlier this spring, she spoke about the problem ad hoc from the podium.
The remarks stayed with Ignacio Oreamuno, the Club’s executive director, who recently announced the launch of “The 50/50 Initiative. He registered the news in a groundbreakingly visual way by issuing a last-minute invitation to “all the women in advertising in New York” to come to the club to take a group picture. More than 150 women showed up for the solidarity photo, taken by Monte Isom, and it felt historic.
Saying that it’s just plain good business to have a more equal split, Oreamuno read the 50/50 Initiative mission statement, calling for “drastic and measurable changes to the roles and participation of women within the creative sector” -- specifically, “an equal level of participation for both genders across award show juries, boards of directors and events and speaker lineups.”
In a show of competitive collaboration, all of the award shows and advertising associations like the 4As have signed on. A special badge is being created for associations that do achieve that gender balance in speakers, panels and juries.
Perhaps most importantly, the Initiative is putting together a directory of thousands of names of qualified creative women in advertising from around the world who can be tapped for jury and speaker/panel participation. The hope is that having the resource will stem the usual excuses of selection committees that they tried to get women, but couldn’t “find any.”
Gallop often speaks to this “where are the women?” issue at conferences, and addresses the men in the audience this way: “Imagine that, for years, you’d been attending conferences where you never saw anyone of your own gender onstage. Imagine that you never saw speakers and role models of your own gender, whom you could look up at and think, wow, if they can do it, then so can I.
"And imagine that all around you, the vast majority of the audience at those conferences were not your own gender, either. How do you think you’d feel? Well – that’s what we women live with all the time. Otherwise known as ‘the norm.’
"The issue is role models. You can't be what you can't see.”
It seems basic enough -- now let's start breaking the cycle.