Finding our voice on a jury

Kate Stanners
Kate Stanners

Issue of judging as a woman and what difference better gender-balanced juries make to the process and decisions.

I first sat on a jury at Cannes 12 years ago. Thinking back on it now, it’s interesting to remember just how intimidating it was. Myself and Susan Cheadle, who I didn’t really know at the time, were the only two women on a jury of 21. I went from having never even been to Cannes, to sitting on a film jury full of huge egos who were a lot more experienced than me, and it was daunting. I found it really difficult to find my voice in that environment and the only way I got through was by mentally preparing everything I was going to say and by throwing myself completely into the fight.

Cut to 2015 when I went back to Cannes and was asked to judge on the exact same jury. By that time, I was the most senior woman in the room but there was still only two or three women on a jury of 22. It was a different experience and I can remember there being a few pieces of work that I really fought for, one of them being the Magnum film, "Be true to your pleasure", that starred several transgender people. I thought it was incredibly powerful and beautiful.

Another woman on the jury was the chief creative officer of Deutsch New York, and it became clear that she and I both liked the same things. I realised then, although still not in its entirety, that gender was the discerning factor at play. Although, if I’m honest, it wasn’t until this year that it really dawned on me. I judged Titanium and Integrated this year and for the first time the gender lens was finally balanced. We were a jury of 50/50 men and women and due to the very nature of Titanium we watched a lot of creative work that polarized the group.

One defining example was the "Kenzo World" film. The men in the room agreed the piece was an amazing film, but it resonated on a much deeper level and in an utterly different way with the women. It said to us - you can be kooky, you don’t just have to be beautiful, you can also be a bit mental and mad. I’ve always been told by clients that women don’t like to look stupid in films but actually it turns out, woman can be shown to be fun and also silly and still be aspirational.

Not surprisingly, "Fearless Girl" was unanimous but again the women felt something about what it actually did and meant. On a professional basis we could all applaud how it had impacted the world, but the emotive nature of the idea that it was this little strong girl, spoke to us more profoundly.

In the end, we all laughed about the women on the jury being the loudest voices in the room. The process for me was defining because the room told us that it was ok to be a women and to say "I like this because it talks to me" when previously, I hadn’t validated it as being a good enough reason to. It was truly liberating to be in that environment. All the jurors came from different cultural backgrounds, different jobs, each one representing different experiences and rung on the career ladder. It was a melting pot and layered upon all that, it was still ok to play a gender card where previously it hadn’t. Well done to Cannes for in the majority getting 40%-50% juries.

The truth is men and women do see things differently – and that’s only a good thing. However, what it does mean is that women haven’t been able to express ourselves fully as an industry because juries haven’t been well enough represented, and add to this the unconscious bias that the work is selected on, you quickly start to see the problem. Historically male juries have selected and awarded work through a male bias. The work we’ve traditionally put out there, put as our best in class, has unwittingly had a gender bias. It has had a gender lens filter on it.

I’ve realised it’s about bringing what is truly unique to the table and part of that is your gender, as well as your age, where you live and how you’ve been brought up – it’s the total sum of you. As men or women we bring logic, rationale and reason as well as emotion, intuition and feeling. This is what our business is about. Most of us have got to where we are by marrying those together – it’s science and art. The balance is about addressing an unbalance.

Kate Stanners is the chairwoman and global chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi

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