The time for pussy-footing around the issue of gender equality is over

DigitasLBi: teams up with Lister Community School
DigitasLBi: teams up with Lister Community School

DigitasLBi and Lister Community School have been working on an initiative to inspire girls to join the ad and tech industries.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was Be Bold for Change. As the quote below by Ali Hanan, founder of Creative Equals, suggests, the time for pussy-footing around the issue of gender parity is very definitely over.

We need to do something or we won't reach gender parity until 2054…and by then I might be dead. Ali Hanan, founder of Creative Equals

Ali was speaking at an event DigitasLBi hosted with the talent consultancy Koreo on the eve of International Women’s Day, as part of a line-up of 17 inspirational women including: Rushanara Ali, member of parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow; Nancy Rowe, head of insight at Sapient Razorfish; Carole Easton, chief executive at Young Women's Trust; and Fern Miller, our very own chief marketing officer, international.

Much of Ali’s focus with Creative Equals is on the lack of representation of women within the creative sector. This she argues is not just weird – it’s bad business. After all, how can you effectively talk to half the population if your creative department is staffed entirely by men?

And so it was with these ideas in our minds that we welcomed 16 girls from Lister Community School in Newham through our doors the following day.

The girls were invited as part of our desire to not only discuss the serious issues at play in our industry but to take effective steps at stimulating change. Working with the Ideas Foundation we put together a programme of events for the girls to inspire them with what it’s possible to do within our industry and plant the seed in their minds that a career in creative and tech sectors is a good idea for young women.

At the heart of the day’s programme of events was a creative challenge. Almost a year ago today, DigitasLBi and Plume Labs set the Pigeon Air Patrol flying over London in an effort to raise awareness of the very real problem of air pollution.

One year on, despite even the best efforts of our pigeons and the miles of column inches they generated - the problem is even worse. With the World Health Organisation this week publishing a report stating that the cost of a polluted environment is 1.7 million child deaths a year, we thought it was time to engage with the very generation who are set to suffer most from air pollution by inviting them to respond to the problem in a creative way to help to raise awareness of the issues. 

Having split into four groups of four, the girls presented back their ideas. What was most noticeable about the responses was their instinctive understanding of how to use established communications techniques to spread the message.

One group opted for a poster campaign with a built in social media call-to-action. One focused on the importance of data as a storytelling device to help bring the problem to life. One went down the celebrity engagement path and suggested an innovative tie up with established TV properties such as SpongeBob SquarePants to engage even the youngest of audiences, while the final group created a dystopian experiential virtual reality campaign designed to highlight the very real dangers of continuing to travel down this dangerously polluted path.

The campaign ideas demonstrated the girls’ ability to hop between media and their willingness to embrace any format to communicate their message.

And so, what did the experience tell us? It told us that the future is very bright - if we can harness it. There is still a lot of work to do to reach out to girls to encourage them to join our industry.

Working with Lister Community School has left us very firmly with the impression that if we can make strides in this direction, we can start to address one of the key problems in our industry – and create much better work for our clients as a result.

Stuart Aitken is the head of brand and content at DigitasLBi.

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