Why I'm taking my toddler to Cannes

Cannes typically excludes people who cannot commit to working around the clock, but FCB's first-ever working parent Cannes correspondent explains why it is time for change.

I’m sitting in my room, packing for what might be the biggest trip I’ll ever take in my career. I’ve been selected to be FCB’s first-ever working parent Cannes correspondent. My schedule is crammed to the brim with people to interview and seminars to attend. And my biggest fear?

"Sarah, don’t you dare forget to pack the pacifier."

The amazing thing is, that’s exactly what integrating work and life should look like. Soon, maybe moms and dads won’t have to pretend that their families aren’t as important as their work. Because here I am, heading to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with my toddler, Henry. A living, breathing epitome of bringing your whole self to work.

Bringing your whole self (and your toddler) to work

It all started with FCB Global’s Social Eye competition. The guidelines were to create one social media post that showcased why you should be FCB’s Cannes correspondent.

I thought it was a great idea… for non-parents. I didn’t see how young moms could ever attend an event like Cannes, which typically excludes people who can’t commit to working around-the-clock or leaving the country for a week. Then one day, ironically while watching The Lion King with Henry, it dawned on me that we must be losing good talent in our industry. Parents are still talented creatives, and should be able to attend industry events. With a little more support from their agencies, everyone would benefit.

So I created a video that challenged FCB to send me and Henry to Cannes, to champion working parents everywhere. I’m proud of FCB for not only supporting the idea, but creating a new position at the agency to accommodate it. They plan to continue the FCB Working Parent Cannes Correspondent initiative every year from here on out.

Peeling back progress on flexible working

One of the most unexpected honors to come out of this has been the number of working mothers who have taken the time to connect with me. Liz Cavanaugh, formerly a CD at Ogilvy Chicago, and before that, a senior art director at Bayer.

Liz was smack dab in the middle of her career as a senior art director while raising her three girls—just like me. She pointed out that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there seemed to be some good things starting to happen for moms in our industry. The struggle was real for sure—in that precook-dinners-on-Sunday kind of way. But she and other women were starting to take advantage of back-up day care centers in their buildings, job-share programs, and reduced workweeks. She felt like the industry was really starting to take advantage of all the talent out there. 

But in the last decade, much of that flexibility seems to have been peeled back. Whether it was the economic crash of 2007–08, or the invention of smartphones—my coworkers and I are experiencing a different reality: we’re expected to be all in, all the time. We feel we’re easily replaceable, so we don’t ask for what we need to excel in our jobs.

So let’s start being honest again about the time and energy it takes to raise kids. Let’s ask for what we need. Let’s rally around the current programs being put into place by agencies to help support ALL strong talent. Only then can we confidently own the value we bring to the table as parents. Think about it—we’re a client’s dream! To have teams of incredibly creative people working for them, who also have tons of insider information about their target market it’s really a win-win.

I hope I’m able to fully take advantage of this incredible opportunity I’ve been given. I hope Henry enjoys himself. And most importantly, I just really hope I don’t forget his pacifier.

Henry and I leave on June 15th. Follow our experience at Cannes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by searching #FCBsocialeye and #ParentsCannesToo. And tune into the 3 Percent Conference’s Facebook page on Thursday, June 21st at 3:30pm BST, for a live stream of Lisen Stromberg and me discussing how parents can thrive in advertising and what agencies can do to support families around caregiving. 

Sarah Latz is a senior copywriter at FCB Chicago

 

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