A Woman's Place in 2017? On the Cannes Lions Jury

The announcement of 2017's Cannes Lions jury panel delivers a real sense of commitment to bringing equality at last to the creative industries.

For the first time in Cannes we are approaching a true gender balance with 43% of jurors being female, double than in previous years.

It deserves a serious hat-tip because in 2014 just one in five of the jurors were women.

These stats are part of a serious effort by the festival to do more than just mirror what our industry looks like, and instead elevate the position of women in creative businesses – to look further than the usual creative egos vying for the limelight. Something indicated by a couple of current and vital initiatives Cannes Lions already champions to redress gender imbalance.

"See it be it", the development programme for senior creative women, enters its fourth year in 2017. The 15 women taking part are advocates for gender equality and they can pass on the benefits of their experience on the programme and spread the message throughout the industry.

We need to break the prejudice that women are less creative than men, perpetuated through a difference in stage time and "rock star" adulation we see across all industry events.

Additionally "The Glass Lion: the lion for change" was launched in 2015. It aims to shatter gender bias and inequality by recognising progressive representations of gender equality in advertising and marketing messages. Something the organisers are specifically cautioning juries to look out for this year.

The job on gender diversity is still far from over, and the next frontier is putting creative work by women on an equal footing. We need to break the prejudice that women are less creative than men, perpetuated through a difference in stage time and "rock star" adulation we see across all industry events.

This is why Mr President supports The VOWSS in Cannes Lions this year as part of the Fringe Festival. A showcase of the very best global work made by women over the last year, in what promises to be one of the best screenings of the Festival, which SheSays and The Voice of a Woman are launching.

However, gender diversity is still only the tip of the iceberg, something that the team at Cannes Lions has thankfully acknowledged this week.

Cannes Lions chairman Terry Savage commented on this year’s jury, "We know the work doesn’t stop at gender and we look forward to working with the industry to tackle other representation issues". And it’s high time. Just as we as an industry have gotten over the idea that our customers don’t just fit into an AB or C1 demographic, we have to recognise that diversity is about more than X and Y chromosomes.

Looking at the juries this year, from a nationality perspective there are over 50 countries represented, including The Dominican Republic and Vietnam for the first time. I sat on a D&AD jury with their first Turkish judge just a few weeks ago. But again, that’s only one part of a complex puzzle.

Recently it was reported that graduate employment schemes in the UK had drawn from the same 10 public and grammar schools year in, year out. I’d personally love to see the advertising industry at the forefront of turning that tide in all the decisions we make at our respective agencies.

Businesses such as Commercial Break, Livity’s programmes and D&AD Shift are making it easy for us lazy folk to find great, hidden talent, and should be supported more.

Globalisation, the increasing complexity of media, falling trust in institutions – it’s all challenging for the industry and we’ll find solutions faster if we embrace diversity in all its messiness and wonder.

Getting to grips with apprenticeships, making it easier for mothers to return to work, and people from other creative industries to jump ship to advertising all help too.

Creativity depends on the collision of different concepts to produce something new – the more voices we have the richer and more interesting our ideas are. The truth is that we truly have to embrace the fact that we can’t solve all new problems with the groupthink that comes from a monoculture.

Globalisation, the increasing complexity of media, falling trust in institutions – it’s all challenging for the industry and we’ll find solutions faster if we embrace diversity in all its messiness and wonder.

As much as it’s tempting to make moral arguments around why it’s important, we should also be shouting about the fact that it simply makes better business sense to hire diverse talent. McKinsey recently revealed that businesses that are gender diverse outperform their counterpart by 15%, with this rising to 35% for ethnic diversity.

I’d wager that the impact is amplified when your job is to understand and tap into what makes all people tick, connect with and inspire them.

Laura Jordan Bambach is the chief creative officer at Mr President.

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