Fearless (creative) girls

Article by Hafida Abahai, Chief Client Officer & MD Consumer Marketing & Brand PR, Weber Shandwick The Netherlands

It was perhaps no surprise that Fearless Girl by our sister IPG agency McCann New York has won three Grand Prix in the PR, Glass and Outdoor Lions this week. In fact, her spirit proved to be a symbol for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as a whole: this year, “Fearless Girls” are everywhere.

Supermodel Karlie Kloss has been championing coding for young girls. Tommy Hilfiger’s Chief Brand Officer Avery Baker described how she completely transformed the company in just six months. Creative women are networking over manicures in The Girls Lounge. The Innovation and Creative Data juries were gender-balanced. Our own groundbreaking campaign to help Kenyan girls stand up to FGM, #BrutalCut, won two Lions.

And at the IPG Women’s Breakfast yesterday morning, the theme was how women’s identities – whether based on nationality, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, motherhood or work – can affect their perceptions and experiences with media, careers, gender equity initiatives, brands and fans.

There is still work to do. Speaking at the Festival on Monday, Saddia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Employment Initiatives at the World Economic Forum, reminded delegates that progress in bridging the gender pay gap has been slow.

Women are still most likely to be left behind by the technological transformation of the workplace; they need support, resources and training to fulfil their economic potential and pay it forward into their communities.

Within our own industry, we still need to work on tapping into the full creative potential of women and attracting a more diverse pool of talent – something which has been repeatedly referenced across the Festival this week.

During one panel session on women and cinema, renowned Australian film director Gillian Armstrong noted that stereotypes about gender roles persist to the point of impacting who and what we think of as “creative”.

Mentorship and role models have an important role to play here. But it’s perhaps even more important that women feel empowered and confident enough to speak up, and speak out. As Kathryn Jacob, CEO of Pearl & Dean, put it: creative women “should show off more”, and own their ambition.

Kate Stanners, Chairwoman and Global Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, added that finding and nurturing female talent takes concerted effort: it’s not going to happen by itself.

When we encourage and support women in our own organisations, it can be felt deeply in the work we do. One day, and hopefully soon, we will have true gender equality in the creative industry. But to get there, we’re all going to have to be fearless girls.