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The Unlikely Hero Of The Gender Equality Movement Is In Cannes

The Unlikely Hero Of The Gender Equality Movement Is In Cannes

by Alona Elkayam


There was this moment in the Lumière theater during Cannes Lions 2019, that I felt would become a part of history. This moment came after Marc Pritchard revealed his own experience with unconscious bias: it wasn't until three years ago that he spoke about his Mexican heritage for fear of jeopardizing his career. Following John Legend share his equal parent partnership with Chrissy Teigen and Katie Couric explain why companies need to fill the void in solving society's biggest problems, I was struck by the idea that we were living history and I that I owned it. I imagined a documentary called Slant No More would be released in 2049 about this time, between 2015-2022. A time when the entertainment, media, and ad industry came together to close the gender gap once and for all through the creation of bias-free stories with bias free experts and actors. And this moment would free commercial and artistic endeavors for the better, like the end of the Hay’s Code in Hollywood.

My experience with unconscious bias came in April 2019. I'd read an article celebrating a “female” CEO that put me face to face with the responsibility that from now on, my leadership must evolve and become more faceted to make room for understanding eliminating bias. You can read about that journey here in Part 1 of this series. I couldn’t understand why the journalist was compelled to focus on gender. This article awakened me to my own unconscious bias and how bias was connected to closing the gender gap. For context, the gender gap’s most significant causes are inclusion, equal pay, and gender bias. Inclusion and equal pay of publicly traded companies can be monitored through the GEI index. Unconscious bias is a bit more difficult to measure, although we can measure the impact of the Gender Equality Measure (GEM) filter, which is a set of principles used to monitor bias in marketing. When implemented, the GEM filter has been attributed to increased sales

I knew as much about unconscious bias as say, cryptocurrency–cocktail conversation. To learn more I flew to the French Rivera to Cannes Lions 2019, one part Oscars and one part Aspen Institute, where the advertising/media/publishing industry and organizations that monitor the industry, would unite to celebrate award-winning work, but also would discuss ways to move the industry forward. One of the biggest conversations would be, again, gender equality.

Read Part 1 of this series: Ushered in by brands and agencies all over the world, a new era of bias-free content is emerging that's good for society and business to learn more about #EqualizerInChief

 To share what I learned, I've designed a digital 2019 Cannes Lions #EqualizerInChief Awards, given to Equalizer-In-Chief'scourageous leaders committed to closing the gender gap. Here are the awards categories:

  • Advertisers and their agencies addressing bias in the work and in the workplace – from equal pay to inclusion.
  • Organizations whose sole purpose is to promote gender equality in the workplace, from equal pay to inclusion.And a third, new, third category that is my particular focus:
  • News and Brand News Media committed to monitoring gender bias from pitch to publish of their content and branded content

AWARDS CATEGORY: ADVERTISERS AND AGENCIES

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Proctor & Gamble – Reimagining Creativity

In the Lumière Theater at the Palais in Cannes, Mr. Pritchard was joined on stage by Katie Couric and John Legend as he shared the work P&G produced the past couple years to move the bias conversation forward. Marc’s own bias story makes P&G’s mission to erase gender and minority bias–Reimagining Creativity–authentic. The projects have given a voice and a label to unconscious bias directly through The Look and Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful, or indirectly by manifesting updated archetypes in Pampers’ Stinky Booty with John Legend, with Legend as an equal duty dad. Reimagining Creativity is just one of many P&G’s initiatives in removing bias outlined in their Brand2030 goals.

Marc, while accepting, with grace, P&G’s responsibility in removing bias, he wants others to join him because “the ad world has been in its own world – separate from other creative industries and becoming less relevant to consumers. It’s time to reimagine creativity to reinvent advertising.”

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Vita Harris, Chief Strategy Officer, FCB

If I’m being honest, FCB hasn’t been on my radar for quite some time. My impression of them has been as a traditional agency that views brand building as a 60-second TV spot. A little unconscious, or rather conscious bias, of my own, right? After listening to Ms. Harris speak on Facebook’s Gender Dynamics and Equality in Advertising panel moderated by Sheryl Sandberg–FCB emerges as an innovator in removing bias from creative and in the workplace. Like SeeHer’s #GEM, FCB created a bias scoring system and methodology, spearheaded by Ms. Harris and Susan Credle, FCB’s Chief Creative Officer, that measure bias in the work they create. Vita says, “by giving labels to the ways we, as humans, perpetrate bias, we can begin to remove bias­.”



  • Watch #NoConditionsApply, FCB’s award-winning films promoting inclusion of women in the Bengali ritual of Shindoor Khela.

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Kasha Cacy, CEO Engine

 

I'd never heard of Kasha Cacy before Cannes, and I’ll never forget her after hearing her speak at Adweek’s Terrace Talks with Adweek's SVP of Programming, Lisa Granatstein.

Kasha shared her commitment to ending bias in advertising by doing what smart people do first: understanding the size of the problem. Red Engine surveyed 2000 men and women consumers on whether they felt specific brand advertising in categories like automotive, spirits, sunscreen, and more was made for them. The study found that “despite women representing 83% of purchasing power and the ubiquity of gender issues in marketing campaigns, brands still are largely failing to create meaningful connections…” For example, only Toyota’s advertising within the automotive category was seen as equally targeting men and women, while in the sunscreen market, men felt that category as a whole was not for them. Missed opportunities were everywhere because, yes, men also need to wear sunscreen and should be marketed to.

And where does this balance all begin? The brief, says Kasha Cacy.

• Read more about the Engine study here.

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Notable: Diego Scott and Verizon’s AdFellows program.

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AWARD CATEGORY: ORGANIZATIONS ADDRESSING EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE

Shelley Zalis, CEO, Female Quotient

Of course Shelley Zalis arrived on stage in Cannes wearing a bespoke WWF belt. She can be best described as Eleanor Roosevelt-meets-Bethanny-Frankel. Shelly founded Female Quotient, an enterprise business that works “with companies and business leaders to advance equality in the workplace by tackling issues such as closing the wage gap, eliminating bias, changing company culture, creating empathetic leadership, and measuring progress.”

She does that through a playbook, The Modern Guide to Equality, to help companies evolve to an inclusion culture. Female Quotient also stages pop-up Female Quotient lounges at conferences like Cannes and the Consumer Electronics Show to foster dialogue in addition to leading Female Quotient’s Equality Bootcamps for brand teams.

What makes Shelley's voice stand out is her emphasis that bias is not a “women vs men” issue. She is clear that gender bias is created by women as much as men and that in order for this issue to evolve, men and women need to be positioned on the same side. Shelley feels there is an urgency to speed up closing the gender gap before the year 2221–Quartz’ estimate of the closing of the gender gap. She asks us to “stop admiring the problem.”

Ms. Zalis is also a co-founder of #SeeHer, a movement lead by the Association of National Advertisers to “increase the percentage of accurate portrayals of women and girls in advertising and media.” They are the creators of the GEM filter used by P&G, Anheuser-Busch, among others.

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Madeline Di Nonna, SeeJane.org

Madeline Di Nonna has been working in moving pictures her whole life, from ABC and Universal, to Hallmark Channel and Starz. Now, as CEO of SeeJane.org, she, along with founder and Academy-Award® winning actor Geena Davis, want to ensure there are enough strong female characters in entertainment for children under the age of 11 to look up to.

Women and girls make up 51% of the US population, but female representation on screen is a meager 1:3 ratio, women to men. Founded in 2004, SeeJane.org is the only research-based organization combatting unconscious bias. During a discussion at Cannes, Madeline shared their AI powered visual recognition GD-IQ tool that measures screen and speaking time by gender and race. She joked, “Well, the tool might not be able to identify Snookie’s background, her tan and everything.”

  • Read the findings of the most recent study, here.
  • Watch their latest film This Changes Everything, featuring Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Rashida Jones, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Oh, Jessica Chastain, Tiffany Haddish, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, and Taraji P. Henson

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AWARDS CATEGORY: NEWS AND BRAND NEWS MEDIA

Katie Couric, Katie Couric Media

Don’t call Katie perky. She’s doesn’t like being called perky, she’s charismatic. Perky is a condescending term for a woman who has spent her life committed to advancing the quality and integrity of news.

After a 15-year career co-anchoring the Today Show, then becoming the first woman anchor of the CBS nightly news broadcast, and Global News Anchor at Yahoo News, Katie founded Katie Couric Media (KCM) in 2015. Katie Couric Media is a production company dedicated to scripted and unscripted projects like Nat Geo’s Gender Revolution, America Inside Out, and Getting There–a partnership with P&G and The Skimm. These projects have one thing in common: Giving voice to people affected by our country’s most polarizing topic: gender bias.

As part of the #BadAssWomen panel on Cannes Lions Beach, Katie shared the stage with Jodi Harris, VP Vice President, Marketing Culture & Learning at Anheuser-Busch, Alysia Borsa, Chief Marketing and Data Officer, Meredith Corporation, Shelley Zalis, CEO Female Quotient, Kristen Cavallo, CEO The Martin Agency, moderated by Maithreyi Seetharaman–co-chair, Fortune Most Powerful Women International.

This panel reflected the totality of the industry's gender bias movement: Alysia Borsa and Kristen Cavallo tackling the wage gap and inclusion; Jodi Harris evolving representation in beer advertising by applying the GEM filter; Shelly Zalis training brands on inclusivity in the workplace; and finally, Katie Couric, committed to the development of bias-free stories that truly reflect our culture.

Ms. Couric is clear that social issues of our time will be repaired–not by government–but by companies. She says, “they are filling a void for humanity" in ways governments cannot. Ms. Couric continued, "we need them to create more stories that tackle social issues.” During the panel, I raised my hand asking who wanted to create a standard, industry-wide bias filter for the news media and branded news media to ensure that coverage of the bias movement are bias free? As in no more “female CEO” headlines. Katie raised her hand. I spent a few minutes with Katie after the panel and pitched the #EqualizerInChief initiative (a filter to accelerate a post gender bias world). Her eyes lit up, and told me to call her. 💃

Leave your name in the comments to become an #EqualizerInChief today and I'll send you a list of resources to begin your journey.

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