Helen O’Rourke, Director in Mediavest explores some of the issues that have been raised during this year’s Cannes Festival.
“What if women took over the world?” is a question asked in the latest single by hip hop artist Common, on stage at Cannes to discuss gender equality in the workplace. Disappointingly, it’s a sentiment that’s become a recurring theme across the week. When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, what some of the most senior and respected women in our industry seem to be endorsing is less a power-sharing agreement and more a hostile takeover.
Across a number of seminars and panel discussions, we heard about women replacing or competing with men – instead of practical examples of how these industry leaders had effected real change in their own businesses to help achieve a more even balance. When one panellist was asked what the best thing a man could do to help women in the workplace, her response was that he should resign and give his job to a woman. The best audience reaction I saw was to a fourth grader’s story about punching a boy in her school in the stomach because he said she couldn’t play on the basketball team! These anecdotes, while tongue in cheek, are worrying.
Yes, women still have to fight for equality in the workplace, in advertising and in all industries. But we should be fighting gender inequality alongside men – not just fighting against men.
What was refreshing and reassuring to see was that all of these talks were attended by an audience with a 50-50 male/female split. As one panellist noted, what’s different about women fighting for equality in the boardroom now, versus 20 years ago, is that now men are at the table with them having those discussions and tackling the issues.
Industries, companies and senior management teams are all more successful with equal representation from men and women. So too will the gender equality movement be more successful when men and women work together to address it. As the title of one talk put it, “Two Sexes, One Mission”.