On day two of Spikes Asia 2015, Lucy Hockings, presenter, BBC World News, moderated a session on 'Celebrating Diversification - Putting Gender at top of the agenda'. It featured, Merlee Jayme - chairman and CCO, DM9 Jayme Syfu; Suzanne Powers, global CSO, McCann and Josy Paul, chairman and CCO, BBDO India.
Hockings set the tone for the session by referring to a couple of mails she received at four am in the morning. One of which was about a lady in New Zealand who got a top job, but the men reporting to her were paid more.
"Eleven per cent of the creative directors in the industry are women. Twenty-five per cent of technology industry is women. This is dropping each year by .5 per cent," she said.
Hockings followed this by asking Powers if there's a barrier in the industry for women to enter.
Powers said, "I'm not sure there are barriers in the industry, but there are barriers for some individuals. The numbers do not lie. We need to figure out how to face it. It does feel like it's getting worse."
Syfu said, "Our country has had two women presidents, so it's not a problem on the whole. But, the creative industry is lacking women. The barrier is some women asking stuff like - 'I'm engaged, should I continue working?'; 'I'm pressured to have a baby - can I continue working?' They see it as a long journey."
McCann's global CSO, Powers added, "My children are going to be 14 on Saturday. For me personally, having them around has helped me. Being a strategist, they've given me a new set of eyes. But, it's also given me a lot of juggling to do."
Hockings then brought Paul into the picture asking him whether he looks to hire women in the agency specifically. Paul said, "I don't look for women specifically, but I do prefer to have them. They are perceptive to communities. There are many little stories they can see. Perceptions like a woman CD needs to leave when she is starting a relationship, may or may not be true currently. They wonder whether the HR policy will be friendly enough."
Syfu then recounted the time she was eight months pregnant. She said, "I left the office at 4:00 am when I was eight months pregnant because I chose to work with the team on a pitch. It was me, not my boss who wanted me to do it. So, it's about being passionate."
Powers added, "The fears (women have) are real. It's not easy to do what we do. There are time constraints and pressures that are real."
Hockings then brought up BBDO's Glass Lion win at Cannes - 'Share the Load' for Ariel Matic and asked Paul to give some insight on it.
Paul said, "We did a campaign through which we didn't realise we'd do so well. Ninety three per cent of the laundry is done by women. Women who are working in India usually have two jobs - one is taking care of the house and the other is the professional job. A lot of the women in local trains in India are cutting vegetables etc on their way back home. So there are pressures. We thought we should look at that and we started a conversation."
Building on Paul's comments, Syfu said, "We have two worlds. One at home and one at work. At work, I'm more aggressive since I've to make the big decisions. At home, I'm sometimes the more submissive wife. I check the homework my children do. I don't cook, but I look at what the cook is doing. I sometimes do all this out of guilt of not being home enough. My husband is supportive. You need support from home and office."
Powers added, "I make an effort to Facetime with my children as much as I can when I'm out. I try 'sharing the load' at work now. This wasn't the case when I was younger. I thought it wasn't okay to ask for help and would do all the work myself. Now it's about sharing the load."
Paul then spoke about the scene in India. "Now, there's an amazing thing happening in India. The HRD minister is a woman (Smriti Irani). There are discussions of this (conditions of women working) at the government level. Organisations are also becoming more accepting now."
Hockings then brought up the gang rape in Delhi in 2012 and asked Paul how brands responded. Paul said, "Brands have become heroes post the Delhi rape case. Brands had communication related to their brand messages and that helped."
Syfu added, "The beauty of this digital world is that clients want to be talked about. That can only happen if you create communication that is worth it. Had 'share the load' only been about 'load', it wouldn't have been spoken about so much."
Next up was the Glass Lions Grand Prix winner at Cannes. Paul explained, "The young women form P&G told me about this. We went about it and the idea connected with the brand which itself is about being unstoppable. The brand which was otherwise low on voice was now part of conversation."
Hockings asked whether women who are joining the creative industry lack role models. Paul responded, "There are amazing successful women in the industry and so they do have role models. It's just a matter of how to understand and multiply these role models now."
Powers added, "Role models can come from anywhere. They need not be the the same gender. There are some women who don't help each other because they consider them to be competition and that is horrendous."
Syfu called for a gender balance in offices. "It's good to have a balance in office. Men sometimes PMS more than women, and so it's important."
Responding to a question from the audience about how offices should have policies to be fairer on men so that they could help women, Paul said, "There's a greater consciousness now. We should make this part of mainstream brand campaigns."
He surmised, "I have advice for young men - include women in everything you do - because luck is a lady. My advice to young women is that you are fighting a system, but you have to keep at it. You have to believe like there's nothing else at work."
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