From what the fuck, to giving a fuck

In this guest post, Bec Brideson looks back on the 12 months since Cindy Gallop returned gender diversity in adland Australia to the public forum...

Do you feel that? The winds of diversity are blowing us swiftly from simply talking about it to giving it a fucking go.

Honest, accountable conversations are happening around diversity where there was once silence. Denying gender bias now makes you the outsider and ‘shutting up and getting on with it’ is no longer your only option.

Bec Brideson - 2016 cropped

Thanks to digital disruption, we are open to doing things in a new way with new perspectives. We are finding ways to bring the command and control mindset on a journey of growth, change and transformation.

Gallop's tweet kicked off a huge debate

Thank god Cindy Gallop shocked the industry out of complacency a year ago when she declared “what the fuck are u thinking?” in response to the announcement by Leo Burnett that the agency had hired five white guys.

Swearing like a sailor got noticed and her locker-room language brought her an invite to fire off another powerful speech mid-year in Australia at Mumbrella 360 about how diversity makes businesses a “goddam shit-tonne of money”.  #nolies #changetheratio


Without these conversations, I hate to think of how many more advertisements we would have had to endure where only white, male Bondi hipsters represent great brands. This affiliation bias has to stop because we all know women are the most powerful consumer market.

Women buy and influence 85% of discretionary household purchases and thus have the ability to deliver untapped growth and opportunity.

Aldi saw the positive effects of this with Aldi Mum and its children’s line with Colette Dinnigan, which sold out within a few hours, and later resold on Ebay at twice the price.

By learning how to utilise the #femalelens, brands grow as does customer loyalty and profit.

In Queensland, six farmers’ wives increased the value of “stock feed” carrots from $50 to $5000 a tonne. How? #FemaleLens. Through their brilliant insight they not only drove revenue through the roof, they also cut school lunch preparation down for time-poor parents. Female-lensed thinking has turned wasted opportunity into billions of dollars.abc-landline-carrots-girl-power-screen-shot

Similarly, women can boycott a brand en masse as evidenced with Ivanka Trump’s collection, they continue to petition against sexual objectification in media, and entire populations can rally together against the gender pay gap, sexual violence and for the rights to their own bodies.

You see, where there is a dominant mono-culture, change happens at the edges. Look around here and you’ll see plenty jumping in face-first and navigating the rapids of the diversity movement for better business.

For our male allies and champions who have come forward we celebrate you because you get this is not a female-only problem. It’s not for the faint-hearted to represent the female perspective in the marcomms industry.

Standing up for women with major unmet and overlooked needs as consumers means bringing enlightenment to the old way in which the industry once operated.

Special shout outs go to CMOs Antonio Lucio of HP, Pepsi’s Brad Jakeman and Ann Simonds of General Mills who asked for reflection of their consumers in their agency teams. It’s time for our industry to follow suit and reflect the new diverse world that purchases product (and welcome more ladies to creative!).

Despite the statistically dire situation, I’ve spent a year working closely with clients seeing and enabling this discussion to change the inside of business.

They’re getting that diversity isn’t swiping the seat out from under men but adding seats to the boardroom and having the menfolk move a little to the left so women can “lean in”.

Leaders of their industries like PWC have committed to doing incredible work across the diversity space in gender, race and disability. It seems we are finally changing the world one bias at a time, declaring any awareness a win.

Have you heard the story of 11-year-old African American, Marley Dias? She observed that all of her school books predominantly featured white boys who had dogs.

She complained to her mother she could not see herself reflected in them. Her mother’s response: “What are you going to do about it?” And because #BlackGirlMagic, Marley started and continues to expand #1000BlackGirlBooks.

Marley having started the conversation; was empowered to finish it by taking on the responsibility of doing something about it. We all need to do the same.

This industry is reshaping, relearning and retraining the way we do business with women both internally and external. Recognising that the commercial world was developed by men centuries ago, we need to evolve our business practice to emulate and meet the needs of our changing world – 51% of that now being empowered, modern women.

With that said, here’s my five hopeful predictions for industry diversity in 2017:

  1. POWER TO CHANGE:  We have a responsibility to engineer that amazing bridge between the past and the future. Josy Paul, CCO of BBCO India, made Ariel India’s #sharetheload and changed the social fabric, rather than say it’s already ‘a wash’. By his own reference, it was not a “campaign” but an invitation to men to find empathy with women.
  1. LEADERSHIP MEANS OWNERSHIP: We’ll see more great campaigns like ANZ’s #letsmakeitequal that show how the right female leadership at C-suite level makes change happen. Former CEO of ANZ, Joyce Phillips, who gave this campaign life, is living proof that females bring diversity of insight, and that these results start “top down – bottom up” to create social change that benefits everyone inside and outside of the business.
  1. WE CAN SEE YOU: There’ll be more transparency called for in Australia. Newly formed industry ‘Agency Circle‘ moves to get agencies trained with measured actions. Gender inclusiveness is on the agenda.
  1. QUOTAS FOR VOTERS: We’ll see progressive companies implement quotas not just for board representation but for women in the C-suite and exec teams. Viva-la difference through equal actions: paternity, family-life and EQ training for men because #femalelens. And hopefully ‘The Wife Drought’ becomes compulsory reading.
  1. MEN ON SIDE: Support starts with men standing next to us as equals. Stop the man bashing, start the positive conversations and let’s keep drinking from this half-full cup of diversity and all take responsibility for facilitating this long-awaited, much-needed change. Guys, we need you! Let’s keep creating positive dialogue that engages, encourages, bolsters – not alienates men.

Bec Brideson is a marketing-to-women pioneer helping brands and business leverage the growing female economy with more than 20 years advertising experience and insight. Bec is head of her own agency and was one of only 3% of females to attain the title of creative director.


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