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Media exec defends his men-only drinks club, arguing ‘I would expect to see women in women’s groups’

The organisers of a men-only drinking club for digital media executives have defended excluding women from their gatherings.

Gentleman’s Gin Club; From back left: Patrick Darcy, Timothy Whitfield, Matthew Hunt, Christopher Blok, Peter Bray. Front: Imran Masood, Adam Furness, Adam Natiq, Peter Barry

Billed as the “Gentleman’s Gin Club”, the group of industry executives held their inaugural meeting at the Glenmore Hotel in Sydney’s Rocks neighbourhood.

Among the organisers of the group are Timothy Whitfield, head of technical operations at WPP’s media operation GroupM, and Adam Furness, MD of technology platform RadiumOne. Attendees included PubMatic country manager Peter Barry, Celtra director Peter Bray, former Amobee MD Matt Hunt, SpotX country manager Christopher Blok, Sizmek country manager Imran Masood, Cadreon Managing Director Patrick Darcy and ComScore head of sales Adam Natiq.

The existence of the men-only group emerged after a widely shared Facebook post announcing its launch met with opposition from those who pointed out that the lack of gender diversity in senior ranks of the media industry is a major issue. Screenshots of the post – which appears to have since been deleted – were anonymously forwarded to Mumbrella.

Whitfield: “Huge feminist”

Whitfield argued in the Facebook post that he was a “huge feminist” because he has a daughter. He also defended the decision not to invite any women on the grounds that because it was a deliberate decision to only invite men, the lack of gender diversity was not a problem.

Rejecting a suggestion from Simone Krakowiak, country manager of technology company Rubicon Project, that the club could be opened to female gin fans, Whitfield argued:

“This was a Gent’s club by design. I think that Gender diversity issues arise when an event is supposed to be 50/50 by design but ends up being skewed to just blokes or just women. I’m a HUGE feminist as I have a 19 yo daughter and after living in Sweden for many years I TRUELY believe in diversity of all types. But I would expect to see women in women’s groups like (WID, Women in Media etc) and I would expect to see men in mens clubs. Nothing wrong with that.”

Whitfield rejected the suggestion that women could come too

Meanwhile, Furness also defended the all-male nature of the club, saying it was important to keep it “tight” and that it was important to offer men an alternative to groups like Senior Women In Media and Marketing (SWIMM), and Women In Digital (WIM).

But Furness suggested that Krakowiak and fellow critic Karen Chapple, Ticketek’s GM for marketing and commercial, would be welcome to come and present to the men about the topic of diversity. He argued on the Facebook post:

“Following much debate and consideration the unanimous decision was made to keep the club a max of 12 gents by invite only. We felt with groups like SWIMM and WID that having a ‘male only’ club was appropriate. And keep numbers tight was important. We will be meeting quarterly and part of the meetings will be having guest speakers on various topics.

“Could I suggest next meeting we have either yourself or Karen discuss/present how the Gentleman’s Gin Club can support ‘Ginder’ diversity across the industry? I don’t think you could find 12 more supportive Gents.”

When approached for comment by Mumbrella, Whitfield claimed that the event was nothing to do with the media industry, and was instead a group of friends who all happened to be from the media industry and wanted blazers for the forthcoming Spring Racing Carnival, which runs until November. He emailed: “This was a social event (not industry) for a new blazer fitting from InStitu.com specifically for spring carnival.  Fittings take ages so we got DownGinLane.com to entertain the group with funny stories about the rich history of Gin – hence the photo.”

Furness: Told the women they couldn’t join the group but they could come and talk to the men about diversity

And Furness told Mumbrella: “The Gentleman’s Gin Club is a social thing not an industry event. It was a group of gents having a gin (hence the name) and trying on blazers to get ready for Spring Carnival.”

Despite the initial Facebook comments that the gin club would be a regular event, Furness told Mumbrella that there were no plans for another gathering.

Krakowiak, who was not the person who forwarded the screenshots to Mumbrella, said: “My comments around Gentlemen’s Gin Club were made very lightheartedly at the time. However, it does raise the point of why men’s only events are even necessary at a point in time where we are all so focused on diversity.

“I understand that there are women’s associations and groups that hold some female only events. With women still being so underrepresented in senior leaderships roles in media and ad tech, it’s important to foster these relationships and build strong networks amongst ourselves. Many of these groups have very actively opened the door for men to be involved and participate in the dialogue around diversity, because we won’t see much constructive change without everybody being involved.”

According to a survey conducted by the Communications Council, senior management within agencies is 79% male.

The Facebook posts were first drawn to Mumbrella’s attention via an anonymous email which argued:

“We would like call out the Gentlemans Gin Club, a men only club for senior leaders in the Australian media industry, as part of the problem and ask them to consider opening their group to women.

“In recent Facebook posts from members of the mens only club, which consists of some of the most senior executives in the Australian media industry, they highlight their meetings consist of ’empowering speeches’ and ‘solving problems of the world’. There is nothing wrong with this type of content, but why do these men feel the need to exclude the women in our industry when discussing ‘the problems of the world’? Given the current state of the industry perhaps a different perspective would help refocus everyone.

“Based on the way the ‘Gentlemen’s Gin club’ is set up the vicious circle of men supporting men is preventing talented woman from building … important relationships. But do these men realise that their men only club is the type of institution that prevents women for building the important relationships needed to propel their career forward? If they don’t realize this is it their unconscious bias that we should blame?

“What we found most disappointing about the Gentlemens Gin Club is how they responded to a request for acceptance into ‘the club’ by one of the most successful and respected senior leaders in the Australian media industry. As you can see in the Facebook posts, her request was dismissed for two reasons.

“Firstly, some of the men complained that they have not received an invitation to the ‘women in ad tech’ group. If we all agree that the movement to provide equality for women in our media industry is a good and noble cause, why do we need a counter movement, like the Gentlemens Gin Club, that opposes it?

“We don’t need a club for men in media just like we don’t need a ‘white lives matter’ movement. Men in the media industry already have their own club. It’s called the boardroom and that is what we are trying to change.

“While it’s convenient to blame the unconscious bias for these  decisions in reality some men are consciously excluding women. You know it’s a conscious decision when you get a justification for the position taken and in this case it was ‘I’m a huge feminist as I have a 19 yr old daughter.’

“It’s a line we see rolled out often by people trying to justify an unjustifiable position.”

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