‘Secret’s out’: discussion panel comments on the ShEqual survey results

In a panel discussion on the results of the ‘Perceptions of Gender Equality in Australian Advertising‘ ShEqual report, the discussion turned to the importance of male alliance and non-superficial diversity.

Participating in the discussion was OMD co-CEO Laura Nice, Clemenger BBDO CEO Jim Gall, Innocean CEO and founder of Fck the Cupcakes Jasmin Bedir and Bullfrog senior creative Katarina Matic.

The discussion panel line-up

On the report itself, which detailed a misogynistic culture, Matic said: “[The research findings were] not new news and this open secret, I would love the findings now to be that enabler for us to drop that ‘secret’ part. Now it’s out in the open, we’ve done the research have collected the evidence.

“We have a problem, and I think acknowledging that is the first step to fixing it. I really hope the findings encourage workplaces to not only invest in diverse talent, but foster inclusive environments that support all women, women of color, diverse, non-binary folk, and marginalised genders as well, so that we can all thrive.”

In the discussion about the report, emphasis was placed on the importance of male support in order to enact lasting change.

“I think the biggest opportunity that we have is working with our male colleagues,” said Bedir. “Getting them to understand that they are part of the solution. So between ‘it’s not me because I didn’t do it’ and ‘I’m not a horrible person’ and ‘I’m a good guy’, there’s a lot of gray space in between. We’ll be focused specifically on getting male middle-management motivated to speak up and work with [ShEqual] so they feel part of it. I think male ownership is hugely important.”

The only male-identifying panel member Gall agreed, and gave advice to other men in the industry: “When you make gender equality personal, that is a true commitment to yourself, your colleagues and your family about what is right, and what is wrong and what needs to change.

“Then I think change is more likely to happen. It’s more emotionally charged and you are more inclined to make action happen. Let’s ensure we fix the gender data gap, let’s fix the pay gap, let’s enable men to be more culturally competent and be greater advocates of women and let’s see representation of women a mandatory part of the tender process and the work that we do.”

Nice, who was recently appointed as co-CEO at OMD, also pointed to the necessity for a depth of diversity, not merely a superficial layer.

“We have a gambling client, we have a makeup clients,” said Nice. “Such diverse clients, but do we have diversity of gender within clients? Or, do the boys work on the gambling client and the girls work on the makeup client? And I think getting quite forensic within the business is actually where you start making a difference and you also get diversity of thinking as well.

“It’s more simple to look at it at a macro level of agency diversity, but I think the real impact comes when you get into the granularity of how we are interacting and representing with our clients.”

The subject of quotas also was discussed, with Bedir having commented: “We need to get into the conversation around quotas and then we also need to get into a conversation around merit because there is always, I know this from experience with conversations, men believe they got there on merit, but they do not want quotas.

“So does that mean that women aren’t good enough? And therefore… you will have a privilege being taken away and now you feel disadvantaged. So that’s a really, really complex conversation that we need to tackle internally. And I think it’s our responsibility to unpack that.”

Matic added: “We forget when we say hiring based on merit, it’s not an equal playing field. I can see how men might feel a bit, worried if we’re making meeting quotas and hiring based on merit.

“But I think they’re forgetting the privileges that actually brought them there to that point and that it’s no coincidence that you have access to that role at that time. If your workplace is filled with men, and there’s a man and a woman who you could hire and they’re both the same, both talented.

“I think the woman brings an extra point of view and an extra skill. I think we should look at it as a skill. Same goes the other way. If most of your team is filled with women, you don’t have that male perspective there.”

Also in the webinar discussing the report, Victorian MP Gabrielle Williams also pledged a further $275,000 so that: “Women’s Health Victoria and all of your partners can continue driving progress towards gender equality in the advertising industry. We’re very proud to continue partnering on this project.”


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