Among the most important developments of 2017 were movements like #MeToo and Times Up: each signaled a renewed desire for women to stand up to sexual harassment, and more importantly, a tidal shift in the desire from society and corporations to take action.
January 2017 saw two million women march across the United States. Trump adversaries lined the streets in a show of force across hundreds of cities around the world. All were confused how a man with such a casual approach to sexual harassment, denouncing it as ‘locker room’ chat, could possibly be sat in the Oval Office. That in itself was evidence a lot was left to be done.
One year on and one can’t help but feel that change could well be underway.
From film stars sporting full black attire at awards ceremonies to ubiquitous coverage of the women’s Suffrage Centenary in the UK, loud conversations are being had. This is the case in multiple workplaces and across unrelated fields. Indeed, International Women’s Day feels particularly pertinent in 2018. It’s a day to celebrate how far we’ve come in terms of women’s rights, and an opportunity to look ahead to how the momentum can be kept up to ensure change continues to be made.
And what of the advertising industry?
Historically, women have been heavily underrepresented. This started in the boardroom, and like a plague became apparent when ridiculous gender portrayals of women in advertising slip through the net and onto our screens.
Last year, JWT and The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media released research at Advertising Week New York suggesting that between 2006 and 2016, men were four times as likely to appear in ads as women. The same report found that men received seven times more speaking time than women. JWT’s CEO simply described the findings as “disheartening,” and she was right.
For all this time it is quite clear that advertising to some degree has failed women. Though a select few in leadership positions use their gravitas as a platform to widen and deepen the conversations had in our industry. Because the fact is simple: diversity is good for business.
At Advertising Week Europe in London from 19-22nd March we want to extend this conversation. Our programming features top industry women such as Nicola Mendelsohn CBE, who plans to mark the centenary of the female vote by interviewing a very special guest on stage.
We’ve also lined up Helen Pankhurst, the granddaughter of one of the founders of the British Suffragette movement. Pankhurst will be interviewed by Lisa Smosarski, Editor-in-Chief of Stylist, the publication who have made a significant commitment to raising the profile of women, both past and present.
Another session is presented by BBC Good Food, which will take a fascinating look at how women have transformed the way Britons eat – in a traditionally male industry. The session will look back at how that change has happened, and what it means for the future. What will British dining look like in 2030?