Cindy Gal­lop: “I am hor­ri­fied…”

Cindy Gal­lop, di­ver­sity ad­vo­cate, ad­ver­tis­ing con­sul­tant and founder of Ifw­er­an­the­world, of­fers an in­ter­na­tional per­spec­tive on sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try

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I’ve been speak­ing pub­licly about sex­ual ha­rass­ment as a busi­ness is­sue for years, and about how en­demic it is in our in­dus­try be­cause no­body else was.

Three months ago, as the Har­vey We­in­stein saga ex­ploded, I seized the mo­ment and posted on Face­book ad­dress­ing ad in­dus­try women and men, say­ing the time had come to name names.

I was im­me­di­ately in­un­dated with emails from women and men all over the world (in­clud­ing the Mid­dle East).

I am hor­ri­fied, ap­palled and dis­gusted by what is show­ing up in my in­box.

I al­ways knew it was bad. I never knew it was this bad.

I am hor­ri­fied at the scale and scope of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in our in­dus­try (I hear from women for whom it started 30 years ago, and from 22-year-olds who can­not be­lieve the in­dus­try they’ve joined). I am hor­ri­fied at HR per­son­nel and de­part­ments who are a dis­grace to the pro­fes­sion. I am hor­ri­fied at the quan­tity and fre­quency of set­tle­ments and pay­outs: agen­cies and hold­ing com­pa­nies have been buy­ing women’s and men’s si­lence for years, and that si­lence has en­abled se­rial sex­ual ha­rassers to ha­rass again and again.

I am hor­ri­fied at the num­ber of ac­tual rapes – our in­dus­try con­tains many rapists who have never been ar­rested and pros­e­cuted for crim­i­nal be­hav­iour, and who have been en­abled to rape and go on rap­ing by agency and hold­ing com­pany cover-ups. And I am hor­ri­fied at the names – men whom our in­dus­try has cel­e­brated, lauded and awarded; men who have sat across from me telling me how much they cham­pion women and gen­der equal­ity; men I con­sid­ered good guys; men I con­sid­ered friends.

My in­box led me to re­vise my own think­ing. The sin­gle big­gest is­sue fac­ing our in­dus­try to­day is not di­ver­sity: it’s sex­ual ha­rass­ment, which keeps women out of lead­er­ship and cre­ative lead­er­ship, man­ages women out of the in­dus­try, and pre­vents gen­der equal­ity, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion from ever hap­pen­ing. I spoke in de­tail about the busi­ness im­pli­ca­tions for the whole in­dus­try in my 3Per­cent­con­fer­ence key­note back in Novem­ber.

I have part­nered with in­dus­try trade press around the world, who have com­mit­ted to do­ing the same pa­tient, sen­si­tive, em­pa­thetic in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism to break these sto­ries of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in our in­dus­try that The New York Times de­ployed to bring Har­vey We­in­stein to jus­tice.

Women of the Mid­dle East ad in­dus­try, please email [email protected]­er­an­the­ with your own sto­ries, nam­ing names, agen­cies, hold­ing com­pa­nies and client brands. Whether you choose to go on the record pub­licly or to be quoted anony­mously, this is our chance to end sex­ual ha­rass­ment in our in­dus­try once and for all.

Men of the Mid­dle East ad in­dus­try who were com­plicit, who stood by, who wit­nessed, who par­tic­i­pated, who laughed, who joined in, who said noth­ing – this is your chance to set that right.

The most im­por­tant thing for all of you to know is: there is noth­ing to fear.

I’m hor­ri­fied by the level of sheer fear man­i­fest­ing in my in­box, from both women and men. That’s be­cause the men do­ing the sex­ual ha­rass­ing in our in­dus­try rep­re­sent them­selves as the gate­keep­ers – to jobs, pro­mo­tions, pay raises, awards, ca­reers, fame, for­tune.

Know this: they’re not. They’ve been able to be­have as ap­pallingly as they have done in the past, be­cause they were con­fi­dent no­body would ever speak up. That’s no longer true. When enough of you come to­gether to speak up, and we are able to break these sto­ries, and they are fi­nally out in the open and pub­lic knowl­edge, there can be no re­tal­i­a­tion. In fact, quite the op­po­site. The pun­ish­ment goes the other way – where it is wholly de­served, and long over­due.

For all of us who love this in­dus­try – let’s make it the in­dus­try we want to work in, where we can all thrive, women and men alike. Please speak up, for all of us.


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