Deeds and actions
Of all the minefields that this industry has faced, none, I believe, has been as poorly negotiated as the issue of gender equality. Indeed, the mere fact that it is being widely seen as a minefield speaks volumes about our collective failure to address the matter properly. On the face of it – or, more to the point, in the shop window – all seems hunky-dory. And, as we enter the awards season, it is quite plain to see that this year’s shows will be dominated by gender equality initiatives as well as talks, seminars and debates on the matter. This is a good thing: the entire marketing industry simply needs to haul itself into the 21st century, ditch whatever negative baggage it still carries, change its attitudes accordingly and take this as a massive chance to, well, improve. Whatever the business point of view, gender equality is a no-brainer: whether it is from a talent, HR, business growth or PR perspective, it makes more than just sense; it makes things better.
Ah, but there’s a catch. Like all lunches that appear to be free, this one comes with not so much a bill as an obligation to do the washing up as well as set up the table for the next customer. And therein lies the rub: much of the gender equality conversation, so far, has been rooted in negatives, with horror stories emerging right, left and centre, often resulting in confrontations and, quite naturally, defiance. Whilst this was inevitable and, to a large extent, actually successful, the fallout is that everyone is anxiously rushing to present pristine credentials that often have the sincerity of an NRA spokesman.
Everywhere you look, you will find brands spewing out ads, case studies and assorted award-show entries all wrestling for space on this new bandwagon. And while many of them stem from a genuine desire to see a fresh, modern corporate culture emerge, quite a few will have that damaging whiff of opportunism that has given so much of the work from last year’s cause célèbre – namely, immigration – the look of rotten eggs. Of all the things that can be counterproductive, this one really takes the cake. It is one thing to present oneself as a champion of equality, but quite another to do so with hypocrisy and blatant vested interest.
No one expects the corporate world to metamorphose overnight. What they expect, however, is that brands – and indeed every one of us – will demonstrate in deeds and actions the conviction that the perceived minefield is not a menacing warzone but actually an opportunity to make peace with ourselves.