Deeds and ac­tions

Campaign Middle East - - CONTENTS -

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.

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