The explosion of the #MeToo movement in late 2017 has forced many brands to shake up their thinking around workplace inclusion and address how they can create equal opportunities and experiences for men and women.
US Glamour editor-in-chief Samantha Barry has been seeking to redress the balance of women working in the fashion industry. Speaking at an Accenture Interactive panel at Cannes Lions yesterday (19 June), Barry pointed out that while there is no shortage of women wanting to work in fashion, only 14% of run fashion companies in an industry powered by the female dollar.
After extensive research her team identified a problem occurring specifically in the middle of women’s careers.
“We found that women come into the fashion industry very ambitious with lots of hopes and dreams, but somewhere in the middle either they don’t get the promotion they deserve or they don’t ask for the promotions that they want, and starting a family became an issue for some of them,” she explained.
“I think sometimes it’s easy to be in an industry and assume that equality is fine. You have to bring men into the conversation, so we collaborated with GQ. I think #MeToo is getting into the second stage and how we can talk about how #MeToo is changing workplaces without bringing men into it?”
If men aren’t involved in the conversation how are we ever going to progress?
Barnaby Dawe, Just Eat
Working with Condé Nast stablemate GQ, the Glamour team interviewed thousands of men anonymously and discovered what Barry describes as an “undercurrent of men” in the post #MeToo era who had taken on a “Mike Pence role” (in reference to the US vice president), where they won’t be alone with a woman or have dinner with a woman that they work with. She noted that this kind of attitude can be very stifling to women’s careers.
While she runs a team of mainly women and Condé Nast in the US has an executive committee with an even gender split, the Glamour editor admitted that her company is far from the norm. Barry also argued that having a woman at the very top of a business is not necessarily always the answer.
“It’s not about having a woman at the top, it’s about having those stairs where women can see themselves going to the next level,” she explained.
“You’ll often have companies where there are women at the bottom, a lot of men in the middle and a woman at the top, and that seems almost insurmountable for women as well.”
Addressing the talent pipeline
Tackling the gender gap in engineering and technology has been a big area of focus for Charlie Fryer, digital and social media strategy advisor at Shell. Over the past 18 months she has been leading a project aimed at using social platforms to encourage more women and girls to enter STEM careers, those in science, technology, engineering and maths.
The team found that while getting women into the sector in the first place remains a challenge, encouraging them to stay is just as big an issue.
“A huge problem is that 30% of the women engineers who make it leave and it’s not because they have families, it’s because of something a little bit darker,” explained Fryer.
“We did interviews with engineers around the world working at all sorts of different companies. We took the experience they shared with us and turned it into a script for a campaign which essentially takes those micro-aggressions, the intangible things that are destructive when they accumulate and are hard to communicate.”
Launched in April, the campaign integrates the women’s real life experiences into a content series spanning tear-jerking videos to satirical memes.
A similar issue around the talent pipeline was identified at Just Eat. Tech is the biggest department at the online food delivery company, yet representation of women in this area remains low.
To address this issue outgoing CMO Barnaby Dawe co-sponsored the first Women at Just Eat group. Dawe argued that it was really important to have men sponsoring this group as they need to be part of the conversation in order to help solve the problem.
30% of the women engineers who make it leave and it’s not because they have families, it’s because of something a little bit darker.
Charlie Fryer, Shell
“The point for us was that if men aren’t involved in the conversation how are we ever going to progress? Equality is equality, it’s not either one side or the other,” he stated.
“We created Women at Just Eat to ensure that through our recruitment processes we were true to our word. We ensure in any process we have representation from both sexes, so it’s not positive discrimination because I don’t believe in that. I think it’s about giving women a chance, because what was happening is they weren’t even getting on the shortlist, let alone into the interview process.”
Creative agency Karmarama has reaped the benefits of removing unconscious bias within its recruitment process and actively engaging women. Chief operating officer Liz Wilson explained how the agency had sought to create a culture of “gender blindness” around how it hires, manages and makes decisions about people’s careers.
This year, Karmarama attempted to eliminate any bias in the initial selection pool for its graduate recruitment scheme and reach out to different types of talent, such as mums returning to work. As a result 62% of applications have come from women, up from the 40% mark last year.
“What’s also been interesting is we’ve started to see the indicators of what kind of background people come from. Are we really just getting lots of white, middle-class people who can afford to pay the rent in London on an advertising starting salary, which is probably in the early £20,000s?” Wilson added.
“This year 18% of applicants are people who’ve enjoyed free meals at school and 40% came from people where neither parent has been to university.”
Read all of Marketing Week’s Cannes Lions 2018 coverage, sponsored by MiQ, here.