My Week As A Rich White Man
Cannes See It Be It and the very real scrap against inequality.
I am on a yacht in Cannes shaking hands with the rest of the See it Be it Class of 2016. A linen-suited opportunist pulls to an abrupt halt on the jetty below and roars up to us, “What agency are you from? Why are you all girls?” He is genuinely mystified. We settle for dinner.
Sarah Watson (our deeply inspiring Ambassador and the Global CSO of BBH) raises a glass to the week ahead. She talks us through the programme, summarising like so: “it’s designed to give you the very best, money-can’t-buy access. You are basically going to live like rich, white men”.
Let me just quickly fast forward through the speed boats, private islands, front rows, Anna Wintouresque, Will Smithish terraces, penthouses, galas and Gutters to what it is all really about: The biggest creative festival in the world doing something to highlighter-pen all over this industry’s un-fucking-acceptable inequality problem. The one that made itself into the news in a wildly small-minded fashion over the weekend.
Hold tight for background
Senta Slingerland set up See It Be It in 2013 in partnership with Emma Sexton and SheSays because the need to drive diversity is real. Cannes Lions ticket sales prove that less creative women attend than men. Which makes sense against all the other hard facts that prove how few female creatives there are. Especially in the upper echelons.
This year, fifteen of us were selected from around the world. Which is obviously a nice thing to be able to tell your parents, but the attention that happens out there is unreal. It’s like being in the middle of a training montage, but with profession idols, lanyards and rosé.
Meetings with remarkable men & women
We were supported and schooled and promoted from the second we stepped off our jets. Thank you for your time and effort: Sarah W., Kate Furey, Amy Cahill, Ali Hanan, Victoria Buchanan, Simon Cook, Entire Cyber Jury, Kathleen Griffith, Susan Credle, Kate Stanners, Katty Kay, Sir Heg and Cindy Gallop, Kate Hironaka, Shelley Zalis and Pip Jamieson. I’ve been fortunate to have amazing mentors in my life, but this burst of focus was a real shot in the arm. Also, thank you wonderful employers for helping me get there.
If you get to go, you get to be an alumna. Which means access to an international network of brainy, driven, creative lasses. My gang was so incredible and we’ve been Google Doc’ing our way through the beginnings of a legacy project ever since (which Kathleen made an incredibly generous donation towards).
Cindy says the problem stems from the fact that, “Men are hired & promoted on potential, women are hired & promoted on proof”. The idea that great work can only be trusted in the hands of white, middle class, straight men is not only sexist, it’s racist and homophobic. More people at the top level need to actively support women and everyone else who will bring the diversity of thought that balanced future facing creativity depends on.
Do it. Do it. Do it.
You need to help your gals get to SIBI. It’ll do wonders for them and be a great achievement for your agency too. But there are more positive things are starting to happen. Ali from Creative Equals ran a project called #SeeItBeItDoIt whilst we were in Cannes. Together, we asked everyone we met what they were doing to quicken the pace of industry change. So if you need inspiration, have at it.