I think most everyone would agree, generally speaking, that the overarching goal of any business is to be as successful as possible. Well, Cindy Gallop -a prominent voice in the advertising world and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld, a real-world experiment in tapping good intentions and turning them into tangible, do-able microactions – recently spoke at the 3% Conference and explained why the future of business must be gender equal. The 3% Conference is a gathering of the minds to make the case for more female creative directors in the field of advertising, but as Cindy pointed out in her keynote address and in our interview with her, everything she says is applicable to all industries and all diversity, and she clearly and boldly draws the parallel between the success of business existing in gender equality – which is why we made a point of catching up with her.
TSR: I watched your keynote at the 3% conference, and you mentioned everything you said applies to diversity in totality – that everything you say not only applies to advertising, but to all industries. Your first point was that the future of advertising and business is gender equal. Why do you think we aren’t there yet, especially given our purchase power and our social sharing?
You know, that question makes me feel like that wonderful photograph last year that made the rounds on social media of an older woman at a feminist rally with a placard that said, “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this sh*t.”
The reason we are not there is because sexism and gender inequality is often unconscious and innate in both men and women. That’s why, part of my message at the 3% Conference, was call it out. Because until we do, people really don’t realize it. In the case of advertising, and obviously that was the purpose of the entire conference, the nature of creative departments is that they continue to be male dominated and male led, together with agencies being male dominated and male led at the top. And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle and the point I made is that men feel more comfortable working with other men, hiring other men, and promoting other men, and they do it in a way that is completely unconscious.
And in the same way, there was a study done where a group of researchers picked deliberately faculties and universities that were science university tech, therefore traditionally rational thinkers, and sent a resume out to men and women – and the resume was exactly the same, except that 50% received a resume for Jon Smith and the other 50% for Jane Smith. This is a resume for someone was reasonably competent and most men and women felt that when it was Jon, he was more qualified for the job. They wanted to pay him more. Both men and women are unconsciously biased towards thinking that men perform better than women. There has to be a willingness to address it and to change.
TSR: It seems like THAT is the glass ceiling that needs to broken through. Do you have any tangible tips for men and women in the workforce?
Number one, call it out. Highlight every time you see a case of an all-male speaker lineup at a conference, a male dominated area. Highlight it and do something about it. Do a microaction.
TSR: What do you have to say about the sometimes subtle or overt penalties for calling it out?
Calling something out doesn’t necessarily mean getting angry, strident, loud, obnoxious. It means doing it wittily, charmingly and entertainingly. But secondly, if you call it out and nobody wants to listen – you are in the wrong place. Leave.
TSR: So you are saying don’t reward that behavior with your talents if possible?
Yes. Exactly. Go somewhere where people appreciate you helping them find the path to more diversity.
“…Here in the US women influence 90% of electronic purchases, women influence 60% of all car purchase decisions. So…whatever area you are doing business in, it’s a safe bet that the most influential audience you need to be talking to is women.”
TSR: How do we harness that female power to shape business to improve profit overall in all industries?
(In my keynote address) I was making that point specifically for the benefit of my industry, which is marketing and advertising. But this is a general business message. Today, women are the majority of purchasers in every single product sector. They are the majority of influencers in every single product sector, including sectors traditionally thought to be male. So here in the US, women influence 90% of electronic purchases. Women influence 60% of all car purchase decisions. So…whatever area you are doing business in, it’s a safe bet that the most influential audience you need to be talking to is women.
Second: women share. Women are the advocates, the recommenders, the ambassadors, the sharers. Social media is simply a whole new methodology for us to do what we have done since the dawn of time which is to share the sh*t out of everything in a way that men don’t. So whatever business you are in, even if you think you have a male brand, targeting men, you need to be talking to women. Fact of life. That is what I meant when I said we are not a subset, we are the norm. Again, in my industry, which is marketing and advertising, people talk about putting people on women’s accounts, women’s business, as if it was a specialized subset. Which it’s not. We are the norm and actually targeting men is a really niche endeavor, which, to be very frank, I think very few businesses should be engaging in because it won’t get you very far.
TSR: What tangible advice do you have for professional women working toward gender equality other than call it out and the micro actions?
Basically, do that yourself in everything you do. In whatever area of business you are working in, look to champion women, promote women, hire women and look to balance gender in everything you want to do. One of the things that I did when I was running BBH New York (Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York), we would hire the best people for the job. And quite often, those people were women.
And when we hired women into the agency, and because women are so appallingly bad at negotiating their salaries, the women were consistently on salaries that were far lower than the men. And I had a business to run, so I would hire them in at the appropriate salary given that context, but once they were within the agency and performing and delivering at the level we needed them to, I would do everything in my power to equalize the salary levels between the men and the women in my company. That is something women can do. Every woman in business can take her own microactions to create a more gender equal working environment in whatever way she has the power to and is capable of.
“So the reason why I want to help redesign the future of business to be gender equal is because not only will that give women a much better opportunity to rise and succeed in business, and build the kind of companies they want to build, it will also actually give men much happier working lives.”
TSR: You talk about how business is built for men and how many women look at the top and say, “I don’t want to work up there, like that,” and how business needs to be redesigned for the way we want to work. I am going to play devils advocate here – why bother?
So one of the things I have to say to people really is, never doubt that women burn with the same ambition that men do to change the world, to get to the top, and to build successful businesses. The idea that women are wired differently from men, when it comes to wanting to build something great and to grow it, is absolute crap.
So the reason why I want to help redesign the future of business to be gender equal is because, not only will that give women a much better opportunity to rise and succeed in business and build the kind of companies they want to build, it will also actually give men much happier working lives. I say to men all the time, we live in a world where the default setting is almost always male. You have no idea how much happier you would be living and working in a world that was 50/50 equally designed and formed and influenced, managed, led and driven by women as well as men.
There are as many men as women who feel sick at the prospect of going to work the next day. There are as many men as women who feel bullied by their unpleasant supervisor. There are as many men as women who would like to give it all up and never go back. So when we design business to be the kind of place that welcomes the way women do business, for men – it will be a g*dd**n revelation how much they enjoy doing business the way we do.
So when we redesign business around the way that women like to work, we create a happier, more productive working environment for all of us. Equally, we have the opportunity to redesign the future of business around parenting. I don’t say motherhood, I say parenting as it is something both genders do equally. So when we redesign business around parenting, as opposed to these stick on solutions for women that companies currently engaged in, when we redesign around parenting, we create a much happier work environment for fathers as we do for mothers.
TSR: And perhaps, if we changed the precedent of the mother being the primary caregiver at the beginning of a child’s life, it would ripple throughout the child’s life and shape the parenting dynamic that exists where the kids are mainly mom’s concern?
Again, this is why I say we need to redesign business at its center and at its core. The entire corporate system was founded on the concept of the housewife. It built up over time that it would always be men who went to work and women who stayed at home, taking care of everything else. That has changed, the corporate system still hasn’t. And that is why popular culture and the media have a very important role to play. What is enormously important in life and in business is aspirational role models. There aren’t enough aspirational role models for women in business and there aren’t enough aspirational female role models for men in business.
“So when we redesign business around parenting, as opposed to these stick on solutions for women that companies currently engaged in, when we redesign around parenting, we create a much happier work environment for fathers as we do for mothers.”
When there are so few women at the top and held up as role models, men don’t get enough opportunity to see women in business and to think, “wow” I’d like to be more like her. Or I’d like to work with someone like her. Equally, there are not enough aspirational relationship role models represented in popular culture – of what today’s relationship and I am going to speak about this hetero-normatively, but I mean this across all genders and all sexualities – of a partnership of equals. Today – both halves of the partnership work. It’s not about one half is the strong bread winner, one person is the nurturing family carer. It is about rethinking how male/female relationships work, romantic relationships, partnerships and marriages, yet you are now engaging on an equal level in a way that explodes traditional gender dynamics and norms. And I want to see many more models in popular culture, in the media, that actually help people work within that actually help people work within that, understand that and enjoy it.
Sitcoms still represent old world order gender stereotypes of relationship models. Hollywood movies do as well. There aren’t enough aspirational role models where the relationship is a partnership of equals.
TSR: 50 years ago, forget about work, wearing pants wasn’t socially acceptable. When do you think we are going to get there – gender equality? Do you think my daughter is going to experience the same reality or is the work we are doing going to create a very different frontier for the next 20 or 30 years?
I really feel like we are at a zeitgeist moment. And we are at a zeitgeist moment, and this is very important, not just because many, many women now really want to change things, but also because many men do as well. And that is enormously important.
As we have discussed in this conversation, there is a new generation of men. The generation of millennials don’t subscribe to the traditional gender roles that their fathers did. And what is very important is historically, and people lose sight of this, many aspects of popular culture have forced men into a construct of masculinity [that] a lot of men don’t want to be a part of. So when we talk about gender equality, we are talking about a scenario where women will be able to do more things that they weren’t previously allowed to do, men are also allowed to do more things that they weren’t previously allowed to do – like be the caregiver in the home if they want to be. Be the person that earns less if they want to be. Be the person that doesn’t have to be the strong silent one. Be the person that doesn’t have to work in a way that they dislike as much as women do. It’s very important that, everything we have talked about is something that men and women really now both want to strive for together, and both equally can benefit from, and can really collaborate, and work together to create.
TSR: So when?
We can’t put a timeline on it, but essentially every single one of us doing what we can, will make the world we all want to work in arrive a whole lot sooner.
This is a condensed version of Skype conversation that took place between Cindy Gallop and ShriverReport.org
Cindy Gallop started up Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York in 1998 and in 2003 was named Advertising Woman of the Year. She is the founder of www.IfWeRanTheWorld.com, marketing software (and Harvard Business School case study) that enables co-action programs for brands and consumers that result in Action Branding: ‘Feel it, do it, be it.’ She also founded www.makelovenotporn.com and recently launched https://www.makelovenotporn.tv/ in beta: ‘Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference’. She speaks at conferences around the world and consults, describing her consultancy approach as ‘I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.’ Follow her on Twitter @cindygallop.