A year back I sat in a tiny hotel room in Georgia watching Lemn Sassy, an award-winning playwright, and poet, talk about his experience as a child of the state. Having spent 18 years in children's homes and foster care, he saw a pattern. Pay attention here…. A fostered child, living outside of the construct of a family could reflect on what family truly is, more than what it promotes itself to be. These kids were capable of filtering out the facade and see the truth.
On June 17th, 2018, when I took my seat at the table alongside 20 See It Be It delegates from around the world, I looked around to see the same pattern unfolding in front of me. At once I knew this group of talented misfits could see through the bullshit this advertising industry promotes itself to be and be its salvation.
An initiative for diversity
See It be It was launched as a Cannes Lions initiative to address the issue of gender disparity in the senior levels of our advertising industry. So after an online application and intense interview, I became a part of this awe-inspiring bunch of females creatives. From the U.S, to Chile, Ecuador, India, Romania, Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, Australia, and beyond, each woman had dealt with same challenges and situations back home and brought some interesting insights to the table.
Picking up unconventional wisdom
At the organization’s summit, See It Be It Ambassador and Google's Director of User Experience Chloe Gottlieb kicked off the day with the theme 'Leading from Within’ - focusing on leading from a place of strength and resilience. She also started each session with a small ritual that allowed us to center our energy. Through the course of the program, she trained us to be enlightened leaders - a step higher than channeling the Emotional Quotient. She equipped us with a toolkit that would prepare us for the new leadership roles that we were heading into in the near future.
The topic of Resilience was broken through sessions, starting with a chat with Tea Uglow, the Creative Director at Google Creative Lab who spoke about questioning 'what's normal'. She implored we ask "Is this ‘normal’; a normal I want to be a part of? And she relayed that “when you change what's considered normal you change the norm.” Uglow is an honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth, magnanimous person and our group instantly got so attached to her that parting ways, in the end, was such a difficult and heart wrenching experience.
Then there was Olympic gold medalist and activist Abby Wambach, who was one of the speakers at the Google Create lunch. She reiterated a note from her commencement address to the Barnard College class of 2018: "If you’re not a leader on the bench, then don’t call yourself a leader on the field." Her speech would go on to inspire the very name of our group.
Where is the coverage?
Louise Benson, the Executive See It Be It Lead mentioned how hard and detailed the See It Be It selection process was. We were astonished to see that the program did not get the coverage from the press to the degree it deserves. Many agencies had even failed to acknowledge and celebrate a massive win for their agency. Knowing that I had a complete support and encouragement of my colleagues from Geometry Dubai helped me put my full energy and effort into the program.
It takes a character to withstand the rigors of this hostile ad industry and still create some award-winning campaigns and after a while, the fight can be too exhausting. I have seen many creative women in the industry quit because of the lack of support. The See It Be It program ensures you have the right backing you need to accelerate your career to the next level but also change the structure of business and power mechanics within the industry.
Madonna Badger, Founder & Chief Creative Officer at Badger and Winters outlined the program's objective to be a springboard for our careers as we move forward being an agent of change for all sexes both in the industry and in our collective society.
Taking bold action
In his talk on diversity, HP CMO Antonio Lucio recounted a meeting with the famous Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson. Lucio asked Jackson what lessons from the Civil Rights Movement could fit today’s cross-industry push for diversity. Jackson answered: “During the Civil Rights Movement, beautiful and inspiring words were always followed by bold action.
Yes, the program is over. But what will follow are some bold actions. And I have 19 sisters, 19 hustlers from around the globe who are going hold each other accountable to this bold change.
Author: Prajakta More, Conceptual Copywriter, Geometry Dubai