Why Men Are Central To the Gender Equality Equation in Advertising 

By Jill Sherman, SVP, Social Strategy, DigitasLBi

For female creative leaders trying to crack the gender parity code in a male-dominated industry, pushing boundaries and advocating for more women at the table doesn't simply rest on female shoulders. In fact, being surrounded by strong male advocates is just as important to changing the gender equality conversation. Having spent the last 18 years in advertising and media, and facing many gender-related obstacles along the way, I can personally attest to the power of positive male support and advocacy. And depending on which keynote you attended on day two of the 3% Conference, you'd likely get different--but equally compelling--perspectives into the ways men can help us move the gender parity needle further. 
Sociologist Michael Kimmel's opening keynote "Why Men Should Support Gender Equality" offered eye-opening data supporting key reasons every man should advocate for parity, starting in the home. Topping his list included better health, happier families, and yes--better sex. And when it comes to the workplace, Kimmel explained that, while most men are quietly accommodating themselves to greater gender equality, embracing it should be the goal. The empirical evidence is clear: companies that embrace diversity have lower turnover, higher levels of job satisfaction, and greater productivity. It's a win-win for everybody.
Later, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Founder and CEO of The Representation Project and director of the documentary "Miss Representation" painted a somber picture of how the systemic under-representation of female perspectives within the media industry impacts society at large. In her talk, she demonstrated how the lack of female creative leadership perpetuates negative stereotypes, antiquated gender roles, and ultimately devalues women in the media we consume. The only way to evolve the media landscape is to include more female voices and perspectives, and not just in supporting roles. 
The closing keynote by ad industry powerhouse Cindy Gallup, was part wake-up call and part rallying cry. Her advice? Men need to be bullish. They need to help change the "optics" of the ad industry to attract more women to it. By empowering female creative talent, we'll all see better depictions of women AND men in advertising. By hiring groups of women--not simply individual women--we'll empower them to succeed.  And if we really want to see gender equality in our lifetime, in Cindy's own words, "we need to make the change." It's not enough to be a supportive bystander.

So, what does this all mean in a nutshell? Why should men be stepping to the forefront of the conversation to accelerate change? Because it's time. We are the women in lock-step with you each and every day. We share your passion, are in the trenches with you, and care as deeply about the work as you do. We are your friends, your daughters, your sisters, your mothers, your girlfriends and wives. We are giving up our evenings and weekends to make the work better, too. And, when given wings and the ability to soar, we will fly. Let's be bold, men. Let's be brave, men. We are in this together.