NEWS

WATCH THEM FLY, EVEN IF IT MEANS WATCHING THEM FLY THE NEST

First Published in Campaign.

I’ve just logged on to LinkedIn. Ah, the echo-chamber-humblebrag-feed. More self-promotional opinion about mouldy Whoppers than the world deserves or needs. Truth is though, I quite enjoy watching the opinionated comment section as people vie for “‘most strategic comment”.

I’ve just logged on to LinkedIn. Ah, the echo-chamber-humblebrag-feed. More self-promotional opinion about mouldy Whoppers than the world deserves or needs. Truth is though, I quite enjoy watching the opinionated comment section as people vie for “‘most strategic comment”.

But there’s another uncomfortable truth drawn into stark reality when I see the eyewatering number of cold messages I have from talented creatives looking for permanent and freelance work. They’re all from men.

I’m no expert, but I guess that there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, there are more men still engaged in the tough world of freelance creativity because many women leave the industry for all sorts of reasons and decide not to come back. The other is more uncomfortable for me – confidence.

I’m scrolling and loading, scrolling and loading and I can’t find a single LinkedIn message from a female creative. Not a single one (sorry if I missed you, please resend). That can’t be a coincidence. It’s a fucking depressing reality check. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever received an email from a female creative looking to get back into work. Women, I suspect, don’t feel they can “reach out”, “touch base” or “check in” on the opportunities at our agency.

I know for a fact that there are many talented female creatives out there because I met some of them at The Creative Comeback briefing last week. They were confident, creative, smart women with ambition you could sense in the room. Though, if my inbox is anything to go by, women are less disposed to self-aggrandise.

Most of us are embarrassed about the lack of female creative talent in our agencies, especially in leadership positions, and it’s clear that what Creative Equals is doing will make a difference, but I think there is something we can all do. Every day.

Of all the work I’ve made, the most satisfying of it is giving people a start, a chance, an opportunity. I’ve tried to make them feel like they can do it, and loved every second of watching them fly, even when it means watching them fly the nest. For me, it’s more satisfying than selling a big idea, bagging a great director or seeing my work on stage and screen. Because it’s actually real, and if you get it right, it can last a lifetime. Which is more than you can say for 99.9% of the “content” we create.

If we don’t make creative people (especially female creative people) feel capable, we are not arming them with the most powerful tool they have: confidence.

This week sees the judging of Creative Equals’ and Campaign’s “30 Future Leaders”. I’ve learned to my detriment that when you put people forward for industry recognition, it can often serve as a platform for talent to get a new job. But I’d do it every time regardless. Because it’s the right thing to do.

When you have an opportunity to help someone see their true value, to look past their insecurities and imposter syndrome, you should take it, regardless of gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background. What we do is fucking hard. It involves the constant judgement of things you give birth to. The daily death of your creations. Sure, they might be poached, move jobs, but once in a while you’ll see their name on a piece of work you wish you’d made, and guess what. You did.

Creative Equals and Campaign have agreed to extend the entry deadline for the “30 Future Leaders” until Friday, so do it. Put yourself forward. Encourage a member of your team to put themselves forward. You may struggle to get promising female talent to happily raise their hands to big themselves up, so do everything in your power to persuade them to. If you don’t think that’s your job, perhaps you’re not a leader after all.

 

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