This comment piece is by Jasmin Bedir, CEO of Innocean and founder of FckTheCupcakes.
It’s been a month since Zoe Scaman’s amazing article.
When I read it, I kept nodding along and readied myself for an industry discussion in Australia.
But nothing happened. Not a peep. And it’s not because we’re so much better in Australia – we’re most definitely not. If we were, I wouldn’t have needed to start Fckthecupcakes this year.
Engaging with men on this topic of systemic misogyny has been so much more difficult than I imagined – many have disconnected from the conversation because in their eyes, they are not the men in the allegations or reports.
They haven’t raped a colleague or fired someone unfairly. They have sisters, and mothers and daughters. They have done nothing wrong. But when women are only talking to women about the problem that women face, we have a massive problem.
These are not bad men; they are simply blind to the ‘invisible’ sexism that exists under their nose (or their subconscious contribution). The majority of men I’ve spoken to say they had no idea what we as women are going through. They are not really surprised, but also the extent of the misogyny we have to deal with, was clearly unexpected.
It’s not me, it’s something that we hear from all directions
The industry bodies believe they have done their job, while they have mostly had conversations about representation, quotas and creating equality ads, not the daily treatment or emotional impact of the ‘invisible’ inequality rife within the industry.
The men in our industry believe they are not the problem.
Whilst many men say they want to support women, the general sentiment is that nothing in their world seems to be wrong; they haven’t contributed directly to the problem, so they don’t believe they need to actively do more. The women in our industry struggle to speak up as they fear they will get ostracised or punished. Ruffling feathers does not get rewarded.
As a woman it’s also not easy to explain what it is that we want men to stop or start doing as misogyny is insidious, and so deeply ingrained that it’s not a 5-minute conversation that fixes the problem.
So, whose job is it really to drive change?
Of course, it’s everyone’s job, but the people that can make the biggest difference are surprisingly not the guys at the top of agencies. Of course, we need inclusive leadership from the top, but currently that’s where the buck stops.
The guys that can make the biggest difference sit in middle management. The everyday workers across all seniority levels, the ones that are deep in the trenches of companies.
These guys are currently literally missing in action when it comes to active gender inclusion. Instead of being bystanders, we need these men to be a deliberate public role model for other men. We need these men to be by our side and be fierce watchdogs for the behaviour of other men, in particular when no woman is watching.
That takes courage and seems daunting. It’s a hard time to be a woman but also equally a hard time to be a man.
A man to listen to on this topic is Andy Wright. He’s written a great piece all men in this industry should take notice of.
He says: “You’re being given a chance. To repair. To improve. To create change. It’s probably way more than you deserve, but like in the past, you’re bound to take advantage of it. …The opportunity is to do good and create change.”
If this sounds like you, send me a message to get involved. I haven’t got high hopes that my inbox will explode – but please prove me wrong.
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