Horgs, Freelo, Hale And Other Senior Adland Execs Baked And Ate Humble Pie About Gender Equality

Horgs, Freelo, Hale And Other Senior Adland Execs Baked And Ate Humble Pie About Gender Equality

About sixty adland leaders made pies to get their thoughts about gender equality off their chests. Yeah The Pies, An event organised by Fuck The Cupcakes, asked some uncomfortable questions about male privilege in the industry and society. Here is what happened and what senior ‘bakers’ made of it.

Lead image: Brent Draper, Masterchef winner and baking supremo, teaches adland how to bake.

There is one uncomfortable truth about gender inequality that many men don’t quite get.

Imagine starting a 100m race where all you have to worry about is busting your guts to get to the finish line. You might not win, but you get there doing your best and still have a prosperous career as a sub par sprinter.

Now imagine the same race where some of your competitors have to run the same distance, while jumping hurdles. 

Is it fair? Most definitely not, but what many women have to encounter.

Now imagine that same race where some folks start 100m behind you and have to run and jump hurdles at the same time – can they possibly win? Unlikely, unless they are, maybe, Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

That was one of the key messages conveyed to male adland executives – most from a privileged white background.

More than 50 men gathered to bake pies at a Fuck The Cupcakes (FTC) event called ‘Yeah The Pies’ to raise awareness about the challenges that women face to compete with their male peers. The event was facilitated by professional coach Iain Schmidt from For Alex and Sam, with former Masterchef winner and mental health advocate Brent Draper providing baking tips. FTC partnered with Paramount, Infinity Bakery and Bloke Coaching to put on the Yeah The Pies.

The premise of the event was to bake pies, but the purpose was for men to engage in uncomfortable discussions about gender equality issues that not only plague the advertising industry, but society at large. 

This put on the line ‘cooking skills’ and awkward conversations to industry leaders such as Omnicom Media Group boss Peter Horgan, Ooh! Media group sales director Chris Freel, Advertising Council Australia CEO Tony Hale, former Unltd founder and McCabe & Partners MP Kerry McCabe, and scores of others.

The results were some ropey looking pastry pots of chicken and mushrooms, but also a lot of conversations about how white men in privileged positions need to be more aware about the disadvantages that women and colleagues from different backgrounds have.

Some of the emotions expressed were of guilt, wanting to learn more about how to make a difference to help women – not just being #allies – and being aware of the privilege that some people have compared to others (check out the privilege wheel below).

The event, organised by Innocean CEO Jasmin Bedir and her team, provided plenty of food for thought, even if the pies did not satisfy the appetites of hungry “movable middle bellies” on the night.

Bedir told B&T: “The launch event was a “humble attempt to pull an ongoing fun and meaningful program off the ground that brings men into the room on the topic of gender equality. The feedback we got was incredible – which confirmed that we are on the right track”.

“We cannot wait for the next Yeah The Pies session, which we are planning for winter.”

B&T attended the event and tried to make an ‘equality pie’, alongside of a table of blokes who thought that gender equality meant more than just pay, but also related to women’s safety. Other conversations revolved around how career opportunities for women were being hindered by maternity/paternity policies, that not all men in the room appeared that engaged with the issues, and that women from different cultures and developing countries have it far worse than they do over here.

Below are some highlights of the event.

‘Men are anxious to talk about this’

But what did some of the other bakers at Fuck The Pies think about the event and what they learnt from the evening?

“I think it is a terrific event augmenting Fuck The Cupcakes to bring men into the conversation,” said OMG boss Peter Horgan after sending his pie to the oven. “I think a lot of men are anxious, even scared, to be in the conversation. 

“This is a terrific way to pivot that fear in quite a social setting. Get men into the discussion and make them part of the pilot part of the debate and advocate for progress.”

Horgan also pointed out that adland has made “enormous strides” towards gender equality. 

This has been reflected by industry leaders including GroupM ANZ boss Aimee Buchanan, OMD co-CEOs Laura Nice and Sian Whitnall, Initiative CEO Melissa Fein, UM boss Anathea Ruys, Havas leader Virginia Hyland, Atomic 212 CEO Clare Fenner and a host of others.

That said, Horgan added, “The way today was structured allowed us to go deeper into things we hadn’t considered and allows you to look at things from a different perspective.”

Although there is progress in agency land, few large media companies are currently led by women.

Some notable exceptions include Paramount 10 boss Beverley McGarvey, Are Media CEO Jane Huxley, Google ANZ MD Melanie Silva and Ooh!Media CEO Cathy O’Connor.

Ooh!Media’s Freel, who chopped mushrooms on the night, said that the conversation about gender equality is multi-layered, and that he learnt to broaden his lens beyond how inequality affected the gender pay gap and career progression.

“It’s a big conversation that is much deeper and impacts various different parts of people’s lives, not just how much they earn, or whether or not they’re in a safe environment or a safe space,” he said, reflecting on a colleague’s comment about how he viewed women’s lack of safety as a gender equality concern.

“You also need to think about gender equality for different societies and different places around the world, where equality in a place like India, for example, is very different to Sydney. It opens your mind a little bit because often you can get stuck in your own little bubble of where you are and our westernised society. 

“That kind of bubble exists for us, but there’s a lot of very different bubbles around the world, and this event got me to think, ‘shit, this is a much bigger issue that needs to be tackled and addressed in different ways in different places’.”

This was one of the lessons from the event. Men were asked to colour in a privilege wheel that provided context about how easy their lives were compared to others to get ahead.

Andrew Tuitahi, the director of marketing and product at Hyundai Motor Group Australia, said the event was a “safe space for men to be able to explore some of those issues without feeling they’re going to be putting themselves in a predicament”.

His main takeaway from the event was: “I’m going to just need to be more aware of everything. As we work through that privilege scale, I realised that I’ve got a lot of privilege. And for me, it’s just about being aware and making sure that I keep my eyes open and offer up opinions when I see something that doesn’t look or feel right.

The Advertising Council of Australia’s CEO Tony Hale, who also baked a pie, applauded Bedir’s passion and thinks the event is a clever way to bring more men into the conversation. But he also stressed that change has happened, albeit slowly.

“You can quite clearly see the change in women in advertising occupying senior positions, only about seven years ago to be about 22 per cent. Now it’s up to about 35 per cent, so it is going in the right direction,” he said.

When asked what he learnt from the night, Hale said: “I’m not the one to make bechamel sauce”.

Sauce techniques aside, the men who baked pies have bitten into gender equality, time will tell how many of them chew over the issue, or spit out the uncomfortable chunks of of the discussion that they did not like.

B&T left the night with its ‘Equality Pie’ in hand. The ‘=’ symbol was an attempt to express what the event was all about, but amateur pastry skills did the gender equality movement few favours.

Nonetheless, B&T editor Tom Fogden, and sales and marketing manager Erin Green enjoyed the pastry parcel of goodness, equally.

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