UM senior strategist Charlotte Berry fears the coronavirus pandemic will see marketers, publishers and agencies fall back into stereotyping, instead of continuing to challenge old biases.
During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.
Recently, B&T spoke with the ‘Rising Star’ of the 2019 Women in Media Awards—and a runner-up at the global Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity—Charlotte Berry.
Berry, 26, believes agencies must be courageous enough to resist playing it safe in 2020.
But, on an individual level, she believes the single-most courageous quality for creatives to show is vulnerability.
It’s something Berry says she felt recently after being made redundant as a copywriter—something the now senior strategist had wanted to be since she was six years old—along with more than 30 colleagues at her previous employer due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now re-employed at UM as a senior strategist, and happier than ever, Berry says losing her career identity, at the time, was an incredibly “scary place” to be.
Her experience is one among a total of 835,000 fellow Australians who, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, have lost their jobs since March.
Berry is now encouraging her peers, and the industry more broadly, to be more open and vulnerable about job losses and mental health.
“You think that if someone loses their job, they must have failed—and having gone through that, I’ve realised that’s absolutely not the case,” Berry tells B&T.
“No one talks about losing their job or being made redundant … and more people need to be open and honest about it—I think that is courageous.
“I think vulnerability in 2020 is the ultimate form of courageousness.”
As an industry, Berry says it may require similar qualities for ad-land to resist the urge to relapse into old selling habits and stereotypes—the likes of which include relying on antiquated terms like “grocery buyer”.
“There’s a lot of pressure on every market in comms—the marketers, publishers, agencies—to deliver and to return on investment,” she says.
“So, the best way to do that is to be safe, and safe equates to ‘tried and tested’ methods.
“But a lot of these methods are grounded in really archaic stereotypes. Think about the term ‘grocery buyer’—as soon as you say that, you immediately think of a woman who’s probably 35, has two kids and her husband’s a breadwinner.
“That is unfortunately what safe means, and I think that’s what we’re somewhat in danger of now—and in the next two years—as we’re entering a recession and businesses are trying to be as careful as they can.”
The senior strategist is not alone in speculating that the creative industry will, largely, lapse back into old stereotypes and return to ‘business as usual’ as agencies flounder to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, Storyation’s head of content, Lauren Quaintance, told B&T in a yet-to-be-released interview that she believes COVID-19 could magnify existing inequalities between the sexes in ad-land.
The risk, Quaintance says, is business priorities will see diversity and inclusion “slip off the radar”.
However, Berry believes that the advocacy of women’s rights in the workforce has also “plateaued” across the creative industries.
“In our really privileged pocket of society, people think that men and women are equal now and that it’s time to move onto the next issue—that’s not the case at all,” she says.
“And actually, it’s more dangerous, because it is the silent inequality that is absolutely tearing people at an individual level apart.”
Berry’s comments come shortly after the release of the report ‘Gender Equity Insights 2020: Delivering on Business Outcomes’, which revealed a strong relationship between an increase in the number of women in key decision-making positions and improvements in company performance.
“We need to slowly but surely have a more equal representation of women in not only businesses, but leadership positions, who are starting to change these structures so that women don’t just drop out of the workforce when they want to have children—and never come back.”
Don’t be shy, be proud of your achievements and enter B&T’s Women In Media! Submit your entry here.
You can also buy tickets to the event here, which will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).
And, if you’d like more information, head to this website.
Other key information
On-time deadline: Friday 21 August 2020 (5pm AEST)
Late entries deadline: Friday 28 August 2020 (5pm AEST)
Shortlist announced: Wednesday 23 September 2020.
Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible!
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