"I wished I had dressed like ‘Lion Judge Cyber Woman’: in a silver jumpsuit and cape, and cyber head wired to my motherboard. With a thick long mane, and a tail, and I would have carried a silver hammer and banged it on tables when I liked work."
My story started a year ago on International Women’s Day 2016 when I won an IPA Woman of Tomorrow creative award. It made me realise how lucky I was to be part of just 3% of female ECDs. I reflected that I didn’t have any female mentors, heroes, women to follow, inspiring stories to mimic or shadows to walk in.
When I was asked to judge Cyber Lions I jumped at the chance of stepping onto the international stage as a female ECD. I wished I had dressed like a 'Lion Judge Cyber Woman’: in a silver jumpsuit and cape, and cyber head wired to my motherboard. With a thick long mane, and a tail, and I would have carried a silver hammer and banged it on tables when I liked work. It sadly wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it was a life-changing experience for me.
Going to Cannes as a female digital ECD, I had prepared myself for being in the minority. To my joy, the Cyber Jury President was Chloe Gottlieb, the amazing ECD of digital agency R/GA or as I like to see her, veteran digital queen. However, out of our 20 judges on Cyber, only 5 were female.
"By the end of the week, we had formed a communion of cyber minds, and become part of a true international experience in which diversity was the glue."
(L-R: me (UK), Teresa Galante (Spain), Chloe Gottlieb (USA), Megan Skelly (USA) and Kelsie Van Deman (Holland).)
During the judging, I was surrounded by smart, careful, gentle, knowledgeable and inspiring women: me (UK), Teresa Galante (Spain), Chloe Gottlieb (USA), Megan Skelly (USA) and Kelsie Van Deman (Holland).
Chloe Gottlieb is a great example of female creative leadership - smart, open and direct. She doesn’t suffer fools and she challenged us at every turn. We spent time talking philosophy, sociology, data dreams and future visions. One could easily think an international group of creative digital heads would not connect and see eye to eye, but we connected extremely well. With open arms, this group from all around the world embraced each other in an experience we will never forget.
The Cyber Jury explored the work through the lens of nationality, age and sex. Gradually, as the cultural and language barriers began to drop away, so did the differences in sex, status and age. Reflecting on the Festival through the lens of International Women’s Day, it was a space for debate, questioning, and more than anything, learning to respect. By the end of the week, we had formed a communion of cyber minds, and become part of a true international experience in which diversity was the glue.
Another important part of my experience was meeting the ‘See It Be It’ team. To help prioritise the gender issue, Cannes has proactively started an experience to draw young creative women to the festival. The programme invites the next generation of female CDs to experience Cannes from the inside.
So, on a yacht I found 20 smart young women, with their fairy godmother, BBH New York’s chief strategy officer Sarah Watson, planning their week. I had dinner with the group and shared my story and talked about what judging had been like so far. I invited the group to visit our jury room the next day to see the judging process and meet the judges. That meeting made everyone notice our gender inequality and it was rather embarrassing that only five cyber women sat there judging.
A year since my International Women’s Day epiphany I still want to show and inspire female leadership and prove you can become a judge at Cannes, or anything else that you want to be, despite the gender gap.
FYI - You don’t have to dress up as Lion Judge Cyber Woman.
This article was contributed to Cannes Lions Stories by Victoria Buchanan, ECD at Tribal Worldwide London. See It Be It is the Cannes Lions mentoring project for professional women in the creative industries.