This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter. Balance isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a business issue, and a balanced world is a better world for everyone.

This year, we spoke to as many women at HOME as we could, to find out their take on equality in 2019. Here we’ve collated the brilliant, thoughtful responses we got back from our Homies:

Which brands do you think are doing a great job of connecting with women?

A few of the Homies we spoke to struggled to think of brands off the top of their heads – which says a lot by itself! However once we got into it, it turns out there are quite a lot of big brands that we’ve related to in recent times.

Brands that are working to normalise menstruation in mainstream culture were pretty well received. Evie praised Bodyform and Libresse for their ad featuring females in sport. The tagline ‘No Blood Should Hold Us Back‘ promotes the message that blood isn’t gross or something to be worried about, it’s just a part of everyday life. The #Likeagirl campaign from Always was also frequently mentioned. On a similar vein, Public Health England’s smear test campaign which encourages all women to get screened was praised for bringing conversation about cervical cancer into the mainstream.

In the beauty sector, Dove received three votes of confidence for a whole range of campaigns celebrating real beauty. Eleanor was all for start-up beauty brands like Glossier, Fenty and Milk. She said “They don’t treat women like a homogeneous group or as an afterthought. I like the fact that they use diverse groups of women in their advertising and aren’t afraid to move past just using Victoria Secret models in their campaigns. It’s refreshing.” Sporty brands were also cited quite often – Nike got five mentions and Janie and Elle both referenced Sport England with their uplifting and inspiring ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, which has been running since 2015.

A few other brands that were name checked include Durex for their female pleasure campaign #LadiesLetsLube, Smirnoff for their Equalizing Music campaign and Mothercare’s Body Proud Mums, which wants to encourage new mothers to feel proud of their bodies post-birth and break stereotypes along the way.

What’s your experience of gender balance and equality within the creative/marketing industries?

Reading through all of the answers to this question, it was clear that most of us thought getting into the industry was more down to attitude and ability than gender. There seems to be a fairly even split in more junior-level positions, and in fact, in some areas the scale is skewed more heavily towards female dominated teams.

Evie has got a background in PR and has always worked in female-heavy teams, and Becky said that she has seen a fairly even gender split throughout her career. Eleanor said that she works in a majority female team, which is led by a woman too: “It’s brilliant, and incredibly supportive. I’m lucky I work with amazing men and women and that I have the insight of both when doing my job.”

This doesn’t mean that we’ve achieved gender balance and equality though, as it was frequently noted that whilst you might be able to get your foot in the door, climbing the ladder is a much trickier task. Eleanor noted that she doesn’t think this is particularly indicative of creative and marketing industries though, it’s everywhere.

Billie echoed this by saying that as with most industries, marketing was formed within the patriarchy, so it naturally favours men. Janie noted that “Often in large agencies, it’s males who are at the top of the company and who make the final decisions. Women really have to prove themselves to try and infiltrate that.” In addition, Jay said: “In every agency I’ve worked for or been involved with client side there’s always a massive drop off of women in senior positions past the middle management point. I don’t think this industry is particularly supportive of women in senior roles.”

So what does it mean for women when there aren’t fellow females at the top? One respondent said how as a junior in a male-owned agency, she experienced harassment and discrimination. However, she hasn’t experienced anything like this in the last few years and said that she wasn’t sure if this is because things have changed or whether she has just moved out of toxic work environments.

A work environment barren of females can also make it harder for women to balance their careers with being a mother. Billie said she sees far fewer mothers in this industry than fathers, and Jay spoke about how it’s a hard industry to be in for women with families, citing the study ‘Parenting In Ad Land’, which looks at the realities of being a parent in advertising today.

Despite this, it was great to hear that Homies have had a good experience of coming back to work after having children at HOME, thanks to things like compassion from the wider team, being able to gradually ease yourself back into work and choosing flexible working hours. There was also a sense of optimism for the direction the industry is moving in, with more public discussion on mums that work, and the rise of influencers such as Clemmie Telford, a Creative Director and Strategist who speaks openly about motherhood and having a career in marketing.

Whose work do you admire in relation to women’s rights and equality?

A lot of people weren’t sure where to start with this one – as Billie said, “So many… So, so many!” Below are a selection of our Homies’ most admired people for their progressive work.

Viola Davis is admirable for her work on the gender and racial pay gap; what she said at the Women in The World Los Angeles Salon is particularly powerful. Jessica Chastain was also a great role model by putting her money where her mouth is when she ensured Octavia Spencer got the same pay as her for a project. Serena Williams talks openly about racial inequality, and she also pushes the message that strong is sexy. Plus, she’s won more Grand Slam titles than any man – no biggie!

Our Homies revered women that have chosen comedy as a vehicle for change such as Deborah Frances-White (and the whole Guilty Feminist crew) and Caitlin Moran, for making it clear that feminism isn’t a dirty word. French and Saunders have to get a shout out for being female comedic trailblazers, as are all the ladies in Smack the Pony. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Victoria Wood and Catherine Tate also all got a mention.

Amal Clooney, she’s an international human rights lawyer and isn’t defined by her famous husband. Similarly, Michelle Obama technically stood behind Barack, so to speak, but she certainly didn’t follow in his footsteps. She made sure things she felt passionately about were represented and also remained incredibly independent with her own tasks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is another great role model in politics at the moment, and Gloria Steinem is also notable for her work in the USA and campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment. When it comes to campaigning, Malala Yousafzai is a true hero for female education activism.

Finally, of course we have to acknowledge Rosa Parks for shaping history and inspiring a movement and Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Fawcett and the rest of the suffragette movement. Without their amazing resistance women wouldn’t be able to vote, which is unimaginable!

If you were putting on an International Women’s Day rally, who would you get to speak?

We asked the ladies at HOME who they would have speak at an International Women’s Day rally – and we’ve actually managed to get our hands on a time machine, so historical figures are allowed here too! Here’s who our Homies would pick:

Keimara: I’d want to hear from all the women who spoke about their own Time’s Up and Me Too experiences, Angelina Jolie for how open she was about losing her ovaries and working with the cause that offers support. Mark Ruffalo is a very open feminist and I think it would be good to have a male there speaking on women’s rights, so that other men can identify and realise they too are feminists. I also think Anne Hathway is great, so her too. It’s going to be a very busy rally!

Eleanor: My inner history nerd says Elizabeth I because she ruled alone and did it bloody well, better than anyone thought she would. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama because well, you would wouldn’t you.

Melissa: Martin Luther King would be at my rally as he spoke about civil rights and gained a lot of listeners. I feel it would be powerful coming from a man who feels strongly for women’s rights.

Janie: I would have everyone that fought for the Suffragettes movement attend! Also on my list would be Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anna Wintour, Brenda Chapman, Thelma Schoonmaker and Michelle Obama.

Evie: Emma Watson because she has a lot to say about equality whilst remaining relatable, as well as inspiring significant change with HeforShe and her work as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.

Jay: I’d like to hear from people who are pragmatic and in touch with the realities of equality. Maybe a cross section of women – someone from business like Karen Brady, and freelancers on the flip side. Then working mums and stay at home mums. I think everyone should be represented at an event and diversity is really important.

Elle: Meryl Streep as she delivers amazing speeches on women’s rights and equality and Angelina Jolie because she’s another great public speaker who has worked with the UN to improve the rights of women and children around the world. Also obviously I would want to hear from Emmeline Pankhurst – she helped us get the right to vote!

Hannah: Emmaline Pankhurst and Rosa Parks because they changed history for the women of today, Princess Diana because she represented everything a woman should be, Beyonce purely because she’s fabulous and Katie Piper because she shows just how strong a woman can be!

Laura: I’d invite Deborah Frances-White because she’s helped to debug some of the stereotypes and barriers often experienced when approaching the subject of feminism. Her hilarious and refreshing podcast The Guilty Feminist has created a space for people to talk openly about issues around female equality, in a guilt free and often light-hearted environment. I would also love to hear from Sara Pascoe. Her comedy cuts through the usual expectations placed upon female comedians of avoiding more risky and sometimes taboo subjects. Her book ‘Animal, The Autobiography of a Female Body’ is informative and funny, covering areas within science that are less well trodden. It gives an honest and intimate view of her experiences, whilst challenging and amusing you in equal measure throughout.

Billie: I would also get Deborah Frances-White to speak. She’s funny, smart, inclusive, learns from her mistakes and understands that we can’t all be perfect. Feminism can at times be militant and inaccessible- but she makes it accessible. She’s able to use humour to get across a strong message. She also tries to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves as well as encouraging others to be allies.

We’d love to hear your answers to some of these questions too – tweet us @homeagencyuk – and don’t forget to share your ‘hands out’ #BalanceforBetter pose on social today! You can see ours on the ‘gram.

Written by:

Leah Groom


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