Champion creative women or miss out

Champion creative women or miss out

Anomaly's senior lead producer, Charlotte McConnell, shares her personal experience of being passed over for male colleagues and how creativity suffers as a result.

When I was starting out as a graduate trainee in 2008, I was pretty shocked by the misogynistic culture of adland.

I had not quite been prepared, through my education or upbringing, for the realisation of how I was, in fact, not an equal in this new environment. Inappropriate sexual comments and gender-stereotyped roles became a disheartening realisation for a young budding creative producer, who had been lucky enough not to have experienced previous bias. It was a man's world after all. Before the Me Too movement, there was no space to voice concerns against these ancient archaic systems in which young women found themselves in.

Personally, the injustice I felt gave me huge motivation to prove myself. It became the main driving force in my early career. It was always the undercurrent of energy to keep going. It pushed me to work harder and better than my male counterparts. 

When I was 30 I was hired at the same time as a male producer of the same level. He was hired to work on whisky and BMW, whereas I was to work on face cream and biscuits. 

Incidentally, he was also on £20K more. 

I channelled the feelings of injustice I felt into my work. When my colleague was on another vacation, I was allowed to take a shot at a BMW commercial alongside a fully male team. It was my big break in terms of getting noticed by senior management, and being allowed to work on better creative. By the next year, I was producing award-winning work including the Health & Wellness Cannes Grand Prix, which led to my promotion and transfer to the States, to head up all global productions for Levi's.

At each step I have been driven by the inequality I see in the industry, how we can challenge gender stereotypes and draw attention to bias.

In 2016, when the Free the Bid (shortly to become Free The Work) initiative began, there were "less than 7% female directors and less than 10% of female creative directors at ad agencies", which leads to a cultural misrepresentation of women created by an abundance of male storytelling.

Free the Work is an absolutely vital initiative for underrepresented creators, and to improve D&I within production. I have always incorporated Free the Work into my productions, not only for the directorial talent but also within the production crew, DOP, editorial and post-production. Not only does this help level the playing field in terms of diversity, but it opens up the creativity and quality of the production. Free the Work asks the agency to commit to including at least one of the three bidding directors to be female. This allows female directors a chance to pitch against perhaps more well-known male directors who have been given more opportunities to build experience. Many women do not get a chance to build competitive reels after years of gender bias. 

Female directors have been gender stereotyped into beauty, fashion and feminine brands. I will always try and push for two of the three bidding directors to be women. As far as we have come in terms of enabling more female talent in production, more needs to be done in terms of embracing equity. 

Creative directors and clients need to have more courage in championing female directors in the bidding process. 

I have found all too often that the client will waver at the last minute in committing to the female choice due to their 'lack of experience' shown in their reel. However, this lack of experience is only after years of gender bias. We must call out any inkling of tokenism in the bidding process and not only allow female voices to be heard but champion them. 

From my own experience, I find that championing female talent within my productions directly benefits the calibre of creativity—and quality. Anyone who bypasses the wealth of female talent out there is missing out. 

Lead image credit: iStock/imaginima

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