Have you ever experienced that feeling where you wake up and stare at your wardrobe, undecided as to what to wear? If you haven’t, I envy you. The second day of the Women Deliver Conference 2019 was my ‘wardrobe’ today and demanded I make that impossible choice to select from the huge number of incredible sessions taking place.
Having selected a pair of white jeans — narrowly missing a coffee spill — I headed to the morning session discussing women’s movements in the era of #MeToo. Themes ranged from Solidarity vs Trolling on Social Media to Spontaneous Activism, The Involvement of Legal Systems through to Victim Blaming and Intersectionality. A light discussion to kick off the day — fascinating nonetheless.
Intersectionality was a particularly interesting one. Panelists Jean Kemitare (Raising Voices, Uganda) and Humberto Carolo (White Ribbon) took the conversation in an unexpected direction, questioning #MeToo as a “privileged” movement. Elaborating on this easy-to-misinterpret assertion, they referenced that those who have been involved with #MeToo and shared their voice:
- Have access to the internet;
- Are for the most part educated;
- Feel comfortable to speak up;
- Have access to protection services for them to deal with the consequences.
Humberto explained that we must “break the silos” and build bridges to bring social movements that affect women together, along with LGBTI, disability, refugees and environmental issues, to name a few.
Two sessions I went to in the afternoon involved Procter & Gamble (P&G) representatives so naturally, both the Gillette ad, as well as the Pink Tax, bubbled to the surface of the conversation. I’ll sideline the gender-based price discrimination for now, as the illuminating point surrounding the Gillette ad was that it received a record number of dislikes to likes in the first few hours of launch.
Allison Tummon Kamphuis (P&G) explained that internally, the response was positive and argued that sparking this kind of debate created the exact engagement surrounding toxic masculinity that they were looking for. However, no amount of well planned crisis comms could distract from the conversation that inherent sexism still exists within these ads – 40%+ of people still don’t see themselves reflected in advertisements today.
The lack of representation in the creative industries also came up as part of the discussion. Lesley Slaton Brown from Hewlett-Packard demanded that:
“[Consumers need] to start holding companies and agencies accountable”…
…as well as speaking up when something is done right. Equally, the industry itself has a key role to play. Rather than obsess over competition, the advertising industry must collaborate more with one another to progress inclusive storytelling at an accelerated rate.
As Tummon Kamphuis put it:
“Partnerships is how we can go faster in what we’re doing”.
The highlight of the day for me was listening to Claire Humphreys, co-founder of Wethos, a freelancer platform. Quite simply, she’s a young female entrepreneur who eloquently shared her somewhat unique experience of founding a business. Explaining when she first went out to potential investors, she described the dichotomy that
“Men get investment on the basis of ideas. Women get investment on the basis of results.”
It seems then, that investors need to be educated on the type of questions they’re asking women. Humphreys is doing great work building up her company through the flexibility of remote work, giving all of those who sign up to the platform a voice to decide what work they take on, and most impressively, forced arbitration to tackle sexual harassment to keep all freelancers safe.
To emphasise, there are so many different talks taking place throughout the week and this is just a glimpse into my experience here at Women Deliver 2019 — an experience that will clearly require me to lay out my chosen outfit the night before.