Cannes Lions is a global advertising festival where 12,000 people from 94 countries come together to be inspired by seven unmissable days of learning, networking and celebration.

Getty Images were there to #RePicture the world. Susan Song, VP of Brand Marketing at Getty Images wraps up the event.

The usual smorgasbord of seminars, awards, brand sponsors, parties, and over 12,000 delegates strolling along La Croisette got some unexpected competition from two unifying forces at Cannes Lions this year.  First, the undeniable pull of World Cup football (was anyone really going to miss their national team matches to stand in line at Google Beach?) and second, the powerful call to action to kill the clichés and behaviors which hold back women from succeeding in our industry and around the world.

The topic of sexism is unavoidable if you are a woman working in the business world today. You’ve either personally experienced it at some point in your career or known someone who did.  Personally, I have always felt I could only talk about it in a “safe” environment – with a friend, family member, or executive coach. I’ve been told many times, always by other women, that to bring it up in the office-either during performance review or with a manager - would damage my reputation and my career.  I suspect many women have felt this way because I’ve never seen anyone take a stand on it in a public and visible way.

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Sheryl Sandberg was the first. And her continued leadership on this issue has inspired women, including myself, to overcome their fear to talk about it openly.  This week was a powerful week for women at Cannes Lions.  Our very own Pam Grossman, Director of Visual Trends, kicked it off with Jessica Bennett from LeanIn.org on Monday with a forum on The New Visual Language – Women, Brands, and Closing the Gender gap. In front of a packed house, both women presented compelling data and evidence that images have the power to shape perceptions about women and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

 
Sheryl Sandberg was a vital and dominant presence on stage at the Grand Audi on Wednesday. She demonstrated in real time the double standard that exists for men and women by asking the audience to answer questions like “How many women in the room have been described as aggressive?” All the women raised their hands. Only a few hands went up when she asked the men. And the fact that there were more men in the audience than women really drove the point home.
Later that afternoon, Andrew Robertson, CEO of BBDO, Joanna Coles, Editor at Cosmopolitan, and Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images, participated in a panel moderated by Sheryl Sandberg to discuss “The Power of Picturing” – how images, media and advertising have the power to inspire a more equal and authentic world for women. Citing examples from Getty Images, Pantene and Dove, the panelists spoke about how these campaigns that challenge the stereotyping of women have led to increased sales and success for the products. All the panelists supported the case that the success of women is vital to economic prosperity. Doing good for women is good for business. Women have 80% of the consumer purchase power, and 74% of women are users of social networking sites, compared with 62% of men. Yet media and advertising today does not reflect this.
The impact of the panel was immediately felt.  During the cocktail hour following the session, I witnessed, for the first time, women at all levels talk about their experiences openly in front of their male bosses and counterparts.  Several men also admitted that they needed to step up and lead in their organizations on closing the gap. It was well acknowledged that our industry was one of the worst in leading on this – only 3% of the creative directors worldwide are women.  This is in evidence at the Cannes Lions Festival with only 15% of Cannes Lions delegates under the age of 28 being female and in creative jobs. That number drops down to just 4% in delegates over the age of 28.
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