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Writer: Zenobia Pithawalla - Monday, Jun 28,2011 10:03 AM
Zenobia Pithawalla @ Cannes: Bringing a woman’s touch to testosterone-driven ad world

Where are the women?
Between the seminars, the shortlists, the awards ceremonies and the parties, one had to fit in other passions. The paella at Chez Freddy (better than any I’ve had in Spain). Crab claws with tamarind sauce at Jade the Vietnamese restaurant, and a cup of Café Viennois every morning. It’s a different feeling to start the day with a cup that has more cream than coffee in it. One thing still has to happen. Besides the Grand finale. Clothes, bags and shoes. My colleague Heeral and I have our last day planned. The cry of the seminar ‘Beyond mad men’ was where are the women? (Try Zara or Anne Fontaine. Today being the last day, you’re sure to find them there). But as this is not just about today. Let’s share pure stats.

Only one of the 13 jury presidents at Cannes this year was a woman. Of the 450 jury members, less than 10 per cent were women. The percentage of women in creative leadership roles worldwide is three. One the other hand, stats also show the buying power of women in the world is more than the buying power of India and China combined.

Martha Stewart of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, who was on the panel, said, women are the ones writing the cheques for cars and kitchens, and so it only made sense to have women in creative leadership roles. Also on the panel was Carol Lam, MD, Chief Creative Officer, McCann Erickson Shanghai. She is certain, in her market it’s all about competence. The dearth of talent doesn’t allow you the luxury of discriminating on the basis of gender.

Kimberly Kadlec, Worldwide VP Global - marketing group, J&J, believes that in order to succeed, it becomes very important for a woman to learn to share responsibility. You achieve more when you share responsibility – at work and at home. For her, work life balance is not about juggling, it’s about playing catch.

Talking of work-life balance, in Carol’s market she felt, women suffered from the problem of being “too wanted”. Due to a dearth of talent, the talent that exists feels overworked and exhausted and at some point that makes them take time off for self actualisation.

Gail Heimann, Vice Chairperson, Weber Shandwick, made an interesting observation. She feels that a little extra courage and defiance on the part of women in the industry would help them get ahead in their careers, because according to her, “the advertising industry is a testosterone-driven world with a lot of male swagger”.

However, in a seminar where the question being asked was, “Where are the women in creative leadership roles?”, it was what Kimberly said that had one seriously thinking. Her best mentors were all men. Equipped with the knowledge that women’s buying power in the world is more than the buying power of India and China combined, Heeral and I have made it our mission today to prove that. After all, it’s a beautiful day and our last day in Cannes.

(Zenobia Pithawalla is Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather India.)

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