As creative agencies across the world battle it out to take home the much coveted metals in the run-up to the 64th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June, there has been an equally gruelling contest among women in the advertising world to book themselves a berth on the Cannes Lions’ ‘See It Be It’ acceleration programme that aims to put creative women in the spotlight.
Making it to the special list of the 15 chosen women across the globe is Sakshi Choudhary, Creative Supervisor, OgilvyOne. Though the news hasn’t completely sunk in yet, Choudhary talks about the possibilities such an initiative can open up towards establishing a gender-balanced environment not just in advertising, but in larger spheres of society too.
It all starts in the family
Growing up in a family where equality and respect were fundamental values, Choudhary feels it crucial to stand up to those values wherever she finds them missing. “My dad was in the army and so we had our fair share of struggles, but with my limited exposure and within what my parents could afford, they never differentiated between me and my brother,” says Choudhary. The differential treatment meted out to girls in many families that she came across later in life changed her outlook and challenged her to strive for change.
Action is the first step
A practitioner of art herself, Choudhary believes that creativity can lead change. The ‘See Saw’ project, which has produced a couple of art series, is her brainchild. “Gender biases perpetuate from our own cultures, traditions and several religious practices. I believe art has the power to touch lives and with the ‘See Saw’ project that is exactly what my team (comprising Jnana Prasanna Kumar Sarvasiddi, Co-founder, One September and Burzin Mehta, Group Creative Director, OgilvyOne) set out to achieve. It may be at a nascent stage, but at least it is visible action in the right direction,” says Choudhary.
Women too can leave a legacy in advertising
For Choudhary, the gender bias in advertising boils down to numbers. The sheer difficulty that people have in recollecting names of great women advertisers is what gets her goat and makes her want to push for the cause with more fervour. “If you look at most creative juries, women make up less than 20%, which is an appalling stat, to say the least. Women possess the acumen, skill, talent and education to create outstanding work and leave an equal legacy if the gender bias is uprooted. This year, Cannes has 43% female jurors, which is a promising sign for women in advertising,” says a determined Choudhary.
The change that starts from within
It may be a cliché in most philosophy classes and self-help literature, but Sakshi is witness to the conscious attempts made at Ogilvy to promote women leadership at the top. “Our CEO, John Seifert, announced gender diversity as one of O&M’s biggest focus areas, and by 2025, more than 50% of top level positions will be filled by women,” says Choudhary optimistically. “It’s the attempts made within the agency that have caused a stir in our outlook. Be it with the ‘Self-Esteem’ workshops done by Dove or the #SkillsNotScars campaign done for acid attack survivors, Ogilvy has been the front-runner in taking up gender issues at the core of its business,” Choudhary adds.
Look forward to meeting the mentors
‘See It Be It’ is an acceleration programme launched by Cannes Lions in 2014 with an objective to put creative women in the spotlight. With an all-access pass throughout the festival and special privilege of one-to-one mentoring sessions from some of the most respected industry leaders including the ambassador of the programme, Madonna Badger, Choudhary has high hopes from Cannes. “Madonna is an inspiration to every woman in advertising. Her entire body of work speaks volumes of the efforts she has put in towards improving the ratio of female leaders in the industry. I eagerly look forward to meeting her and all the other outstanding jurors at Cannes,” she says enthusiastically.