What do we say today?
'Happy International Women's Day?'
'Festive greetings to you on this day when we meditate on everything from sexism at work to child marriage to food inequality?'
I'm not sure but I know one thing: There's still work to be done.
I could focus on any of the abuses and repressions faced by women and girls globally, I'm going to focus a little closer to home.
In the creative industries.
Yesterday at the Guardian's Changing Media Summit, I watched white men outnumber women on panel after panel. And then when an all-female panel came, it was to talk about #metoo. Welcome to the stage, you're probably all good at your jobs but we'll give you a topic: discrimination against you.
And then, a keynote from Martin Sorrell, who claimed to be trying to change the ratio, but who continues to promote men to lead his advertising businesses and has the gender pay gap to prove it. And also flat financial results.
Coincidence? I hope not.
Let's continue to pick on him for a moment. When it came to praise, he claimed to think that 'women are better than men anyway'. They take on more responsibility (ie have babies). They're more emotionally intelligent (trust me I'm not). It can't be just normal intelligence, it has to be mitigated with a 'female' adjective.
Reminds me of when Kevin Roberts said that women didn't want to move up in an agency because they were 'too smart to want vertical progression'. Well call me stupid Kev, I'm an Executive Creative Director who's not done going upwards, outwards -- and around sexism.
Unrepresentative panels and the opinions of an outdated CFO aside, these aren't the whole problem, they're just indicative of it.
The creative industries are still led disproportionately by men. And that means that they set the tone of our working environments. And that means women are 'other'. And that means we are always living by someone else's rules.
I want to share the story of a very brave woman who I was lucky enough to mentor, through the Who's Your Momma scheme -- which is dedicated to empowering women to succeed in the creative world.
I thought I might help a woman find her leadership style, maybe get to creative director one day.
Instead? All-male departments, 1970s sexism, bullying... the stuff employment tribunals are made of.
I watched her get bullied out of a workplace and then find her place again. Just because of being female. And still she got up, and found herself somewhere else, when it would have been easier to check out. Checking out is just what a lot of women end up deciding to do. They go to do something else. They freelance. Not because they choose to. Because they can't find their voice in agencies.
This happens every day.
We ought to change that.
Happy International Women's Day.
If, back then, you’d told me it was a toxic environment, I would’ve shrugged it off and blamed myself for being too sensitive. Now, I look back and wish I’d had the balls to speak out. I was one of three women in our creative department, and the youngest by a decade or two. Every day, I sat through casual conversations of sexual harassment, listened to in-depth discussions about sex and naked women, and was told on one occasion (by a male co worker), that “sexism just doesn’t exist in the workplace”. I'm no prude. But do I want to listen to men talking about all this while I'm at work? Nah. Not really.