[Point de vue] To the glass ceiling, we’ll respond with the short ladder

Writer and committed citizen, the author taught literature at college, she is president of the governing board of an elementary school and member of the editorial board of Quebec letters. She co-edited and co-wrote the collective work Shock treatments and tarts. Critical assessment of the management of COVID-19 in Quebec (All in all).

Montreal, 2008. I work in an advertising agency, where I landed following a combination of circumstances and the inherent precariousness of teaching literature at college. In my office, we are seven editors. Periodically, we cry and rage, smashing our heads against the glass ceiling.

We do not name it as such; it is not yet clear to us. With our noses glued to the problem, we only see the refusals we come up against: directing a voice session in the studio, working on more stimulating projects, being involved a little more upstream of mandates… Which goes without saying elsewhere in the agency must be claimed with great argument in our green office which, fortunately, still has a door, while the trendy open areas that curb the tears begin to take root everywhere.

It wasn’t until a few years later that the evidence became clear: our milieu was sexist. It is The 3% Movement that opens our eyes: born in the United States in 2012 and piloted by women who saw that something was wrong in the country of advertising, it tells us that only 3% of management positions in creation in the United States are then occupied by them. Three small percent.

Thus, the 97% in place hire and promote their male counterparts, sometimes without even being aware of their biases. Because he sees himself in this talented and insolent creative, the creative director (or CD) decides to give him a chance; he offers her beautiful projects, which allow her to win prizes, which allow her to negotiate a better salary and to have even more beautiful projects. Ultimately, this alignment of the stars operated by the hand of man allows the young advertiser who has aged to become DC and reproduce the recipe, while his female colleagues are still “proving themselves” on projects that give them more. or less occasionally.

Women in creation

The American movement has taken off, especially in Quebec, where the group Women created it was born in 2018. One of the spark plugs (and we come back to the prizes won above) is a painful observation: no jury of the Créa advertising competition has yet had a woman as president. None. In more than a decade of history. The problem was systemic. It was first necessary to recognize it – and then to make aware of it the medium, which had believed for a long time that the prices were only a question of merit, to shake the house and its boy clubs.

The changes are not long in coming. The following year, a woman, Marilou Aubin, assumed the presidency of the Créa awards for the first time. In agencies, objective and fair salary scales are put in place. In the wake of #MeToo, we also denounce attacks, lecherous bosses, insistent brushing in the elevators in the hope that they belong forever to the past. The women talk — talk to each other; they come together, combine.

Five years after the launch of Women in Creation, at Idéa (renewed version of advertising industry competitions, which recently brings together six galas in one), five out of six juries have a woman at their head, which is nothing a scandal that masculinists could cry out for: after decades of total absence of women in these positions, this is only the tiny beginning of the swing of the pendulum. Moreover, in the United States, equality has not yet been achieved, but 29% of creative management positions are now held by women. A huge leap — but the job is not done.

An intersectional fight

If, when the Movement was created 11 years ago, “only 3% of creative management positions were held by women”, it was “even less by people of color” (I translate freely). This is the phrase that greets us today on the movement’s website. For a long time very white and masculine, decked out with the aura of madmen until a still recent past, the world of advertising is in transformation — and this transformation takes place under the sign of intersectionality.

Because if the reception of the 3% Movement does not explicitly name this word which makes the Legault government shudder on this side of the border, that is what it is all about. Its co-founder, Kat Gordon, has also laid aside her responsibilities within the organization. She acts as a creative entrepreneur in residence, notably for the Eleven agency, in San Francisco, which she accompanies, among other things, in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion — principles at the heart of more and more businesses and cities in Quebec.

Some like to hate these expressions, “supreme incarnations of wokism This last word having become the scarecrow they brandish as soon as a group risks climbing the ladder to sit by their side, on the rung they had hitherto reserved for themselves (when they weren’t really the boss of the construction site). But they are necessary to allow people (neuroatypical, of color, non-binary, trans, disabled, etc.), “who historically have not held leadership positions, to bring their unique perspective and all that they are in their work”.

This is the objective pursued by Eleven, a prosperous and radiant company, like those that usually inspire our Prime Minister. When is the intersectional turn here? Until real equality happens, women will continue to reach out to smash ceilings — and not just between white women.

In 2021, feminist Roxane Gay pointed out to the BBC that equality was often felt as oppression by those in power. “However, equality is not an oppression,” she continued. Men must understand this. »

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