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Opinion: 3 ways to embrace equity in a creative workplace (that works for women)

Opinion: 3 ways to embrace equity in a creative workplace (that works for women)

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For as long as many of us can remember, gender equality has been a keen topic of conversation – however it remains to be a work in progress. Growing up in a conservative family where women before me had no real option but to stay at home, I was inspired to dream differently. 

The World Economic Forum's latest report on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lighthouses shares "studies show greater diversity can help teams focus more on facts, process those facts more carefully, and generate more creativity and innovation when the broader organisation is inclusive and equitable". I would be hard-pressed to find those who would disagree.

Yet still – in 2023 – there are conversations on gender stereotypes perpetuated by advertising – not limited to biases on the portrayal of women either. Taking equitable action is a first step to counter such societal and industry issues ­– so how can workplaces truly #EmbraceEquity this year, and create havens for the next generation of women creative leaders, like me, to thrive?

#1 Insist equitable inclusion starts way before the brief

‘Inclusion’ is a word that’s spoken so often, but it’s critical we don’t lose sight of what it means: to include. That means nobody’s scratched off a meeting list or had their opinion ignored because of a traditionally masculine or feminine subject matter.

It’s not enough to simply present a gender-diverse team to a prospective client - the people on your team (of any gender) need to feel it’s real way before then. How? That comes down to equity. It means consistently asking ourselves: who is great for this opportunity, who is the opportunity itself great for, and how can we ensure equal access? This isn’t limited to the hottest new brief that’s landed – it’s for every part of our workplace ecosystem.

Creativity hinges on insight. From a human perspective, that can come from any of our exposures to a given area – not limited to gender conforms we may have grown up in. This in turn reduces the risk of falling prey to the ‘male gaze’, and instead allows for going eye-to-eye with a woman’s perspective on the world. Being Indonesian myself, I also welcome conversations on intersectional equity and inclusion, inspiring action that includes women of all ethnicities.

#2 Don’t assume what we want

For the women on your team – listen to their professional motivations, and hear what lights their creative flame without automatically factoring in their personal worlds unprovoked. Every woman deserves this – whether they have familial dependents, or not.

For me, I’m a female creative who’s a mum of a toddler and, without question, dedicated to my family life. But my personal world commitments don’t simply ‘edge out’ my professional goals or achievements. I work best in a team that doesn’t simply file me in a box of assumed interests.

We all need to balance our responsibilities – I pick up my daughter from childcare, and there are days where she may be sick. So having a flexible, empathetic and understanding team is important – this is a two-way street where we understand each other’s needs as well as the business priorities, so we can support everyone to drive impactful change.

#3 Give us opportunities to lead, not merely support

Equity sees the playing field levelled for every person to have an equal chance. To some people, that might feel like a risk, or too much change. But change is how we move the world forward to a more meaningful place.

Make your workplace – however large or small – a place to explore and learn. Acknowledge that leading can look different to every person. For me, it’s about taking ownership and seeing my vision through to something that creates impact. Recently I was given the opportunity to lead the design of a bespoke parade float for Golin’s sponsorship of Taiwan Pride – a project not similar to anything I’d done before but with trust and space, it's now among the proudest parts of my portfolio. Quoting Serena Williams, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another”.

Fuelling confidence is key to embracing equity – make it a duty to build, fortify and protect it so that every woman in our industry (and beyond) has the freedom to create and the power to shape communities as a result of it.

This article is written by Williana Chen, creative manager, Golin Singapore’s creative intelligence unit.

Related articles: 

Hersheys' IWD campaign featuring transwoman leads to backlash
Ad agency Lion and Lion changes name for IWD
Watsons embraces equity with regional empowerment campaign for IWD
Charles & Keith features bullied teenager as face of IWD ad campaign

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