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Why #thisgirlcan director ‘kept the illusion’ she could be a man

The female director behind Sport England’s wildly popular #thisisgirlcan campaign, Kim Gehrig, has admitted that for much of her career she has “kept the illusion” that she was a man to avoid being stereotyped in the industry.

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe, Somesuch and Co’s Gehrig described how she was happy to have a gender neutral name so that she could take on directing jobs that weren’t aimed at females. She also revealed that working on #thisgirlcan is the first time she is proud to be a woman.

“I admit I pretend, because my name is Kim and its easy kept the illusion, that I could be a man for the majority of my directing career because it was quite convenient,” she explained. “I deliberately did quite boysy style work for the first stage of my directing career so that I was not put up as a female director, I didn’t want to be getting the makeup ads and the girly things.

“I was quite happy that my name was Kim and I didn’t care that a magazine wrote he did this, or he did that [I thought] good, good, good. And actually doing this campaign it’s the first time I’ve been proud to be a female director and that is a better thing than being a male director.”

The session, which explored the challenges and opportunities women in media and sports face, touched on the “huge opportunity” that brands and businesses are missing out on by dismissing sponsoring women’s sporting teams, as Ruth Holdaway chief executive, Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation explained.

“There is this massive investment opportunity in women’s sport,” said Holdaway, “It’s not expensive at the moment… it’s to their [sports governing bodies’] advance to sell men’s and women’s versions of the sport separately. It continues to astonish me that there is this huge opportunity that businesses and brands just don’t seem to have latched on to.”

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