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By Doug Zanger, Americas Editor

March 8, 2016 | 4 min read

The global TBWA network has released a poignant campaign, stressing the importance of recognizing women’s issues as everyone’s issues, especially in the workplace. “Take The Lead” takes its inspiration from the theme of International Women’s Day 2016: A Pledge For Parity.

This passion project includes a powerful two minute film featuring men from the TBWA network, from all levels, specialties and backgrounds, reciting actual quotes from their female peers, that were solicited via an anonymous global survey in which industry women were asked to voice some of the issues they have faced, or expect to face, in their careers. Participants include ad legends like Lee Clow, Jean-Marie Dru and John Hunt in addition to nearly 100 hundred men from the TBWA network.

The quotes are profound and underscore how destructive the things being said to women in the industry are — and how much more work is afoot to truly move the industry forward:

“People think I'm bossy when I have an opinion.”

“Stop talking to me like I'm a little girl.”

“The glass ceiling might be a cliché, but it feels very real.”

“I was once told to come to a meeting just to look pretty.”

“Every time I disagreed with my old boss, he'd call me ‘emotional.’"

“I asked for a raise and immediately said I'd take less.”

“When I told my former boss I was going to have a baby, he said, ‘But your career is going so well.’”

“Why do I have to pretend to be tough instead of kind?”

“People look at my title and think, ‘There's no way I got here just because I'm good at my job.’”

“The sad truth is that to get ahead I have to be a bitch.”

“Take The Lead” was born out of insight that, though there are several recent and welcome female-focused equality initiatives, there is still a great need to establish a chorus of positive voices from their male counterparts. It is somewhat ironic that these sentiments are coming from the mouths of men, but it galvanizes that fact that the challenges faced by women should not be addressed or challenged by women alone.

This is part of a wider TBWA initiative, Project 20\20, led by Erica Hoholick, president of TBWA/Media Arts Lab, as a challenge to increase women’s leadership roles across the TBWA network by 20 per cent by 2020.

Though the campaign was launched in celebration of International Women’s Day, the campaign is designed to live well past just today, with important advocacy across the TBWA network.

“We have had close to 150 men across TBWA participate in this campaign and it has been sent to every TBWA employee by Troy Ruhanen (TBWA global chief), himself,” said Hoholick. “This is further proof about how much we are committed to increasing female leadership by 20% by 2020. Every time we reinforce to our talent that this is what we care about it further creates the environment of equality, it breaks down walls that may exist and ensures people are more aware of any biases that exist. It is an ongoing conversation that is part of our business reviews, recruitment strategies, succession planning as well as all of the programs that we have put in place across the network that happen daily, weekly and monthly. This campaign was showing the organization and the industry that the most senior male leadership of TBWA is just as invested in change as the women are.”

Hoholick also noted that TBWA’s leadership and candor on the issue is important to make its way outside the walls of the network.

“This project is exciting because it is coming from the absolute top of the organization and is clear how committed everyone is to this change,” said Hoholick. “And the work is brave — we are openly and publicly committing to the world that this is what we care about. Our current stats are not 50/50 and there will always be room for criticism, but our people, the industry or our clients can’t say that we aren’t acknowledging it and actively trying to make real change. Great companies openly identify areas to improve and then come up with real solutions to address those things. “

TBWA International Women's Day

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