Why Greengrass and O2 Business are zeroing in on men to tackle gender inequality

O2 and Greengrass want to save the world from all-male boardrooms

Gender inequality in the creative industries is firmly on the issues road-map this year, no thanks to Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts’ controversial words on the subject.

Both before and since the infamous Business Insider article was published, there have been countless editorials written about the continual male dominance in media and advertising, and Cannes, Dmexco and what seemed like every trade show going scheduled stage time for the subject.

Yet most of these conversations do not include men. The top authors on the matter – such as JWT’s Rachel Pashley and the indomitable Cindy Gallop – are evidently female, and ironically the only all-girl panel you’ll likely find at a conference will undoubtedly be asked to discuss their experiences as women.

Greengrass Consulting and O2 Business have noticed the male voice is often amiss in the rhetoric and want to do something about it on Do It Day, challenging participants to engage men in the workplace to actively promote gender equality. The two companies want the industry and beyond to know that the problem is not just a women’s issue, it's an opportunity for all.

“Gender inequality is a term that’s well-known in business and society; there’s a high level of awareness around it,” explains Marina Lumley, founding partner at Greengrass. “But we don’t believe it’s necessarily understood. And certainly for businesses it’s hard to measure and achieve.”

Lumley, alongside her colleagues and those working on the challenge at O2, believes counting on just 50 per cent of the population to take real action is naive; the other (male) half need to throw their support behind the issue if anything is to get done. She also believes that “a significant percentage” of men truly care about changing the status quo, although many are better off in the current situation.

“Men don’t think about it and don’t realise there’s a level of inequality because they’re not thinking about and engaging with the subject,” she says. “But they have gender equality needs as well. More than 90 per cent don’t take more than their two weeks’ paternity leave because they don’t think they can, or think there would be negative consequences if they did. Men find it harder to negotiate flexible four day weeks … it’s not easy for them to balance childcare and a working life.

“Gender equality is also good for business: it would boost the economy if more women were in more senior positions. It would create one million more entrepreneurs and it would bring more diversity to the boardroom."

Catalysis wanted

O2 Business is bringing weight to the challenge in the form of experience. For all its corporate tendencies the company isn’t afraid “to put the key issues on the table to try and solve them,” according to its head of SMB marketing, Sarah Evans, and operates its own in-house Women’s Network, which also includes men.

“I think it will hard to break through that initial perception that gender equality is just a women’s problem,” Evans says, when asked what roadblocks Do It Day participants may face solving this challenge. “Other big challenges will be creating something that is relevant to the variety of guys out there and the variety of life stages that they’re at, and coming up with an idea that gives them an opportunity to address that inequality.”

On Do It Day, both companies would like to see the creation of a platform that will really do something about the problem, rather than just pay it lip service. “We don’t want a campaign that’s about awareness,” says Lumley. “The aim of the challenge is to get people to think differently about gender equality from a male perspective, to start different conversations in the workplace and to allow men and women to be able to talk about gender inequality in a different way. It needs to be a catalytic campaign.

“We’ve failed if we only drive awareness to the inequality issue; we succeed if we connect men in particular to why inequality exists and how they have to be equal partners for changing that.”

“It can be – and is – a dry topic,” adds Evans. “That’s where the marketing and creative bit for me is just so exciting, because typically these sorts of challenges are tackled by HR teams – they’re not supported and aided by the creative brains of agencies. When you unleash those sets of skills onto a problem like this you can come up with something quite unexpected and quite interesting.”

Think you've got what it takes to work on Greengrass and O2 Business' challenge? Then sign up for Plan It Day here and help The Drum prove that marketing can change the world.

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