Creative Cannes Lions Sexism

Just 11% of Cannes Lions trophies went to agencies with an equal gender split


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

June 25, 2019 | 5 min read

Close to 31,000 Cannes Lions entries across 89 countries were submitted for 2019, but of the 1000-plus winners just over 11% came from agencies that had an equal gender split at department and board-level.


Despite a gender parity being a thread throughout the conference gender parity is still lacking on credit sheets

According to Les Lionnes (The Lionesses) – a French non-profit group created by and made up of 300 women working in advertising – just under 90% of the winning work submitted from across 89 countries was created by agencies that were chiefly staffed and led by men.

Among those recognised for coming from agencies that advocated for gender equality internally was Droga5 New York for its New York Times ‘The Truth is Worth It’ campaign and Adam&Eve/DDB’s ‘The Boy and the Piano’ John Lewis 2019 Christmas ad.

Despite gender parity being a theme throughout the conference, with announcements from brands like P&G and Unilever designed to tackle the issues behind and in-front of the camera, Les Lionnes said it spotted a “vast number of campaigns with 100% male credits” and identified zero campaigns where women occupied the entire credit sheet.

Despite a gender parity being a thread throughout the conference

This year, the organisation’s own ‘Cannes Lionnes Equality Awards’ scheme handed out alternative trophies for campaigns that met its strict gender diversity criteria. A team of 50 Lionnes, led by founder and president Christelle Delarue, analysed the credit lists of all entries and identified those working on the most deserving campaigns by scoring them accordingly.

It dished out just 100 of these awards, or around one for every 10 official Cannes Lions trophies.

All campaigns had to be free of sexist tropes, but to win a Gold Lionne the credit sheet had to be totally gender equal and have a female creative director as well as an agency board that was equally split. Silver Lionnes were awarded in instances where the credit sheet was balanced and where the creative director was female. The lowest Bronze tier was doled out to campaigns that had parity in the credits.

Of the 100 Lionnes Equality trophies awarded, the majority (68) were in the Bronze category. 25 were certified as Silver and just seven as Gold.

Delarue, who is also founder of feminist creative shop Mad&Women, said: “90% of the time, we awarded Bronze Lionnes but it was mainly because women had account or post-production roles. There are very few Silver Lionnes or Gold Lionnes, since women rarely own creative roles, or creative director roles.”

She added: “When it comes to board committees, it’s even worse, parity is very scarcely met. There was a true breakthrough on that matter in North American countries, but the least deserving regions are definitely Europe and South America.”

Saniye Gülser Corat, director of gender equality at Unesco, said an “urgent intervention” was needed to ensure the results improve year-on-year.

“We need to tell agencies that their addiction to abusive patterns is unacceptable. The Cannes Lionnes remind us that women are equal partners, as creators and as consumers,” she added.

The Lionnes had been working elsewhere at Cannes to "terminate women’s invisibility" in the ad industry, including launching a guerrilla poster campaign that invited French advertising execs to share their #MeToo experiences.

Earlier this year, data from The Drum's The Big Won study – which aggregates results from all of the world’s major awards competitions – showed that of last year’s 300 most-awarded chief creative officers, executive creative directors and creative directors, only 39 were women.

Creative Cannes Lions Sexism

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