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Dear senior leaders, please protect your staff from sexual harassment in Cannes

By Josh Krichefski | Chief executive

June 20, 2022 | 7 min read

As Cannes Lions gets under way, Josh Krichefski, global chief operating officer at MediaCom, has a message for his fellow senior leaders.

Dear senior leaders, team leaders, HR professionals and anyone else with the responsibility of sending staff to the Cannes Lions festival.

Josh K

Josh Krichefski, global chief operating officer, MediaCom

This is a fun, exciting and often super busy time for us all. It is a hive of sharing knowledge and experience, a moment to reflect on truly brilliant work, and a time to breathe and enjoy the company of clients and industry friends – as well as a look ahead to the next year. But there is another side to large-scale events – be that Cannes, Cop and WEF, or any other event of that size.

So, on behalf of TimeTo, I’m asking we all do our utmost to protect people on the ground from sexual harassment while they are there working for us and our businesses. It is not only our legal obligation as an employer but our moral obligation as human beings.

The reality is that sexual harassment is an indefensible and truly vile part of society – nearly three-quarters (72%) of the UK population have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. And it’s important we remember that this includes sexual jokes, staring or looks, and sexual comments.

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As we head toward this celebratory time in the advertising industry, we need to prepare for it fully by putting measures in place to ensure our staff are safe and secure. Building on that, we need to establish the right steps to either help them extricate themselves from, or report without concern or fear, instances of sexual harassment or intimidation and discomfort of any kind.

In 2021 TimeTo researched the industry on its feelings around sexual harassment as we made our first tentative steps back to office life.

The results were deeply concerning. Almost half (49%) of people surveyed who work in the businesses said they were worried sexual harassment would surface as they returned to the office. Here’s a small selection of what people shared:

  • People could have forgotten how to behave appropriately around colleagues having been apart for such a long time

  • There has been a lack of contact and ability to see people, meaning drinking and socializing may get out of hand

  • There’s a lot of general pent-up aggression/anxiety/anger, which can come out in strange ways

With that in mind, I am imploring anyone who falls into the list at the top of this piece – myself and MediaCom included – to put in place some or, better, all of the below advice:

  • Understand that you have a duty of care to keep your staff safe

  • When in a senior position, you have an extra obligation to set an example and not use your power over people more vulnerable than yourself

  • Set the culture: make clear the standards of behavior expected of everyone in the workplace, even when in Cannes

  • If you’re already a TimeTo endorser, familiarize yourself with the Code of Conduct and share it again

  • If you aren’t an endorser, sign up now and download the code and assets so that you can share them with your team

  • Remind your teams before they go to Cannes about your organization’s sexual harassment policy. If you don’t have one, there is a template in the TimeTo Toolkit

  • Remind teams how they can report sexual harassment, whether they have experienced or witnessed it

  • Reinforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment. Make it clear that there are no exemptions or special rules for people of certain status

  • Make it clear that your people should never be made to feel that their career – at their current company or a future one – will be disadvantaged because they have come forward to report an incident as a person who has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment

  • Talk personally to every member of staff to ask them to contact you ASAP if they experience or see any sexual harassment

  • If you’re a senior leader, give staff your mobile number with a clear invitation to call day or night if they are being harassed

  • Remind your team what allowances they have by way of taxi expenses. You have a duty to ensure everyone has enough expenses to safely get home each night

  • Remind your team that Nabs is there to support anyone who experiences, witnesses or is accused of sexual harassment: 0800 707 6607/support@nabs.org.uk during office hours, or use the 24/7 SupportBot for instant information and to request a callback from one of its friendly, expert team

And we shouldn’t stop there. When the last award has been handed out and the good people of Cannes get back to their day jobs, we need to get back to ours, and stamping out sexual harassment should be a top priority.

To do this, we can all take the following steps:

  • Take action to ensure that, as company leaders, we create a safe and open culture in our companies where those who have been sexually harassed or witnessed harassment, or have been accused of harassment, can approach us with confidence that the company will investigate all allegations fairly and promptly

  • Sign up to be an endorser of TimeTo and live and breathe its principles inside the organization. It can’t just be a badge. Bring TimeTo to life so that teams know we will take appropriate action to maintain a safe and inclusive culture

  • Make sure policies and principles are well-known to all staff – they should know what to do if they encounter sexual harassment, and what the likely course of events will be following a reported incident

  • Empower HR teams to enforce sexual harassment policy, whoever the perpetrator is and whatever the consequences

  • Book the TimeTo training – train your leadership teams, train their teams and cascade the TimeTo principles throughout your organization. The training is the game-changer for behavior change

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