The view from a white guy in adland…
The agency taught us to do what’s right and never fear raising your head. Being different drives change. Creativity demands honesty. Be the change you want to see in the world. All that stuff.
But then you hired a department head who spoke a different truth, where women were “girls” and men were “my bros”. It all fell apart. I wish I had stood up to you.
I realise now there are so many agencies that believe they have a grown-up, about-fucking-time attitude towards inclusivity. Yet underneath this shiny shell, the bias is too deep. It crosses through their subconscious, out of their mouths and into their body language. For example, never making eye contact with the women in the office, but staring at the chests, requesting not to be in a room at the same time as a female co-worker, passing projects to your 'bros' like me, and insulting clients for being 'screechy'. It's all the tiny, little signals.
Publish all the press releases you want but when you’ve grown up to believe that women are inferior and men are just ‘better for the job’, you kick the ladder away. Inclusivity demands practice. You’re not used to it so you need to be retrained, and need people to check your biases regularly.
Time after time, I saw many women put their hands up for new assignments. They were eager for promotion, and deserved it. Maybe they weren’t the loudest, or most experienced, or the fastest talkers. But many have adjacent skills and empathy in abundance that just made the work better. I wish I had turned work down so people in the shadows could take it.
As men, we literally can’t imagine how society has shaped them subconsciously to believe they‘re weaker. As men, it takes us to check our privilege in the day to day. We should seek out difference and sponsor it.
This agency failed.
I learned that nothing's going to change unless more men understand they need to be part of the solution. This is not a women's issue - it's everyone's issue. On a personal level, I'm going to be much more active and work harder to see what others don't.
I turned a blind eye to all the lite-sexism I saw. This time, I'm asking for feedback from females, I'm identifying people in the office who are more marginalised because they're quieter, I'm learning about soft skills and finally although it's hard, I'm calling out the little moments of sexism I do witness.