[The below is brought to you by Jack Morton, West Coast]
When she firmly vocalized her opinion, she was asked “Why are you so angry?”
When she expressed emotions other than positivity, she was asked “What’s wrong with you? Is it because you’re on your period?”
When she spoke up in a meeting, she heard “Actually, I think what you mean is…”
These are just a few instances of gendered unconscious bias some of the women in our office have experienced in the lifetime of their career. Add these to the other challenges working women face, like unequal pay and unequal treatment for working mothers or mothers-to-be, and it’s clear why this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BalanceforBetter.
To honor the progress being made and devote attention to the challenges yet to overcome, we activated “Femme Walk the Wall,” engaging everyone in the office—men and women alike—to share their personal stories on gender inequality. The stories—some uplifting, others shocking; some anonymous, others named—shared the space with a female symbol made up entirely of facts and figures on the topic of gender inequality.
Questions prompted a discussion, which included some women from the office’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team sharing personal anecdotes:
To culminate the experience, we all participated in a group exercise of “walking the wall.” Reading the stories and coming together to have a hard—but necessary—conversation will progress us forward and build a culture of inclusion.
An authentic, powerful experience
Anonymity made the exercise powerful, allowing our community to be real and authentic about what’s happened to them both in and out of the workplace. This means holding each other, and ourselves, accountable for unconscious biases; inviting both genders into the discussion, free of judgment; and encouraging everyone — from coordinators to directors — to grow this movement like we grow our company: with respect, passion, and agility.
Founder of The 3% Movement, Kat Gordon’s, “Elephant on Mad Ave” survey reports that 9 in 10 women in advertising have heard demeaning comments from male colleagues, with 6 in 10 hearing them monthly, and only 16% of women in advertising have taken action after experiencing an unwanted advance.1
These numbers aren’t acceptable. We need to create a safe space for others to feel they can come forward. The more we are allies in creating a safe, inclusive environment to have the hard conversations about unconscious bias, inequality and sexual harassment, the better chance we, as an office and as an agency, have at making progress in stopping these actions completely.
Become an ally
With the continuation of creating a safe and inclusive space, we all discussed ally-ship. Not just from our male colleagues, but also from female colleagues. A support system will:
- Empower younger women to speak up when there is unfair treatment.
- Act as a resource, guiding others if a difficult situation is happening in the workplace.
- Serve as a platform – encouraging women to be vocal about instances in which they’re treated unfairly, reminding others to always show up with respect.
Continue the conversation
International Women’s Day goes far beyond March 8th. We need to continue the conversation so we can continue to examine what we as an agency can, and should, do to progress forward.
As a collective, we shared feelings of disbelief and frustration, empowerment and solidarity, and respect for unrestrained honesty in each other’s opinions and participation. Like most companies today, Jack Morton is not immune to the everyday biases that occur in the work place. But that shared commonality does not excuse us in remaining idle. What we can acknowledge is that the women in our office are affected. What we can do is educate and create a culture of inclusion.
Our #JackWestSideDEI pledge
To harness this momentum, we pledge to have check-ins every quarter to see how our teams are doing with unconscious bias and more. We have a lot to do, but this is just one step forward to instilling best practices and building a great culture where everyone can show up to work, be themselves and support one another in this journey for a balanced future.
1 The 3 Percent Movement. Elephant on Madison Avenue. Retrieved March 12, 2019 from https://www.3percentmovement.com/resources/elephant-madison-avenue