Yet where it can, the festival is challenging and changing those power structures, with greater diversity both on juries and its content platforms. “Our concerted effort to ensure equal gender splits on juries and within our content platforms sends a clear message back to agencies that women should be valued,” explains Benson.
To this end, in 2019 almost half (48%) of jurors are women, a significant leap from the 20% recorded in 2013.
But changing the ratio has not been about lowering the bar when it comes to ensuring greater diversity on juries. “It is the same selection process, but change has been brought about by sheer hard work and determination. It has been a journey,” she adds.
Just as winning a Cannes Lions can boost your career, experience on juries can have a positive impact on both career progression and profile. “We plant those seeds. There is a halo effect [on your career] in being on a jury. If we can intervene in a way that is fair, that is a positive thing,” Benson says.
From talk to action
Five years into the #SeeItBeIt programme, Benson reflects that its continued relevance and impact is down to the approach: “It was not a PR exercise; it wasn’t done with great fanfare. It was real work to try and diversify the industry. It has become a cult brand and it is easier for us to open doors with it. In recent years we have always had an ambassador and these women have become really involved in the long term. The women who have led these groups have become so committed. It has changed their lives.”
Sponsorship has also grown the programme further. This year Spotify has powered the initiative forward by investing in sponsoring more global events. “Through the women who have been through the programmes it is clear that it is not nice to have. This is about supporting female creatives; it is essential,” adds Benson
Of course, there remains more to do to drive equality across the industry, but Benson points to initiatives such as the UN Women Unstereotype Alliance as evidence of the power of a collaborative, cross-industry drive for greater representation. “I wouldn’t say the battle is won but there are brilliant examples of brand marketers wanting to create change both in front of and behind the camera because it makes business sense. These high-profile examples are influencing the industry as a whole,” she adds.
In the midst of the ultimate celebration of creativity, the drive to push inclusive creative movement for change continues. For Benson, progress is not simply measured by seeing the creative women who successfully undertook the #SeeItBeIt programme picking up awards and accolades of their own. Instead she points to the ever-growing number of grassroot events across the globe which are opening the door to a new generation of creative female talent. Five years in and the desire from women across the programme and the industry as a whole not just to climb the ladder, but ensure young women starting out today are supported and heard, is palpable.