BITE Focus

Mummy, what did you do during the great COVID crisis?

Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief, explores the greatest threat to gender equality in our generation and the crisis of inclusion that is materialising, at AdWeek 2020.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


Perspective matters, and it’s not something you can fabricate. Marketing campaigns mishit when the audience they’re trying to attract isn’t reflected in either the collateral produced or the room where it happened. We’ve seen it happen time and again and find ourselves left with the same refrain: put different perspectives in a room together and see the brilliance that emerges.

At AdWeek 2020, Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief offers her own cautionary tale for what happens when women aren’t in the room. She explores how coronavirus is at risk of killing women’s creative careers if people right now aren’t willing to speak up.

Her talk wants to encourage the industry to understand why coronavirus is the greatest threat to gender equality in our generation and “to ensure that women’s voices are not only heard but are actively listened to.”

The talk’s title is a riff on a headline in the Sunday Times that ran earlier this year. It read, as a spin from a piece of WW11 propaganda, ‘Daddy, what did you do in the coronavirus crisis?’ It was, reveals Kemp, not only harping back to gender politics from a different century but was also a moment of reckoning for her that simply meant she could keep quiet no longer. Because this, she says, is the kind of headline that happens, “when women aren’t in the room. When women are invisible.”

Speak up. Not just for ourselves but for each other. We deserve better so let’s demand better.

Nicola Kemp

A crisis of inclusion

She explores the work of the researcher Arlie Hochschild who coined the term ‘the second shift’ in 1989. A term used to describe the additional work taken on by women who took on the lion’s share of emotional responsibilities despite still working outside of the home.

Kemp argues that under lockdown and in the face of the coronavirus crisis, many parents have found themselves working “a third shift.” She offers statistics produced by Pregnant Then Screwed that point out just how disproportionately working mothers have been impacted by the crisis. In fact, 72% of mothers have had to work fewer hours because of childcare issues.

“We are facing up to a crisis of inclusion,” says Kemp as, in women’s own words, she tells the stories  of how they have been made to feel in workplaces in recent months. These stories are, she explains, “an urgent reminder of the need not to take our foot off the gas when it comes to diversity and inclusion.”

“These stories matter if you care about this industry thriving,” she adds.

An opportunity to reset

Kemp goes on to explore how this moment is a vital one, to both hold onto the gains we have made when it comes to equality and to use it as an opportunity to reset the workplace for the better. She shares action points from Sarah Ronan, Operations Director at Pregnant Then Screwed; positive steps businesses can take to stop the mounting equality crisis.

For Kemp, she invites the industry to speak up, because if we don’t, we all lose out: “When we share our collective voices and our collective experiences, we can create change.” She cautions against silence because the need to push for progress outweighs it.

As she says: “Speak up. Not just for ourselves but for each other. We deserve better so let’s demand better. Let’s make sure women are in the room and in the headlines for the right reasons.”


Tune into the session on the AdWeek2020 platform: Mummy, what did you do during the great COVID crisis?