Sexual harassment in adland is ‘endemic’ says Cindy Gallop

Dr Jennifer Whelan, Cindy Gallop, Alex Hayes, Lorraine Jocovic, Simon Ryan

L-r: Dr Jennifer Whelan, Cindy Gallop, Alex Hayes, Lorraine Jokovic and Simon Ryan

Cindy Gallop, the former APAC boss of BBH and now an outspoken gender diversity campaigner, said today that sexual harassment in the ad industry is “endemic” and agencies are covering up cases to avoid negative publicity.

Talking on a panel discussion on diversity at the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney, Gallup also said that sexual discrimination was a major reason women were leaving the industry.

“Sexual harassment is absolutely endemic in industry as every single woman in this room knows,” she told her audience.

“I talk about it publicly because very few women dare, because there are ramifications – there are repercussions.”

“I’ve talked about it even more after I had my own personal experience of it three years ago,” she said referring to the time when she was propositioned by a man at a high-brow dinner at Cannes, and after she declined his offer he became abusive.

Also speaking on the panel with Gallop was Lorraine Jokovic, CEO of ad agency Loud Communications, who leads a diversity team for the Communications Council.

She pointed to a study by the ad industry body that found that one of the biggest reasons for women leaving the industry was discrimination purely on the basis of gender, with comments about appearance, sexuality or sexually discriminating comments being the main reasons.

“I was rocked by that, and devastated that nothing has really changed since the 70s,” commented Jokovic about the research.

Gallop said that an environment that does not mitigate sexual harassment “manages women out of the industry.”

“We encounter this on a daily basis at male-dominated conferences and events. Even if you go out to drinks at a bar this kind of shit happens,” she said.

“Some [women] will simply say: I can’t take this shit anymore. I don’t want to part of this environment, where nobody is empathetic to what’s going on around me, nobody’s listening to any complaints that I make,” she said.

Gallup was asked what she made of how well agencies are set up to deal with cases of sexual harassment.

Mumbrella Asia has approached a number of agencies in recent weeks to ask how they deal with sexual harassment cases, and has been told by three – a PR, creative and media agency – that they won’t comment because they have never had to deal with a sexual harassment case.

Gallup said: “You are being told that because there are massive sexual harassment cover-ups going on. I say this not from direct personal experience, but knowing what friends of mine have gone through, what they’ve taken to HR, and what the HR response has been.”

Leo Burnett Sydney

Cindy Gallop’s ‘What the fuck are u thinking’ tweet

Gallop said she gets a lot of emails from women in Australia after calling out Leo Burnett Sydney for hiring seven white men in one go in November last year, and also from the US following the Gustavo Martinez sexual harassment scandal.

Martinez left JWT after a law suit from the agency’s chief communications officer. She claimed Martinez had said to her “come here so I can rape you in the bathroom” and had grabbed her by the neck.

Gallop suggested that many sexual harassment cases are handled by agency HR departments that “never see the light of day.”

“It often has to do with powerful men at the top, and so it is in the vested interests of the company to hush it up, to pay whatever has to be paid, to make damn sure it doesn’t make its way into the trade media and nobody finds out. All of that is absolutely going on,” she said.

“That is why HR is so super sensitive. They will completely blank you when you ask them. They prefer to say – which is patently ridiculous – that we’ve never had a single case of that kind. Bollocks to that, quite frankly.”

Agency HR functions should be able to “talk about this in a calm, objective way,” she added.

“It is absolutely an issue and there should be acknowledgement of that, and there should be a professional discussion about it as it would benefit people, companies and the industry as a whole,” said.

Gustavo Martinez

Gustavo Martinez

“The response you’re getting is symptomatic of why JWT and WPP are going down completely the wrong path in terms of how they’re addressing the Gustavo Martinez sexual harassment law suit. It’s a crying shame.”

Sexual harassment happens “every single day” in the ad industry, said Gallop, calling on women to speak up if they experience it.

“Women – you have to call it out. The reason women don’t is because they worry it will ruin their career if they do. But if you don’t call it out your career is fucked anyway.”

“Because there will be repercussions, and you don’t want to work in a place where when you call it out they don’t respond in the right kind of way. If you are anywhere where you’re not respected, get the fuck out, because you don’t want to be there,” she said.

“Men – you need to know that this happens to us all the time. And you need to look out for us. You need to have your antennae attuned to when this is happening. You need to see when women are visibly uncomfortable, squirming.”

“And you need to address this because this is best tackled by men, rather than us having to deal with the burden all on our own,” she said.

Sexual harassment can only be curtailed when the industry addresses the gender imbalance issue, Gallop noted. “Only then can it be managed out,” she said.

Fellow panelist Simon Ryan, who was recently appointed CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Australia and New Zealand, pointed out the business benefits of gender equality, noting that his agency had prospered over the last seven years since installing a 50:50 gender leadership split.

“We moved very quickly to ensure our management had a 50:50 gender split. Then we found that suddenly we were running and maintaining a great culture and we were making more money,” he said.

Ryan’s observations were backed by Dr Jennifer Whelan, one of the leading academics on diversity in Australia. She pointed to research that has found that more gender equal businesses not only benefit company culture and are more conducive working environments for both women and men – diversity and inclusion drive better business outcomes.

“That should be particularly important for a creative industry that is so reliant on constant adaptation and change, innovation and creativity,” she said.

“If nothing else you can look at diversity and inclusion as a lever of creativity and innovation. It should be taken seriously even if you don’t care about women,” she said.


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