NYC Advertising Week 2016: Women in Focus

 Scrunched up schedules and battered event passes are all that’s left from this year’s Adweek. It was undeniably another year of fascinating, informative and provocative talks. Eager for knowledge, the NYC iris team braved the dangers of a populous Time Square to attend the four-day event.

With 260 seminars and workshops, not to mention daily leadership breakfasts, music, comedy and awards shows – hosted across more than 20 venues around Midtown Manhattan – we were understandably unable (and unwilling – I mean, really, there’s only so much of Times Square you can handle…) to attend them all. However, as an agency that’s home to many smart and driven women, with many in leadership roles across all departments, one theme stood out above all else.

This year a substantial number of seminars and workshops were led by some of the world’s most successful and influential women. The “Empowering Women Track” kicked off the week’s events at the Thomson Reuters Stage and continued throughout the week, featuring industry leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg, Katie Couric, Joanna Coles, Ann Simonds, Drew Barrymore and Martha Stewart who took to the stage to inspire and educate.

Panel discussions covered regrettably familiar topics such as the objectification of women in advertising, and their role in the industry, but also asked questions regarding recent initiatives to level the playing field. For example, is Google creating emojis that better reflect the diversity of women’s careers really a needle mover, or do we need to try harder?      

During the “We Need To Talk” panel, Foresight Factory presented a study confirming the debate is “far from f***king over,” puncturing the old-fashioned belief that women don’t share men’s aspirations when it comes to career building. The conclusion? Gender inequality in the industry is still painfully pronounced.

 Adweek may be over for the year but the conversation continues. With initiatives like “Free the Bid,” women are highlighting the industry’s ailments and challenging the idea that success should be based on anything other than merit. The movement isn’t looking for what some are calling “positive discrimination,” but equal opportunities. With still so far to go, and with so much confusion about the end goal, it’s vital we continue to highlight the issues and fight to keep the conversation “f***king” alive.