Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’

Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’
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Updated 24 March 2021

Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’

Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’
  • Dubai’s festival chief Thea Skelton talks to Arab News about the changing role of men, women in advertising

As festival director of the Dubai Lynx, you are in a unique position where you get to view work from across the region. Can you shed some light on the trends you have seen in the work over the last few years in terms of both the portrayal and representation of women?

In 2019 we launched Glass: The Award for Change. The award recognizes work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of male or female gender inequality or prejudice, through the conscious representation of gender in advertising.

It is about ideas intended to change the world or work that sets out to positively impact ingrained gender inequality, imbalance, or injustice.

The jury awarded four pieces of work and they came from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Pakistan, so it was a good spread.

The Grand Prix went to J. Walter Thompson Riyadh for “Akhou Nora,” its campaign for Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), which built on the transformational year of 2018 where in Saudi Arabia restrictions on women eased and a decree was passed that allowed them to drive.

It reminded those opposed to change that the change was not new and that it was actually a woman – Princess Noura – who drove her brother to lay the foundations of the new Kingdom in 1902.

Our jury president in 2019, Candace Kuss, said that the work “celebrated a woman as the hero, rather than defending women as victims,” and I hope that is a trend that we will continue to see in the region – using and celebrating women as strong role models.

The Lynx has collaborated with the UN Women Unstereotype Alliance to implement new guidelines encouraging jury members to consider whether the work perpetuates negative stereotypes and inequalities. How is this actually implemented and what happens when a piece of work is indeed found to perpetuate negative stereotypes?

There has been a notable shift in attitudes toward gender representation across the region recently and it’s time to propel this forward, from the ground up. This is why we have partnered with the Unstereotype Alliance because it puts the issue of stereotypes at the heart of the creative process.

The guidelines are designed to encourage every jury member reviewing entries to consider whether the work perpetuates negative stereotypes and inequalities and they also support the festival’s commitment to encourage diversity and inclusion throughout the regional industry to impact the wider world.

We want our awards to champion inclusive, empowering, forward-thinking ideas, and these guidelines are about helping to ensure that the work honored at Dubai Lynx is admired not only for its creative brilliance but for its reflection of equality and tolerance in our region.

Are there any other measures that Dubai Lynx or Cannes Lions have implemented pertaining to this topic?

We’re really proud of our See It Be It initiative. It is an acceleration program designed for women working in the communications industry who face diversity challenges. It was established at Cannes Lions in 2014 and we’re delighted that we have been able to bring it to Dubai Lynx for women in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

It means that we can focus on the barriers and challenges specific to them and the region through tailored training, mentoring, and networking. For the women who make it into the program, it’s an experience that raises profiles, expands contacts, builds confidence, and accelerates them down the path to leadership.

What are some of your favorite pieces of work promoting gender equality and fair representation?

All of the 2019 shortlisted and winning work from Glass was so interesting … work such as “#SheDrives,” and the “Bridal Uniform.”

Over the next few weeks our juries are judging work from across the region. What they award will provide the new benchmark in creative excellence for MENA and put a spotlight on the work that is truly driving progress across society and business.

We’ll be announcing our winners in April and I’m looking forward to spending some time immersing myself in the latest work and seeing the real picture of how our region’s industry is tackling gender equality.

Rewriting gender stories isn’t just about fairly portraying women, but also men. What are your thoughts on this, and can you give any examples of work you have seen?

I would agree with this, and that’s why our Glass award focuses on issues of both male and female gender inequality. We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles, and that needs to be ingrained at the start, at the idea stage.

The Glass Award Shortlist for 2020/21

#LockdownNotLockup by Leo Burnett Beirut for ABAAD, an NGO serving as a resource center for gender equality

Art Gap by TBWA\RAAD Dubai for Standard Chartered

Traditional Virginity Test by TBWA\RAAD Dubai for M.A.L.I, an alternative movement for individual freedom

Equality Spell Check by Wunderman Thompson Dubai for Lenovo

The Kitchen is for Everyone by VMLY&R Dubai for Betty Crocker

The New National Anthem Edition by Impact BBDO Dubai for An-Nahar newspaper