New ‘Glass Lion’ Award Celebrates Films That Shatter Gender Bias At Cannes


Not to be confused with the Cannes Film, the Cannes Lions Festival is an annual event celebrating innovation and creativity across a multitude of platforms. With speakers and guests such as Bono, Jeffrey Katzenberg and the CEO of Coca-Cola North America Wendy Clark, it sounds like the World Economic Forum of the creative world.

The 2015 event is going to be that little bit more innovative in the past, thanks to the current gender equality and feminist movement that is sweeping the globe and many different industries. A new award has been added to the line up which is set to shatter glass ceilings, least of all because of its name. The Glass Lion award will be awarded to progressive work that promotes inclusive agendas and works to dismantle gender bias.

The ceremony, which takes place between June 19-27 on the swanky French coast had a helping had from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization to create this new category.

“The Glass Lion will award highly creative, positive and progressive contributions to gender representation within creative advertising and communications,” Senta Slingerland, the director of Brand Strategy for the Lions Festival, told The Huffington Post.

The idea stemmed from the See It Be It program that Senta herself initiated in 2o14 mentoring 12 women filmmakers that encourages them and many other women to get involved in the creative industry.

“More than 80% of purchasing decisions are made by women, marketers are increasingly demanding more female creative talent to work on their brands. Analysis carried out by Cannes Lions has found that 15% of delegates under the age of 28 are female and in creative jobs, compared to just 4% of delegates over the age of 28. This closely matches the 3% statistic of female creative directors worldwide,” said a press release about that particular program.

“For years we’ve been observing the lack of women at the top of the industry and it’s time to take action to redress the balance…they exist, but need an extra push into the spotlight. We want every agency in the world to think about the women they have in their organizations and what they need to do to grow them,” said Senta at the time.

And with the presence of Sheryl Sandberg at the 2014 event, it seems the wheels were put into motion to create this specific category.

“The Glass Lion recognizes work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice, through the conscious representation of gender in advertising. Entries can be for any product or service and designed for any medium, but will in some way represent a shift towards more positive, progressive and gender-aware communication,” says the description of what the Glass Lion award is looking for.


We’re reminded of the Bechdel Test which is yet to be implemented as a tool or accountability measure in the film industry, but adds the notion of challenging the creative process to see whether it perpetuates or breaks down gender stereotyping, especially in the representation of women in screen.

“You can’t be what you can’t see – and how we market to women is critically important,” said Sheryl Sandberg in a press release about the Glass Lion, echoing the famous words of Marian Wright Edelman. “If our messages to women – and men – portray equality, we will help create a more equal world. LeanIn.Org is thrilled that Cannes Lions is making The Glass Lion a reality so we can all applaud advertising that is more representative of the world as it should be.”

Founder & CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld/MakeLoveNotPorn and former Founder of BBH New York, Cindy Gallop, has been appointed as the inaugural Glass Lions’ Jury President and is a vocal supporter of the award.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled about the introduction of the Glass Lion, which demonstrates Cannes Lions’ commitment to ensuring that both our industry and the work we create not only more accurately reflects the world around us, but actively changes it for the better,” she said, before adding her hope that the work awarded will “set the gold standard for creative and sociocultural change.”

In interview with Adweek, Cindy Gallop expands on the significance of the Glass Lion, saying it is not about focusing on gender in order to tokenize women in any way.

“This is not an award showing women in wildly empowered situations—it’s not about marginalizing women. It’s about celebrating them and should show great work that represents the world around us today,” she explained. “Young men as well as young women should want to win this award with great work that reflects the future of our industry.”

Adweek also notes that the greater inclusion of women on official industry juries and advertising mediums is something that is gaining traction. The Clio Awards last year changed its policy to ensure there always will be a 50/50 male/female jury. That seems fair enough.

“The way gender is represented in marketing has a negative impact on not only women but on society as a whole. Rewarding work that aims to change that is a hugely important thing for us to do,” said Senta Slingerland about the Glass Lions’ importance.

Here’s to more media and entertainment industry organizations working to shatter the glass ceiling and eliminate gender bias.




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