We often hear about the’Mad Men’ of the advertising industry but hardly ever come across the ‘Mad Women’ in the field. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity identified this gender gap and in 2014 started the “See It Be It” program to improve this imbalance in its audience of the middle and senior level in the advertising industry.

It is believed that women only make up 25% of the total creatives in the ad agency industry, out of which only 11% of the women make it to directorial levels.

This year a Pakistani woman, Atiya Zaidi, Executive Creative Director at Synergy Dentsu has made it to this prestigious list of creative minds from all over the world. It is great to see that Pakistani talent is being recognised by the Cannes fraternity at such a level and is a great honour for the nation as well.

Atiya Zaidi – Creative Head

Atiya Zaidi has been chosen to take the one week trip to Cannes 2017 under the ‘See It Be It’ program. Zaidi is one of the 15 talented women selected from 650 applicants from across the globe.

She has various accolades to her name in the agency world but did you know she was the one behind the writing of the beautiful Pakistani movie, ‘Chalay Thay Saath’ starring Syra Shehroze and Kent. S Leung, which hit theaters earlier this month.

Behind the scenes, Atiya in action!

The festival will be held from June 17th to June 24th. This year the jury for the Cannes Lions consists of 43% women which are an all-time high for the festival.

Brandsynario had the pleasure of catching up with Ms Zaidi and had a heart-to-heart with her about her remarkable feat and women in the advertising industry.

Why do you think it has taken so long for women to be recognised on a global platform in the advertising industry?

It has taken the global platform a long time as well to realise this gender gap. The activism for corporate gender equality and pay gap is a fairly young concept. The fact that it took Cannes Lions 60 years after its inception to start a program for gender diversity gives us a lot of insight.

There seems to be a pay differential in wages between men and women in the same industry even in countries like the US, however, this is not the case in Pakistan. Does this hold any truth to it?

Yes, we must highlight this aspect that at least in advertising the pay gap between men and women doesn’t exist in Pakistan. I am not sure about other creative fields like filmmaking and photography. I do know that on the CEO list of Pakistan, it is rare to find more than five women hence the leadership gap does exist and working women are frequently stereotyped as bad mothers or homemakers in our patriarchal society.

What are your thoughts on the growth of women in the industry and their long-term career prospects?

Girls in Pakistan are outshining boys in academics. Every CIE or Board result will confirm that more and more top achievers are girls but the reverse is true in the corporate world. We are witnessing an irony in Pakistani society where we see young girls working extra hard as they have to prove something to themselves and to their parents, and when and if they enter the workforce this drive continues and generally they are more responsible employees.

The long-term prospects are in the hands of the employers and not the employees. Corporations have to plan for women’s long term career. In the absence of quality day care options most qualified and efficient women would opt to leave the workforce. Plan the career of your employees around their reality. Know that fathers, brothers, and husbands would like to come and visit the office to ensure that a safe work environment, make the offices’ child-friendly and encourage working from home when possible.

Atiya Zaidi at the Prestigious PAS Awards 2017


More About the See It Be It Initiative

The mentoring program was launched to highlight highly talented women in the advertising sector and help them improve their careers further.

The participants attend seminars and workshops with the bigwigs of the Advertising world to get hands-on knowledge of what goes on into the making of spectacular ad campaigns that are celebrated the world over.

Here’s the list of the top 15 women from the advertising industry across the globe who are being honoured by the “See It Be It” program.

1. Atiya Zaidi, Executive Creative Director, Synergy Dentsu, Pakistan
2. Adebola Adegbulugbe, Copy Group Head, Insight Publicis, Nigeria
3. Barbara Dzikanowice, Creative Content Director, Happiness (an FCB alliance), Belgium
4. Deborah Vasques Soares, Senior Copywriter, Lew’Lara\TBWA, Brazil
5. Hannah Johnson, Creative Concept / Copywriter, LA RED GmbH, Germany
6. Jaki Jo Hannan, Senior Art Producer, AMV BBDO, UK
7. Kara Coyle, Associate Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, USA
8. Lizi Hamer, Regional Creative Director, Octagon, Singapore
9. Maria Milusheva, Creative Director, Noble Graphics TBWA, Bulgaria
10. Marla Natoli, Director, Video, and Mobile, AOL Canada
11. Sakshi Choudhary, Creative Supervisor, Ogilvy One Worldwide, Mumbai, India
12. Satoko Takada, Creative Director, McCann Tokyo, Japan
13. Shahnaz Ahmed, Senior Graphic Designer, Livity / Founder & Director, Knit Aid, UK
14. Shannon Crowe, Copywriter / Creative Freelance (formerly Clemenger BBDO Melbourne), Australia
15. Tahirah Edwards-Byfield, Senior Copywriter, AKQA, USA

The ambassador for the initiative this year is Madonna Badger who is responsible for the #WomenNotObjects Campaign.

Badger mentioned in a statement,

“One of our goals this year will be to creatively strategize a format for past and present See It Be It, participants, to become a trusted support system for creative women globally”

Stay tuned to Brandsynario for latest news and updates.