Last Wednesday night, I couldn't sleep. My partner Holly Fallows and I were up for our first award at Cannes. Two girls from the north of England were up for an award. At Cannes. No biggie. I found myself playing out every scenario: What would we do if we won? Would they give us the day off? Could we drink champagne for breakfast?
By 5 a.m., suspense had got the better of me. By 5:05 a.m., I'd Googled and found our names on the list. By half past five, I'd run round the flat silently screaming, rung my mum and reluctantly gone back into bed and silently screamed some more. Now I really couldn't sleep.
In the agency that morning, we celebrated our success with a third piece of toast. And then started asking again: What should we do now that we've won?
I'd Instagrammed a picture of a Lion with the caption, "We got one. #lionesses #canneslions." This seemed to answer our question about what to do: We would find all of this year's female winners and celebrate with them. It wasn't quite the day off we had in mind, but within a few feverish hours, CannesLionesses.com was ready.
And we are so glad we did it.
Don't get us wrong. We love that in our industry the "idea" wins, no matter who it comes from. Nobody is asking for judging quotas. But when the number of female creatives is so low, well, maybe the lionesses should all get together and roar a little louder?
The site has been live for only a couple of days, but the support has been overwhelming, ranging from top female CEOs to the president of the IPA to 3 Percent Conference founder Kat Gordon to leaders of our industry both male and female. We've had vocal support from female creatives and connected with another all-girl team, Kate Allsop and Joanne Sissons at Grey London, who also just won their first Lion.
As a whole, though, if finding support was easy, finding female winners in the lists was less so. It was usually Dave, Mike, Brad and Dave. Only the odd #CannesLioness.
In her Glass Lion speech, Cindy Gallop noted that the number of women coming up on stage to collect awards was low, which led me to wonder if this project was more important than we first thought. How do we "make" more female winners? What initially seemed like a nice thing to do in the moment now seemed like it might be something more.
By the end of this week, we hope to have all of the Cannes Lionesses on the site, so we can begin to build a community and an archive that celebrates the best of female creativity. If we post past winners, perhaps we can expand the showcase of inspiring work. And if we do this next year, perhaps we'll see that the numbers will have risen. Perhaps we can do a little bit to gradually inspire fresh talent and help close the gap.
It's been impressive to watch agencies give their female winners an extra loud shout-out via the site and social media, tweeting openly the percentage of women in their creative department. Fallon London is at 40 percent, while our creative department at mcgarrybowen London stands at 35 percent. Not bad, but there's more to do.
It's a matter not of positive discrimination but of simple representation. Until we achieve a more equal balance—not just within creative departments but within the leadership levels of our agencies—are we really showing young women what a rewarding career this industry can offer? And if our creative work doesn't spring from the broadest, deepest pool of human imagination, isn't there just a chance that our awards aren't celebrating the best work, but the best work of the Daves?
And so, this movement has evolved to focus on a single, strong purpose: "Celebrate female creativity to inspire female creativity."
So if you're a #CannesLioness and you're not on the site, please tweet us @CannesLionesses and we will get your brilliant work uploaded. And finally, if you're an established lioness or a friendly lion, please roar loudly for your female teams.
—Holly Fallows and Charlotte Watmough met at university studying design and art direction at the Manchester School of Art. They moved to London and joined mcgarrybowen in 2012 after placements at Wieden + Kennedy and Poke London. At mcgarrybowen, they've worked across iconic British brands such as Branston Pickle and global clients including Intel, Mondelez and Honda.
Their Honda campaign "The Endless Road" won mcgarrybowen's first Cyber Lion.