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Cindy Gallop Says Cancellation of SXSW Anti-Harassment Panels Shows Industry's Gender Imbalance

Festival reinstates one event after backlash

At the 3 Percent Conference, Cindy Gallop blasted SXSW for cutting panels addressing online harassment. Photo: Bronac McNeill

Speaking at the 3 Percent Conference in New York on Tuesday, Cindy Gallop—founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld and former chief of BBH New York—called on ad agencies and brands to boycott South by Southwest Interactive this year following the organization's decision to pull two anti-harassment panels from the 2016 lineup.

"I want every single agency and brand to refuse to go to SXSW 2016 unless they reinstate those panels," Gallop said. 

In a statement, SXSW cited an outpouring of online harassment and threats of violence as its main reason for cutting from its lineup two panels on harassment in the gaming industry. The cancellation sparked even more backlash, with BuzzFeed and Vox saying they'd skip the event unless the panels were reinstated.

According to recent reports, SXSW has reinstated one of the panel topics ("Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games") but has not decided on another panel affiliated with the anti-diversity Gamergate movement. SXSW organizers are also said to be considering an all-day event on the topic of online harassment.

Gallop, in her keynote speech at the 3 Percent Conference, argued the only way to stop this kind of harassment, in any industry, is to address it head on.

Using SXSW as a prime example, Gallop spoke on ways the advertising industry could address its own problems with discrimination and harassment.

One solution, she said, is to hire more women quickly, and and in bulk. Without an equal balance of men and women at the table, Gallop argued, agencies and their clients cannot and will not offer a true diversity of ideas and opinions.

"When one half of humanity is shut out of the creativity that our industry is charged with producing, the creativity we produce will not have the humanity it needs to make the emotional connections it needs to make with our consumers in order to achieve our client's business objectives," Gallop said. "When you are a male ECD who is not the gender to which the vast majority of domestic violence happens to, how are you ever going to oversee work that will genuinely impact a huge, huge mission?"  

Gallop used the SXSW news as just one of many examples to illustrate how the lack of female, non-white creative directors impacts the industry and the work it produces.

Take a look at some other key snapshots from her address via Twitter:

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