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Pushing Water Uphill

Today I release my third white paper on Time’s Up/Advertising (TU/A), Pushing Water Uphill. This work is framed by the voices of 17 high-level male advertising executives. I explored three areas. Men’s initial reactions to TU/A. Their perceptions on what’s been happening in the advertising industry. And, the role men can play in driving change. Additionally, threaded throughout the discussions was the industry’s pressing need for diversity. While the next white paper will explore diversity in depth – bringing the voices of women and men together – I would be remiss not to speak of it here as well. Because the time has come to speak truth and act. 

“You know it’s all privilege. Whiteness. Being rich. Being male. That’s still how power is settled in this country. So, if you don’t get white men engaged in the process I think you’re pushing water uphill.” For men the TU/A journey began with skepticism and a longing for guidance on building systemic accountability. While the issues of gender inequality and sexual harassment are bigger than advertising, that point of view also side-steps the reality of the “boys’ club” culture which has long shaped the very heart of the advertising industry. Until men own their part in perpetuating that culture, even if only with silence, the problems of gender inequities and sexual misconduct are not going to be solved. Not until men stop hiring people like themselves, start empowering HR to really do its job, speak truth, and participate fully in the embrace of equality will anything change. 

“If you’re a man in a position of authority who can affect change, then fucking just do it.”

The center of gravity has begun to shift. Advertising can no longer tinker at the margins. Change must come. The industry is at a turning point. And as one man poignantly shared: 

“My daughter often says to me – it’s on you dad.”

My next white paper, slated for later this year, will be devoted exclusively to an exploration of the pressing need for diversity across the advertising industry. It will be informed by the insights of both women and men. To learn more about me please explore my blog and feel free to reach out.



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