5 Things I Learned from Cannes Lions See It Be It
For the second consecutive year, RPA hosted Cannes’ See It Be It event in Los Angeles. See It Be It is an initiative focused on addressing gender imbalance in creative leadership. This year’s theme, Invite Yourself, was meant to inspire women to show their worth. It was an incredibly moving and inspiring night, thanks to our amazing panellists, hosts, and presenters: Kat Gordon, CEO & founder of 3% Movement; Tahirah Edwards-Byfield, senior writer, 72andSunny; Doran Chang, creative director, MXM; Lena Beug, director, Station Films; Krystle Mullin, creative director, RPA; Jess Park, global director of business marketing, Spotify; Carrie Dunn, freelance creative director; and Reonna Johnson, director of marketing and business development, RPA.
Below are some tips on how to 'Invite Yourself':
1. Be your whole self
See It Be It alum Dunn kicked off the night by explaining it’s important to invite your whole self. The only way you’ll carve your own path is to stay true to who you are. If you try to cram yourself into what other people want, you’ll waste all your energy doing that instead of creating. “You are not a cog in the machine, you ARE the machine,” Dunn said. There is only one you, and that is your greatest contribution. Bring your whole self to the table, open yourself up and be vulnerable.
Gordon pointed out that you wouldn’t expect any of the brands you work on to 'do it all'. Each brand has one thing that they do well, and that’s their selling point. It’s the same for each of us — we all have things we do well, so focus on those and make that your brand.
2. Equality is an everybody conversation
It is imperative for men to be in on this conversation. Gordon preached that inequality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. Everyone needs to be part of the discussion. And we need to not just talk about opportunities and bias, we also need to be open about discussing how our words and actions are impacting each other. If we don’t realise that something we’re doing is having a negative effect on someone else, we won’t know to change it. “Equality is a job for all of us, and I’m inspired seeing you here, seeing men here,” Edwards-Byfield said.
Chang added that we can all learn from each other, and that everyone needs to be open and empathetic. Everyone is vulnerable in open conversations, and vulnerability needs to be met with empathy.
3. Support each other
Not only do we need to invite ourselves, but we need to support others when they put themselves out there as well. Mullin explained, “If we support each other, if we find that space, we’re only going to get stronger.”
Chang consciously makes herself available to her team and their struggles. And when she finds herself in need of advice, she always seeks it from other women, for their expertise as well as for the connection. “Foster a sense of community, invite other women.”
Build and nurture your community among your peers, your mentors, and up-and-comers. Gordon said, “When you have people standing behind you, that’s where your worth can be amplified.” Helping younger women get to the table perpetuates a chain of goodness. Lift others through being open and generous with your time, experience and your authentic self.
4. Take risks
Inviting yourself, your whole self, can be risky and uncomfortable, and sometimes we fail, but failure is how we grow. Beug said, “We don’t learn much from success. What we really learn from is failure.”
Bringing your whole self means opening up and being vulnerable. As Mullin discussed, yes, this is a risk, but vulnerability is essential. We have to own our vulnerability, and support each other through failure and success.
Edwards-Byfield told us inviting yourself doesn’t mean turning yourself into a martyr or doing things to your detriment. If something isn’t right for you, change it, not yourself. She frequently found herself the 'only one' in the room. The only woman, the only black woman. Edwards-Byfield was constantly navigating spaces where she kept inviting herself because she was operating in deficit. “Inviting myself, for me, has been, ‘Hey, I can’t see myself, so I’m going to nestle myself in.’”
Gordon encouraged everyone to think about what you want. Set your mind to something, and the world will say thank you for showing up. “We talk about failure like it’s an electric fence we’re all afraid of even grazing. I invite you to sign up for something you know you’re going to fail at.” If you fail, you’ll learn something, but you might find that you don’t fail at all.
5. Be kind
A major theme throughout the evening was kindness. Edwards-Byfield practices radical empathy, and encouraged us to try it, too: Know that everyone’s got some baggage they’re carrying, try to figure out how to be understanding about that and navigate through it.
Chang emphasised that kindness really matters. We work on projects and are under a lot of pressure, but kindness goes beyond the project. It’s the relationship you have with your coworkers that matters, and you never know what these relationships will lead to in the future. Keep an open heart and be kind.
“Lead with compassion and kindness, ask for people’s opinions and still be a leader,” said Beug.
This inspiring group of women led an evening of empowering conversation that is sparking change and open conversations in the ever-evolving advertising industry.
Jade Rechler is PR coordinator and Women’s Empowerment Group member at RPA. She also wrote last year’s See It Be It recap.