Gender Equality and Female Leadership Take Center Stage At Cannes Lions Festival

(L-R): Stagwell founder, Mark Penn; Axios co-founder, Mark Allen; Harris Poll CEO, John Gerzema; and The Female Quotient founder, Shelley Zalis.

In the era of #MeToo and the renewed calls for women’s rights, it was no surprise that raising visibility for female leadership was spotlighted at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Monday, June 18. The theme was featured in a session titled: “The New Small Forces Impacting Women, Female Entrepreneurship and Gender Equality.” Organized by the Shelley Zalis of The Female Quotient and Girls Lounge collective, the panel unveiled relevant research from The Harris Poll’s CEO, John Gerzema, and MicroTrends Squared, a book by Stagwell’s founder Mark Penn.

In conversation with Axios co-founder Mike Allen, Zalis and Gerzema, Penn explored micro-trends from his book that are affecting working women today. One of these small forces is “Second-Fiddle Husbands,” which reveals a microtrend of men who by choice or circumstance are not the primary bread winners in the family. As more American women enter the workforce, the traditional notion of the man as the breadwinner is fading. A Harris Poll-TFQ survey reports that 42% of women are the family breadwinners. Attitudes toward parenting and work are reflecting a more egalitarian outlook towards child care and career. Consequently, there is growing comfort with the idea of women as breadwinners, and it is especially prevalent among millennial men.

The trend can be beneficial to both men and women. While men learn not be solely defined by their jobs, women receive the marital support they need to attain self-actualization, thrive and even lead in the workplace. This is a plus for society at large, especially aspiring female leaders. Research from the Harris Poll and The Female Quotient found that visibility of female leaders is critical to empowering other women to lead. 81% of women say when they see women in leadership positions, they’re encouraged to believe that they can also have a leadership position.

Beyond the changing family dynamics, the panel discussed workplace harassment, rewriting the rules of the workplace, the role of HR in creating healthy work environments where all workers can succeed, the rise of the American side hustle, and the age-old question: Can women really have it all? Harris Poll CEO, Gerzema, pointed out that 92% of Americans say drastic changes need to be made to create equality, the most important changes falling on HR include tackling gender norms, harassment training and taking a stance.

On rewriting workplace rules, Zalis added: “HR departments and leaders are not set up to succeed. Even just the name needs to change. We should evolve to a Chief Diversity Officer or Chief Belonging Officer.”

Over 9 in 10 Americans are calling for drastic changes in human resources, demanding a true commitment from these departments to create gender equality in the workplace.