A Feminist's Guide to Cannes Lions

@CandaceKuss puts together a cheat sheet of must see sessions to help gender balance your week at the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

My love affair with Cannes began back when I was a starry-eyed art director in snowy Boston. Fast forward to my move to London. Now I'm just an easyJet away from the smörgåsbord of role models inside and out of the Palais. But although it keeps getting better, there is no denying the male skew to both the speaker stage and the jury rooms at the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. So here is a cheat sheet to help gender balance your week. (Tweet me with your suggestions.)

Sunday: Why 80% of Your Advertising Budget is Currently Being Wasted

Led by Laura Jordan Bambach, the Co-founder of SheSays and multi award winning creative, this Forum points out that in a world where women account for 80% of all purchases in every consumer category, it is plain crazy that just 3% of creative director in adland are female. Equality and diversity are simply good for your business.

MondayGetty Images & Lean In : How Brands Can Use Images to Close the Gender Gap

We all know how images in popular culture shape our society. Women are sexualized accessories in advertisements across sectors. This is a huge topic and one I am glad is being addressed at Cannes. Don't miss this Forum with Pam Grossman, the director of visual trends at Getty Images, and journalist Jessica Bennett, contributing editor for Lean In.

My outfit at Cannes

TuesdayOn Users, Brands and Creativity

This topic is what Cannes is all about, so a no brainer for all delegates. I have been a Marissa Mayer fangirl since I saw her onstage at the Web 2 Summit a decade ago. The silly amount of coverage she got when her new role as CEO of Yahoo! was overshadowed by her (gasp) pregnancy just reinforces how rare female CEOs still are. Sigh. 

Tuesday has more star women sessions. Borrowing Hermione Granger's Time-Turner, at 2pm I will go see Calvin Klein's Chief Creative Officer Melisa Goldie, and also New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s conversation with “Downton Abbey” Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. At 3pm in the Grand Audi, Wendy Clark of Coca-Cola talks about Winning in Real Time.

Wednesday: Blue Whales and Hummingbirds

My all time fave speaker at Cannes is Dana Anderson, Mondelez International Senior VP, Marketing Strategy and Communications. Trust me. You don't want to miss this super smart, charming, savvy speaker. Dana is the moderator for Independent Agency Day, so you could do worse than just spending the whole day in The Forum.

Except do not miss AKQA and their Future Lions. Talent knows no gender. 

Also, keep an eye on the Young Lions. This is the first year they've included PR and I was honoured to be on the jury for the UK. Fingers crossed for our dynamic winning teamLeila Mountford and Kate Sloan. (PS: I am also so proud of the UK Silver place team — H+K's own Saamia Razvi and Charlotte Nathan.)

Oh and Sheryl Sandberg is bound to pack the Grand Audi at 2pm on Wednesday. She is amazing also, but less likely to say something unexpected.

ThursdayWhy Be a Woman in Tech

Rock up early to this master class by my friend, Kathryn Parsons, Co-CEO, Decoded. It is guareented to be packed. This is a huge topic and one that also illustrates how important the tech world has become at Cannes Lions. Kathryn and the other brains at Decoded are also curating Tuesday's Data, Insight, Strategy & Creativity Forums, so catch as many of those as you can.

Do digital creatives qualify as 'women in tech'? Not really, although we share the lower pay and lower visibility issues, and hold probably even less than 3% of all the interactive CD jobs. One way to change that is to win a Lion. So another don't miss on my list is the Insights with the Cyber Jury session, led by the first female jury president, Susan Bonds, Chief Executive Officer, 42 Entertainment.

Friday: The Cannes Debate

Try as I might to find you a female-centric gem, Friday seems particularly testosterone heavy. And like all the good folks in the WPP network, I'll be in the front row for Sir Martin Sorrell's Cannes Debate on Friday. He leads this discussion annually with two other high power and high profile executives. I can't help but wish, however, that Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer were onstage this year. Not just because the Cannes Debate could use some gender balance, but an open Facebook Yahoo! discussion would be a real debate. Sir Martin famously gives out his email address, so we can send him a cheeky suggestion for next year. 

Me and Sir Martin

Saturday: Shortlist & Winners Exhibition 

At the end of the day, Cannes is all about the work. Don't leave until you spend quality time soaking up what great marketing looks like in today's integrated world. 

Cannes has always reflected the industry. So the lack of women in the jury room and on the main stage simply mirrors the reality in our agencies. I am so impressed with one way the organizers are addressing this issue.

See It Be It

This brilliantly named program is a pilot at Cannes this year led by Lions Festivals Director of Brand Strategy, Senta Slingerland. Twelve creative women at a turning point in their careers will get the VIP treatment, encouraging them to keep growing and reach ECD positions. How I wish this program was around when I was an ACD back in Boston.

One More Thing...

Going out on a limb (snark), I predict the Innovation Lions pitch teams will be a typical tech sausage fest. So why are the live presentations a can't miss for feminists? Because that's the stage that needs us the most imho. Go, get inspired and let 'Art, Copy, Women & Code' be our mantra.

Candace Kuss

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search