Don't shoot the messenger over lack of women on awards shortlist
A view from Katie Mackay-Sinclair

Don't shoot the messenger over lack of women on awards shortlist

The disappointing absence of women nominated for strategic planner of the year reveals an industry that is still not doing enough to support inclusion and diversity.

Really? Disappointing. Infuriating. Eye-roll emoji. FFS. Another example of endemic sexism in the week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, thanked mums. 

All challenges raised at Campaign with the publication of the strategic planner of the year shortlist for the Agency of the Year Awards last week which, in case you missed it, features no female planners.

Full disclosure: at Mother, our belief that no piece of work or initiative is the result of one person’s brilliance means we have chosen, year after year, not to enter the individual categories in these awards. So this is not a polemic from a woman snubbed.

As I sit on my sofa trying to recover from post-covid fatigue, I was really disappointed by the focus of the ire.

Yes, it’s infuriating that in 2021 this list featured no women. But the direction of the furore is misplaced.

There are many brilliant women in planning in our industry, many in leadership positions.

Campaign’s editorial team recognise them year after year in their “Top Ten Lists” and open up a platform for them to contribute regularly. 

The Agency of the Year awards are different. They are entered by agencies and then judged and scored by a panel of marketers (who are invited by Campaign), with a scoring process overseen by PwC. 

So obviously, winners can only be selected from those nominated in the first place.  

Put bluntly, the shortlist for Strategic Planner of the Year holds an uncomfortable mirror up to our industry.

It does not reflect sexist shortlisting decisions by the client judges or the Campaign editorial team; rather it reveals that the agencies who paid to enter this award nominated only men for this category.

And for me, that’s the most disappointing thing about this. At a time where there is so much work to be done on diversity and inclusion with regards to race, socio-economic background, educational background, accessibility, neurodiversity and sexual orientation, our industry has just revealed it still hasn’t made enough progress on a battle we thought we’d won.  

So, where do we go from here?

Each agency will have their own decision-making process for entering these things.

Perhaps the most powerful consequence of this week’s wrath would be that each agency chose to review their nominations through the same diversity agenda they are applying to the rest of their business.

We all know that it’s not acceptable to have a homogeneously male nomination list for any award.

Let’s stop bemoaning the fact it’s happening and instead recognise it’s our responsibility as agencies to stop doing it. Not just when it comes to awards, but by making more of the right decisions every single day.

Katie Mackay-Sinclair is a partner at Mother