Melbourne-based advertising creative Sarah Vincenzini has been working in the industry for 14 years now – time enough to personally experience the effects of gender inequality in the workplace, but also to realise her own potential for creating meaningful change.
She shared with us some of her experiences, insights and advice.
Has advertising inequality affected you, directly or indirectly?
I am maddened by gender stereotypes that reinforce harmful social norms for both men and women. I got so mad, in fact, that I started a project tracking and measuring stereotypes in advertising, Campaign Bechdel. More useful than screaming into the void.
I’ve also personally experienced the effects of gender inequality in the workplace.
For me, the best way to help the industry evolve is to advocate for higher standards of representation and better advertising equality.
What would equality mean for the advertising industry, and society more broadly?
Advertising equality is more important than the industry realises. Humans learn so much about how to treat others by observing behaviour modelled in advertising. Psychologists have proven it: it’s literally monkey see, monkey do.
When our ads show women and men as equals, deserving of equal respect, status and opportunities, we help to shape a more equal world. We help girls and boys see that it’s okay to be more than a stereotype.
Advertising equality isn’t about political correctness or virtue-signalling – it’s a model for a more equal future.
What are the three most important qualities in a leader?
Open minded and flexible. Respectful of their team. Unafraid.
Who are your mentors?
I wish I had found myself a mentor as a junior! Over the years I have instead acquired trusted friends in the industry who I can text mindless questions to at 3am. I’m grateful for the wisdom of Lisa Gumbleton, Sarah McGregor, Katie Britton, and Anthony Moss.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Be a good ancestor. (That’s just a general rule for life I reckon.)
What’s one thing industry folk could do in their day-to-day work lives that would help drive gender equality?
Fight for less homogenous senior leadership.
When it comes to creating positive change, is there a piece of work, person or company that really stands out to you?
Forsman & Bodenfors’ E.V.A Initiative for Volvo is not just an equality campaign, it’s an equality solution. Based on the inherent gender bias built into the design of safety features in our cars – crash test dummies are modelled on male bodies – this campaign solved this problem by democratising access to new equitable safety designs, and leveraged the equity of Volvo’s positioning as the world’s safest vehicle brand to do so credibly.
Any final words of wisdom?
I like this by Rupi Kaur:
“I stand / on the sacrifices /
of a million women before me /
thinking / what can I do /
to make this mountain taller /
so the women after me /
can see further.”
– Rupi Kaur