Lizi Hamer believes that creativity can change the world, and she’s doing her bit to make that happen. During her 13 years (and counting) in the advertising industry, she’s been recognised as one of the world’s most creative women and best female creative directors. She co-authored Creative Super Powers, co-founded SisuGirls and continues to build the SheSays community in Singapore. She’s also an alumna of Cannes Lions’ See It Be It program.
She shares with us some of her experiences, insight and advice.
Has advertising inequality affected you, directly or indirectly?
Advertising inequality may have positively affected me. As a proud member of the LGBT community, I’ve always been considered ‘one of the boys’ so I guess the invitation into the boys’ club was extended in some of the Creative Departments I worked.
But when you’re not in the club then it’s very hard. And I think the lack of inclusion in decision-making, the ‘we’ll do it our way’ methods and even the jokes that you’re not invited to can be detrimental.
What would equality mean for the advertising industry, and society more broadly?
It’s great to see the industry try to understand the small everyday touches that disempower, the biases are becoming more known and the lack of promotions and fair pay are starting to be called out.
Advertising has a great opportunity to lead the way with gender and racial equality, as bringing different viewpoints into mass media means more people will learn of the different lifestyles, points of view and attitudes to life.
What’s one thing industry folk could do in their day-to-day work lives that would help drive gender equality?
1. Look at the stories you are creating.
- Are they all from one point of view, a gendered view, a racial view?
- How can you tell the same ‘human truth’ from a different viewpoint?
- What values are being reflected in the work and can you emphasise these in new communities?
2. Pop your bubble.
- Where do all of your inputs come from?
- Are all the Film Directors & Artists you look for all from the same background?
- Are all your knowledge sources from shared thinking? What bubble have you curated around yourself?
- Are you able to give others a chance to share their skills, thinking or viewpoint?
- Are you accessing new music artists and hearing their stories?
What are the most important qualities in a leader?
Creating a space of psychological safety!
Let others feel safe and brave enough to come up with amazing controversial ideas or build new methods and challenge management. Otherwise, work will continue as it has, as opposed to adapting, evolving, and becoming more.
Be curious: Why, why, whoa, what, why, mmmm.
Be creatively curious about your colleagues, about their thinking, and human behaviour. Can you build more curiosity into the job you do, and the ways of the world? It makes life way more interesting when you look at things anew.
Who are your mentors?
Mentors come in such different shapes and sizes. Some are there to bounce big ideas, and others are there for passing conversations. Some mentor from afar, and others are involved almost daily.
I have a Personal Board of Advisors (a pretentious term for a few experts who I ask for feedback). I have work sponsors in the business, who keep an eye on my career, ensuring I’m in the senior conversations that are above my pay grade. And finally, I have a wicked group of high flying women that I receive a whirlwind of inspiration, challenges, and kicks-up-the-arse from.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Work out who you are. Enjoy it, embrace it, and build your job around it.
When it comes to creating positive change, is there a piece of work, person or company that really stands out to you?
How can you not acknowledge Blood Normal, the amazing piece of work from BodyForm and BBDO. It challenges social norms inviting a new honesty and openness about the topic.
Nike’s Dream Crazy and Go Back to Africa by Black & Abroad allow racial injustice to be showcased in a method you can’t ignore, starting society’s journey to see the true inequality and hopefully begin a change.
Any final words of wisdom?
I love today’s conversation about equality versus equity, and think this image sums it up perfectly.